What is Lent?
Lent is the 40 days before Easter Sunday. (Lent is technically 46 days because the Sundays during this time period are not counted.)
Easter Sunday is when Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ death on the cross is the payment for sins, and His resurrection claimed victory over death, which means you can have eternal life with God when you trust in Jesus as your Savior.
The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday. (See: What is Ash Wednesday?)
Do You Need to Observe Lent?
Lent is observed in the Catholic church and in some Protestant (typically the more traditional) denominations. The word “Lent” is not in the Bible, and therefore not required to be observed. The tradition was started by the church in the 4th century.
Lent is a time when Christians focus on Jesus’ death and sacrifice. It is a somber time, yet also a time of celebration in the sense that Christians remember and realize the importance of the great gift that has been given.
Should You Fast During Lent?
Typically Lent has been a time of fasting and self-denial, especially in Catholic traditions in the past. It is important to note that fasting or other traditions such as these do not give you extra blessings from God. Romans 5:17 says, “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”
Read more here: 50 Things You Could Give Up for Lent This Year
Grace is a free gift through Jesus. You do not earn God’s good favor.
The Bible also says that fasting should be done privately. Matthew 6:16-18 says, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is between you and God.
Lent is called a time of “keeping the fast”. (source) Fasting can include a time of doing without food, such as eating only one meal a day. Fasting can also mean doing without certain foods, like not eating meat or not eating meat on Fridays. Some people choose to give up a favorite food during Lent, like chocolate or Coke. Others might choose to fast from TV viewing or social media.
People might fast in order to go through a wilderness time (as Jesus did, Matthew 4:1-11) in order to spend extra time in reflection and prayer. You might sacrifice something to remember Jesus’ amazing sacrifice for you.
Lent is also called a time of “keeping the silence”. (source) During worship in a Catholic or traditional Protestant church that observes Lent, you may notice changes. The paraments (cloths on the altar) are purple or a dark color. Crosses and other religious artwork may be veiled with a transparent dark cloth. Music is more somber, and many churches choose not to say or sing the word “alleluia” during the Lenten season. Sundays may be an exception, which are considered a “mini-Easter”.
For more information:
What is Lent? — video
From the Cradle to the Cross — a Lenten 6 Sermon series written by a Lutheran pastor
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Do you give up something for Lent? Does your church observe Lent?
Do you have other questions about Lent?