In our secularised society, the season of Lent for many has become a time when Hot Cross Buns can be bought at bakeries and supermarkets promote the sale of fish in the run-up to Easter.
For Christians, it has always been much more: the time between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday, which precedes Good Friday, the day of sorrows which commemorates the trial and execution of the Lord Jesus, and Easter which marks His triumphant Resurrection from the dead. Its origins go back to the early centuries of the Church.
Lent is the penitential period which commemorates the 40 days which, as the evangelist St Luke tells us, Jesus Himself spent in the desert where He prayed and was tempted by the Devil.
This is itself an echo of various Old Testament references: the book of Genesis tells us that God punished mankind by sending a flood over the earth that lasted forty days and forty nights; the people of Ninevah repented with forty days of fasting when Jonah preached the destruction of their city (Jonah 3:4); Moses and the Hebrew people wandered in the desert for forty years (Num 14:34); the Prophet Ezekiel had to lie on his right side for forty days as a figure of the siege that was to bring Jerusalem to destruction (Ez 4:6); the Prophet Elijah fasted and prayed on Mount Horeb for forty days (1 Kings 19:8); and Moses fasted forty days and nights while on Mt Sinai (Ex 34:28).
During Lent, we are encouraged to deepen our spiritual lives in three different ways: in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Prayer brings us closer to God, fasting is a form of self-sacrifice, and almsgiving shows our willingness to help others. Together, they are a reflection of our response to the great command which Jesus gave us, to love God and to love our neighbour.
Our Lenten observance is the best way to prepare for the great feast of Easter.
- Peter Westmore (Publisher) -