What is Lent?
Lent is a time to prepare ourselves before Easter. It is a season for Christians to focus on their relationship with God and Jesus Christ. After Jesus' baptism he went into the wilderness for forty days to fast and pray before He began His ministry.
"Lent began in the early church, during the 4th century, as a time to prepare for your baptism and enter into the Christian community on Easter Sunday. To prepare the ‘community’ for the entrance of new members, the entire community joined together for 40 days to prepare themselves and their community to be as spiritually healthy and alert as possible. It was also a time for those who had been separated from the Christian community, for whatever reason, were prepared to return home."(1)
When is Lent?
Lent begins forty days before Easter, but does not include Sundays.
"The 40 Days of Lent comprise the days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday (the day before Easter), but does not include Sundays. The reason Sundays are not included is that during Lent, people are called to observe a ‘holy Lent’: “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial, and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word”. It was also a time to reflect on our own mortality. Therefore, with Sundays being a day of celebration always reflecting the resurrection of Christ, Sundays were excluded from the practices observed during those 40 days. In fact, most would not ‘fast’ on Sunday for that reason."(2)
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Many churches have a special service where we recognize our mortality, repent of our sins, and return our focus on our Loving God. Ashes are a sign of mortality and repentance. Long time ago when a person felt sorry for doing something wrong they would put ashes on their head and wear sackcloth which is scrathcy clothing. This reminded them that they had sinned and was a way to show that they were sorry.
Where do the Ashes come from?
Many churches save the palms from the previous Palm Sunday. Then they burn the palms and mix them with some water. The water symbolizes tears of repentance. The palms had been waved in joy but now they are ashes of sorrow because our saviour was killed on the cross to take away our sins.
What is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras means "Fat Tuesday", and it comes the day before Lent begins, (Ash Wednesday). It is called "Fat" because of the great foods and parties that happen on that day. Before people start their fast during lent they clean out their pantries of sweets, and breads that they will not be able to eat during lent. The people would have big parties to eat all the foods, so they would not be tempted when they start their fast. Through the years in some places Mardi Gras started to become wild parties. New Orleans is one of the places that is well known for their Mardi Gras parties.
Should I Celebrate Lent?
Lent is not celebrated in many churches today. Jamie gave up chocolate two years ago with her best friend. Her friend goes to a Luteran Church, and the members of her church give up something special during Lent. It was a very special time for her in her spiritual growth. She found that it was not easy to go 40 days without chocolate, especially when most of her family members did not give up anything. This year she decided to give up eating bread during Lent. She knew that it would not be hard to give up chocolate again this year, but bread is something she usually eats everyday, and she is often reminded that she is trying to grow closer to God.
God never commanded us to celebrate Lent, so it is voluntary. If you feel that you want to do something during this season of Lent to draw closer to God Pray to God and he will guide you. You can start taking some time with God by watching this beautiful slide show and "Be Still and Know that He is God"
To read more about Lent - CLICK HERE
(1 & 2) www.cypress-umc.org