A Guide to Practicing Lent
Lent is the 6 week period leading up to Easter Sunday. It begins on Ash Wednesday. The Church has historically set aside this period of time to prepare ourselves to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus.
This year, Lent runs from Wednesday, February 22-Sunday, April 8.
Who observes Lent?
Christians all over the world participate in Lent, and we have records of Christians observing Lent going back very early in Church history. Lent is a practice that can unite Christians across denominational lines, reminding us that we are all rescued from Death by one God and one Resurrection.
Why observe Lent?
Lent helps us take Jesus’ death more seriously, and celebrate his resurrection more fully.
By taking 40 days to examine ourselves, to take seriously the sin in our lives, we become more aware of our need for rescue. Of our inability to save ourselves. So when we come to celebrate the Resurrection, we have a renewed appreciation for our salvation and what it means to live in the freedom Jesus brought us.
This year at our Church
We are exploring the so-called Seven Deadly Sins during Lent. The list of Seven was created by monks to serve as a guide to personal confession. As we work through the Sins, we’ll be better able to identify the Sin in our lives. These Seven are the most basic categories of Sin:
Pride, Gluttony, Envy, Greed, Sloth, Wrath and Lust.
The Church Fathers use a tree metaphor. Pride, the original sin, is the root out of which all sin grows. But each of these other sins is a branch from which any number of sins grows. So Envy can give rise to hate, Lust to adultery, Greed to oppression, and so on.
By taking the Seven seriously, we can confront the deep-seated habits of Sin we’ve developed and overcome them through the power of the Holy Spirit working to renew us.
How do we observe Lent?
Lent begins with a worship gathering on Ash Wednesday. Christians take communion together and receive ashes on our foreheads as a mark of repentance and humility. We begin our season of serious reflection on our sin and its consequences: Death.
The most common central Lenten practice is the Lenten Fast. There are 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Resurrection Sunday, not counting the Sundays. Christians fast during those 40 days in imitation of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).
The fast reminds us that we cannot rescue ourselves, that our salvation comes only from Jesus.
Traditionally, Christians have given up meat, or meat and dairy for the six weeks of Lent. Along with the fast, many Christians follow a daily time of prayer and Scripture reading. Sundays are not part of the fast; we call them mini-Easters, and they are a feast day!
Today, Christians fast from any number of things from the more traditional meat and dairy to desserts or social media. The purpose of the fast is to give up something dear to you, so that its absence reminds you of your total dependence on God.