Season of Lent
The Lenten Season is here and it is a good time for all of us to renew ourselves by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. I go to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Charlotte. I have always had many questions about Lent and I have got answers to many of these from an Ash Wednesday publication distributed in my church. I would like to share some of these with all of you and I am sure it will answer many of your questions about Lent.
- The Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday for Roman Catholics, but for the Eastern Rite churches it begins on the Monday of the seventh week before Easter (and ends the Friday before Palm Sunday).
- Ashes are a symbol of penance. In the Old Testament times, people who were repenting of sins would fast, wear sackcloth, and sit in dust and ashes. Our use of ashes today is a small remnant of an ancient practice. The ashes are made by burning the palms remaining from the Palm Sunday liturgies of the previous year.
- Ashes may be given to any baptized Christian, not just Catholics. Catechumens may also receive ashes as they are part of the Church,
- Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation but celebrating Ash Wednesday is a wonderful day to begin Lent. Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday and abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent.
- The Season of Lent is forty days long. Now forty is a symbolic number. Jesus began his public ministry with forty days in the Desert. There are actually 44 days in Lent, starting with Ash Wednesday and ending with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. The Sundays of Lent are not counted as days of Lent. Hence, the total of 44 days.
- “Lent” literally means “springtime“. It comes from an Anglo-Saxon word that means “lengthen” – the days are getting longer. The Cross is a central symbol of the season of Lent. The liturgical color for Lent is violet or purple.
- The three fold discipline of Lent is prayer, fasting, and alms giving. Catholics fast and abstain from meat on Good Friday. They also abstain from meat on all Fridays of Lent. In the first century, Christians abstained from eating the meat of warm-blooded animals on Fridays to honor Jesus’ death on the cross on Good Friday, and we have continued the custom.
- Penance, along with remembering of Baptism is central to the observance of Lent. The Transfiguration Gospel on the Second Sunday of Lent anticipates Easter.
- St. Francis of Assisi is believed to have started the devotion of the Way of Cross in local churches. The traditional number of stations is fourteen but it has varied over the years, and today some people add a fifteenth station (Jesus’ resurrection).
- Lent ends at sundown on Holy Thursday before the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
- Holy Week begins with the celebration of Palm Sunday.