Shannon and I were watching television while feeding Jamie the other night and we saw an advertisement for fish sandwiches at a fast food joint. I immediately picked up on the theme, turning to Shannon and saying, “You know Lent must be coming when the fish sandwich ads appear on television.”
Many who grew up either in Roman Catholic families or who had friends who were Roman Catholic may remember that during the Spring before Easter fish was traditionally eaten on Fridays. Other than that, however, Lent remains a mystery to many of us.
Lent is a period of preparation for Easter. Lent was observed in the early church as a time when people who were ready to join the church (known as catechumens) received their training. Catechumens would join the church on Easter Sunday, almost always through the sacrament of Baptism and the public profession of their faith.
Within the first four hundred years of Christianity, Lent had become a forty day period for all Christians to consider their own lives, to learn more about the faith, and to through fasting to spiritually connect with Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness immediately following his baptism. (See Matthew 3:13-4:11.)
The season itself begins on Ash Wednesday (March 9 this year) and continues through the Saturday before Easter (April 23). In some circles, Lent ends on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter. Sundays are excluded in Lent because they are a day to celebrate the Resurrection.
Lent is a season of self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. During Lent we traditionally fast (give up certain foods or possibly all foods), rededicate ourselves to the disciplines of prayer and studying Scripture, make a concerted effort to give to the poor, make changes to lead a simpler life, or a combination of these things. In our time where life moves so quickly, Lent invites us to slow down and reflect on who we are, what we have become, and most importantly who Christ is calling to be.
So come and try Lent for a season, or continue to observe Lent if you have done so in the past. Come and dedicate yourself to God, preparing for the wonderful day when we hear that Christ is Risen. Take time to think, to pray, to study, to reflect. Slow down, and wonder at the love of God to come to us, die for us, and rise for us so that we might have life in Christ.
Come and observe a Holy Lent.
(An Ash Wednesday Service is planned for March 9 at 7 pm in the Sanctuary.)