This is going to be a three part series on the Catholic tradition of Lent. Embracing Lent has led me to embrace a deep joy as I draw closer to Christ. It is longing to see others embrace this joy that I call you to join me in my Lenten Joy: Resurrecting a Treasured Tradition.
Part 1: Monday: What, Why, and How of Lent
Part 2: Tuesday: Resources for this season
Part 3: Wednesday: Reminder & Testimony
What is Lent?
Lent is a 40 day fast (excluding Sundays) before Easter beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday. Traditionally Lent is a season of prayer, penitence, fasting, and good works. It officially began in 313 AD at the Council of Nicaea. 40 days because that was the length of time Moses was on the Mountain, or also the time Jesus fasted in the desert before he began his public ministry. Pope Gregory (d. 604), wrote "We abstain from flesh, meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese and eggs." As time has progressed, so has the fasting, and what one abstains from.
There is nothing Christians need to remember more than the gospel. Easter is the event which is our gospel as Christians. Easter should be bigger than Christmas. We do advent for Christmas, why not Lent for Easter? It’s a way I can follow Christ with even more zeal. Why not spend more time in prayer, fasting, and pursuit of God?
How does one practice Lent?
The way I’ve practiced Lent is to give up sugar for those 40 days and spending time daily in prayer. This prayer focus is on self-examination, meditating on the cross, and praying for grace.
The fruit is I’ve seen my heart be humbled, changed, and prepared for Easter. Lent builds anticipation for Easter to the degree that all that anticipation explodes into excitement on Easter itself as I rejoice in my risen Lord. Lent and Holy Week have made Easter my favorite holiday.
Ideas on how to celebrate of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter:
- Choose something to fast. I suggest sugar.
- During Lent read all four gospels.
- During Holy week, the week before Easter read the gospels crucifixion stories, like you would read Luke 2 before Christmas.
- Read a book on the cross.
- Listen to at least 1 sermon a week on the cross, the atonement, or the death of Christ.
- Open up your house for each weeknight of Holy Week. During that time read a section of Jesus' final hours and Psalms 22. Then just have an extended time of prayer and worship, and pray and more worship. I would encourage the time to be somewhat sober in feel. Low lighting…
- Practicing a Passover Sedar.
- Find and attend a Maundy Thursday service.
- Attend a Good Friday service.
- Watch the Passion of Christ.
- Host or attend an all-night prayer time.
- Get some friends together and sit down and a book of the Bible straight through. (It really is quite fun.)