What is This Season of Lent?
The season of Lent grew out of two practices of the early church: a commemoration of the death and resurrection of Christ which involved fasting for a day prior to Easter as a way of cleansing the heart and mind; and the period of preparation prescribed for candidates for Baptism which also involved a fast, but this one lasting 40 days as suggested by Christ’s fast before his ministry began.
The preparation for Baptism was so rigorous because until 313 AD Christianity was illegal and the church was thus an underground organization which had to carefully scrutinize every prospective member. However, when Christianity was legalized, the scrutinies were relaxed and what had been a period of preparation for a few individuals became a time of preparation for all Christians.
At the beginning of the 8th Century, Lent had assumed the traditional character as a time of spiritual discipline and preparation involving fasting and penance. During the Reformation period of the 1500’s, fasting and penance were put on an individual basis and other observances were changed as well. The notion of giving something up for Lent came from this practice of fasting. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Its name comes from the medieval custom of sprinkling ashes on the heads of penitents as a sign of penance. The ashes came from the burning of the palms from the previous Palm Sunday and pulverizing the ash.
Two other special days during Lent are Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Maundy Thursday received its name from the Latin word meaning “new commandment” and refers to the new commandment to love one another which Jesus gave the disciples the night of the Last Supper. Good Friday possibly took its name from the original English name, “God’s Friday”.
Technically, Sundays are not included in Lent but today in most churches the Sunday services reflect the Lenten emphasis on preparation for Easter. The liturgical color for Lent is violet, which signifies Christ’s kingship.
Although many of the original practices of Lent are no longer followed, Lent remains a time to stop in our lives and seek to deepen our faith and commitment to Christ and his way through worship and reflection.
Wednesday Evening spoken services of communion at 7:00 PM. Brief meditations will provide the focus for each service.