GOOD MORNING WORLD
Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of Lent for we Christians. From one source:
Lent is a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter. In the desire to renew the liturgical practices of the Church, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican Council II stated, “The two elements which are especially characteristic of Lent — the recalling of baptism or the preparation for it, and penance — should be given greater emphasis in the liturgy and in liturgical catechesis. It is by means of them that the Church prepares the faithful for the celebration of Easter, while they hear God’s word more frequently and devote more time to prayer” (no. 109). The word Lent itself is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words lencten, meaning “Spring,” and lenctentid, which literally means not only “Springtide” but also was the word for “March,” the month in which the majority of Lent falls.
and another source with additional information: (2)
Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten season. Beginning March 5, and ending on April 17, Lent is a 40-day period when Christians prepare for Easter.
Every year, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. During this time, observers practice fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. This is meant to imitate Jesus Christ’s actions and reflect on his life, death and resurrection.
This year, Pope Francis has chosen the theme, “He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich,” for this year’s Lenten message, according to a Vatican statement. The verse comes from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, where the apostle promotes generosity and giving.
Who Practices Lent?
Lent is most commonly observed by the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican denominations. The Eastern Orthodox churches also observe Lent, but during the 40 days before Palm Sunday with fasting continuing during Holy Week until Orthodox Easter on April 20.
How Is Lent Observed?
Lent was first practiced in the fourth century as a period of self-examination and self-denial to prepare for Easter. While Catholics have observed strict fasting rules over the centuries, nowadays only Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays during Lent are considered fasting days. Orthodox Christians, on the other hand, observe stricter fasting rules – abstaining from meat, dairy and egg products during this time.
The Lenten season is also seen as a time to give up something pleasurable – which could be anything from chocolate to habits like swearing or procrastinating.
Why Is Lent 40 Days Long?
The 40 days of Lent, or Quadragesima as it is known in Latin, stems from two biblical stories. The first is the Old Testament story of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years. The second is the New Testament story of Christ’s 40 days spent in the wilderness when he was tempted by Satan.
While the period of Lent is 40 days, depending on the year there can be as many as 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. The reason derives from practices during the early Christian church. Christ’s disciples, as Jews, used to observe the Sabbath on Saturday – the seventh day of the week. But since Christ rose from the dead on Sunday – the first day of the week – early Christians marked the resurrection as a new creation, thereby transferring the day of rest from Saturday to Sunday.
Since all Sundays are considered holy days to commemorate Christ’s resurrection, the early church forbade fasting, kneeling and acts of sorrow on Sundays. This meant only 34 out of the 40 days before Easter were for fasting. In the fifth century, Christians wanted 40 full days of penance before Easter. To do that, they added Good Friday and Holy Saturday – to make 36 days. Within the next few centuries, Ash Wednesday was added. This included the Thursday, Friday and Saturday following, bringing the total fasting days to 40. Lent is a moveable season, meaning that it occurs on different dates each year.
What Is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday is commonly associated with the Catholic Church. During services, priests place a cross of ashes on a worshipper’s forehead. This is meant to serve as a reminder of human mortality, repentance and a way to prepare for Holy Week and Easter.
“The ashes are made from the palms from the prior Palm Sunday,” Peter Barrett, parish administrator for St. Olaf’s Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis, told CBS News.
The Catholic Church is not the only denomination to observe Ash Wednesday. Historically, the Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist churches also have practiced the ritual.
How Is Lent Related To Mardi Gras And Other World Carnivals?
Pre-Lenten festivals like Mardi Gras and other famous Carnivals held in Trinidad & Tobago, Venice and Rio de Janeiro are associated with celebrating before the season of fasting begins.
Carnivals were first celebrated in ancient Rome as pagan festivals to celebrate the onset of spring. Later, the Roman Catholic Church modified the festival into a celebration preceding Lent. This notion was spread to European colonies in the New World.
I have celebrated Lent for as long as I can remember no matter what faith I practiced. I gave up ‘things’ and tried to do better and usually failed at all. The one year I gave up diet drinks was the year of success for me. I was ever impressed by a boyfriend who gave up alcohol for Lent living in a Fraternity house his senior year of college. I was so impressed I married him that fall!!! One good strong man for sure and I could not let him get away!
I have gone back and forth with what I plan to do this year. I was all set until this morning and then I could not face my own choice. Does that mean it was too hard? I am not capable of challenging myself? I am lazy? I am afraid of failure? I am afraid of success? Do I have a better idea?
All these questions flooded over me and I wondered if in fact Christ had not had some of the same as he walked out to the desert to pray for 40 days. Did he think the coming challenge too hard? Was He not capable of mounting the challenge? Was He afraid He would fail? He knew what success meant and did He want a better plan? Interesting.
At Advent I receive daily notes from a friend who celebrates that season with facts and insights and usually ends with ‘do not forget to have a cup of coffee with God today’. She also sometimes says take time for Him.
I saw a link to a Life Teen site. It was a plan to take 40 minutes for 40 days. I am not sure I am that structured though I could set a timer I guess. (3)
I have recently taken up the practice of playing Solitaire before I get off the computer for the day. This is about noon and lunchtime. I used to love the game with real cards. I liked feel of the cards with the shuffle, the sound and hand contortions. I like the dealing of the cards as I lay them out so uniformly in a line. I like the movement as I pick up each card and place it to another spot in hopes that it is the best play to get the win of all the piles neatly stacked atop the line that once was the beginning of the game.
The computer game is not the same yet enough as you hear the shuffle and see the changing. It is challenging enough to give my mind some exercise if emails and facebook have not done enough. Or the research I have struggled to find has not set me off on a tangent. The Solitaire is like a slowing down of the pace to move from one chore to the next. Perhaps I can give that up for Lent – or perhaps being solitary is a clue?
I am thinking that I am trying to find quiet and simple in my life. Perhaps I can adopt some of these ideas. I can take the time to have a cup of tea each afternoon, read something inspirational or simply be quiet and listen. If I do that I may just have found a Lenten act that I can achieve. Perhaps I can blog daily about this as well? See – ever the over achiever – I cannot simply be. That may be my largest challenge of all.
…..ONWARD TO MORE MISADVENTURE…