The Meaning of Lent

Lent is the period of 40 days prior to Easter, where we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. The word “lent” comes from the Latin word for “lengthen,” because the days of Lent occur during the springtime of the year, when the daylight hours increase. The period consists of 40 days because the number 40 has special biblical significance: Moses and the people of Israel were in the wilderness for 40 years; Jesus was tempted in the desert for 40 days.

Since the days of the early church, in the decades and centuries after the death and Resurrection of Christ, Christians have regarded the period of Lent as a time for repentance and reflection. Some people chose to observe Lent by fasting (going without food and/or water for a period of time), by giving up something during Lent (sweets; the sports page), and by taking on such habits that will increase one’s devotion to Christ. Lent was a time of giving something up, a time devoid of joy, a time for looking dismal in public: wise-cracking joking was out, grim looking faces were in.

Dismal is not what Lent should be about. True fasting is one of the traditional disciplines that Christians have used through the years as a way getting in touch with divine within; however, too often a fasting person begins to present a gloomy-Gus personae to the world around them. As if to say, “Look at me, I am trying to be holy.”

Because Presbyterians rebelled against all things Catholic, Lent was never observed in most Presbyterian churches until recent years. We now acknowledge that Lent is such a rich time. It is an excellent opportunity for us to really focus on things that matter. While many Christians observe Lent these days, too few celebrate it. Lent is meant to remind us that the days are getting longer – Spring is right around the corner. Signs of life are preparing to bud right in front of our eyes. And, we need to prepare ourselves to see these signs. We prepare for Easter Sunday and the wonderful mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus and the conquering of death. We need to focus on the abundant life that Jesus told his disciples, was his raison’ d’etre:  

“I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.”

That is what Easter is about. For us, that’s what Lent is about.

  • Celebrate it with your family and friends.
  • Celebrate it through your actions and words.
  • Serve it for breakfast, and lunch and supper.