The Season of Lent
The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. It is a period of fast, abstinence and penance. It is observed by most Christians around the world.
Beginning of the Season of Lent
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season in Christianity. It is observed by Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and some Baptist denominations. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ fasted for forty days and forty nights before he began his public ministry. During this time, the Devil tries to tempt Jesus to break this fast.
The Season of Lent is time of fasting, repentance and abstinence. During this season, Christians normally give up meat; tasty foods, and other luxuries as a form of penance. The real purpose of Lent is to reflect on one's life and repent for our sins. It is a time for prayer and reflection. Lent is a period of preparation to celebrate Easter. Christians will try to become better persons during this time. It is also the time to focus on doing meaningful charitable deeds.
The Season of Lent is of 40 days. However, the period from Ash Monday to Holy Thursday (which falls during the Holy Week) is of 46 days. This is because Sundays are not counted. In the Eastern Church, the Lenten Season begins two days earlier on Ash Monday. The Season of Lent begins and ends on a different date every year. This year Ash Wednesday is observed on 22nd February 2012.
Significance of Ash Wednesday
On Ash Wednesday, Christians attend mass and ash is applied on the forehead by the priests, ministers and sometimes by an officiating layperson. The mark on the forehead is made in the sign of the cross in most churches. In some churches it is applied in any shape. The person applying the ash says on of the following:
Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.
— Genesis 3:19
Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.
— Mark 1:15
Sometimes Holy Water or Olive oil is mixed with the ashes, which serves as a fixture. The ash is usually prepared from the palms used for Palm Sunday celebrations of the previous year.
As on Good Friday, on Ash Wednesday too, Catholics, between the ages of 18 to 59 (health permitting) are to consume only one full meal which may be supplemented by two smaller meals, which together should not equal the full meal.
The Bible does not mention Ash Wednesday or the custom of Lent, however, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21.
Colours and Symbols of Lent
Purple, violet and red are the colours of Lent. Purple and violet represent penance and royalty. Red stands for the suffering and pain of Jesus Christ. Some churches avoid using flowers to decorate the altar. The crown made of thorns symbolizes the burden of sins of man that Jesus Christ carried. The colours grey and black are also used sometimes during Lent.
Purpose of Lent
Although there is no reference to Lent in the Bible, there are several mentions of fast taken by Moses, Elijah and other references to the duration of forty days, like the Great Flood for 40 days and the journey of Hebrews of forty years to reach the Promised Land. However, the essence of Lent does not change. It is time to examine our life through prayer to achieve genuine change in our lives.
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