What is the history of Lent? In short, Lent is a forty-day period that many Christians use to prepare themselves for the celebration of Easter. Lent is not mentioned in the Bible, but over time has become a tradition within some branches of Christianity.
The term lent comes from an Old English word for spring season – lencten.
Christians have practiced Lent, in some form, since the second century according to the Church Father Irenaeus. During the early centuries of the Church, some practiced a forty-day fast in preparation for baptism at Easter, while others observed the forty-day fast for spiritual growth.
The period of forty days should remind us of the other forties in the Bible:
Lent has become a time of repentance, reflection, and fasting.
Fasting varies from person to person, some fast a favorite food, some meat, and some fast a habit they are trying to break.
Spiritual disciplines include extra prayer, additional scripture reading, attending extra church services, and serving in your local congregation or community.
Lent is celebrated at different times, depending on which branch of Christianity you follow; the Western Church or the Eastern Church.
Western Churches: Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter. The date changes each year because of the changing date of Easter. This year Ash Wednesday is observed on February 26 and Easter is celebrated on April 12.
Eastern Churches: Lent begins on Clean or Shrove Monday and lasts for forty days. It ends on a Saturday, eight days before Easter. This year Clean Monday is observed on March 2 and Easter is celebrated on April 19.
Today, many Christians celebrate Lent as a time to focus on the spiritual growth and discipline of their lives. These forty days are set aside for to fasting, prayer, Bible reading, and worship. It is a time of self-sacrifice to remember the great sacrifice that Jesus gave for us.
The practice of celebrating Lent is something each believer must determine for themselves. Lent is not a biblically required observance, but the benefits of forty days of fasting, prayer, and study cannot be overlooked.
As we look forward to the celebration of Easter in a few short weeks, how are you planning to prepare?