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What is Lent?

Resurrection, or “Easter” Sunday falls on April 5th this year. Before Easter comes a curious season in the church calendar called Lent.

 Some are well versed in Lenten observances and practices while others find it completely alien. Though many traditions surrounding Lent are entrenched in varied Christian expressions, the simple and central theme of Lent is preparation for Easter.

Easter is the highlight of the year for Christians. Though we remember Christ’s death and victorious Resurrection throughout the year, at Easter we intentionally celebrate all it means. Lent prepares us to celebrate well. As a season of preparation it reflects Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness and his commitment to Father’s plan and purpose.

 As we immerse ourselves in a season of serious reflection, repentance and recommitment to God we emerge from the season of Lent into the party that is Resurrection Sunday and the season following!

 When does Lent begin? How long is it?

Wednesday, February 18 is Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter Sunday. Its name comes from the ancient practice of placing ashes on worshippers’ heads or foreheads as a sign of humility before God, a symbol of mourning and sorrow at the death that sin brings into the world. It not only suggests mourning at the death of Jesus, but also places the worshipper in a position to realize the consequences of sin, leading them to a place of repentance.

 Lent lasts the 40 days before Easter Sunday. However, Lent is actually 46 days long. Lenten practices are suspended on Sunday, because Sunday is a day of celebration and rest. Lent is spread over the 46 days leading up to Easter.

 What can I do to observe Lent?

Remembering that Lent is about preparation for Easter, you can do whatever helps you reflect on your walk with Jesus and consider your commitment to him. Lent is about repentance, turning from our sin and facing Jesus. Traditionally, people give up something for Lent. This reminds them of their dependence on God above all other things, putting something aside as a reminder that the Christian life is oriented around God alone. Consider fasting a certain food or activity - whatever frees up time and space in your life to focus on God.

 Do I have to observe Lent?

Lent isn’t found in the Bible but is a Christian tradition to help us focus on following Jesus. Different Christian traditions have different takes on Lent and varied practices surrounding the season. Don’t feel you’re doing too little or too much for Lent depending on what others do. We encourage you to simply ask God, “How might I draw closer to you during this season?” It’s a simple question, but if you’re asking it you’re already observing Lent! If Lent becomes a religious burden rather than a disciplined choice to draw closer to God, it defeats the purpose. We don’t observe Lent to earn God’s favour – we already have that.

 Ideas for Lent 

  • Fast a non-essential activity (like media, television, etc.) and spend the time in prayer and Bible reading.
  • Fast a certain food or beverage.
  • Read a book that draws you closer to God.
  • Begin to serve others in some way with a special purpose or intent during the season.
  • Fast purchasing non-essential items in the season.

 How are you observing Lent this year? We’d love to hear about it!