Genesis Grain shared the essence of Lent when he wrote: “During these 40 days, let me put away all my pride. Let me change my heart and give up all that is not good within me. Let me love God with all that I am and all that I have.” In the Christian Calendar, Lent is the 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter. The forty days of Lent represent the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves. Because Lent is treated as a period of self-examination and reflection, as well as a time for fasting from food and festivities Sundays are excluded from the reckoning of the forty days. Sunday is the day on which Christ arose, making it an inappropriate day to fast and mourn our sins. On Sunday we are encouraged to celebrate Christ’s resurrection for our salvation. It is Friday on which we commemorate his death for our sins. The Sundays of the year are days of celebration and the Fridays of the year are days of penance.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Ash Wednesday is celebrated with a service where the burned ashes from the previous year’s Palm Sunday palm branches are utilized to make a cross on the participant’s forehead. The ashes represent mortality and repentance. Mortality, because when we die, our bodies eventually turn to ash. Repentance, because in ancient times, when people felt remorse for something that they did they would put ashes on their head and wear scratchy clothing to remind them that sin is uncomfortable. This uncomfortable feeling causes a death of the spirit which leads to confessing of sins and asking of forgiveness.
Aside from Ash Wednesday there are a variety of saints’ days which fall during Lent, and some of these change from year to year since the dates of Lent itself change based on when Easter falls. However, the Sundays during Lent commemorate special events in the life of Jesus, such as his Transfiguration and his Triumphal Entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week. Holy Week climaxes with Holy Thursday, when Christ celebrated the first communion, Good Friday, when Jesus was Crucified, and Holy Saturday, the last day of Lent, when Christ lay in the Tomb before his Resurrection on Easter Sunday, the first day after Lent.
Lent is the perfect time to find purpose and passion in your life. Our lives are filled with distractions that take us away from living a life with Christ. These distractions often cause us to run away from God. Lent is a great time to “repent” and to return to God while refocusing our lives to be more in line with the teachings of Jesus. It is a 40 day trial run in changing your lifestyle and letting God change your heart.
Chaplain Misty Polston-York
Carolina SeniorCare PACE