Lent 101: What is Lent and why do we celebrate?
As a refresher, Lent is a season of the year when millions of Christians focus on strengthening their relationship with God. Many people choose to celebrate Lent through a combination of prayer, simple living, fasting and repentance in preparation for Easter. It lasts forty days (or forty six days if you include Sundays), beginning on Ash Wednesday and lasting through Holy Saturday. Ash Wednesday begins the season as we fast and get ashes on our forehead as a visible sign of penance. The ashes are applied by a priest to represent the dust from which God made us. The priest may explain, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
The duration of forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for his ministry. Many will go through the motions and celebrations of Lent and Easter. However, we like to take a moment to reflect on what this season really means to us. How does preparation during Lent better us as human beings? What can we do to spiritually strengthen our relationship with God?
What is Easter and why do we celebrate?
The season concludes with the celebration of Easter. On Easter, we celebrate the resurrection and rebirth of Jesus as he rose from the dead three days after being killed, thus defeating evil forever.
How can you strengthen your relationship with God during Lent? Here are 5 ways:
- Fast- The most common and recognized way to celebrate Lent is to give up something special to you, like watching TV or eating chocolate, during the season. In this way, many Christians feel that they are making a tangible sacrifice to reflect on the depth of the sacrifice Christ made for us. Some believe that fasting helps to keep the focus on God during the season. Other Christians feel that it makes them look forward to Good Friday and the celebration of Easter, Christ’s victory over sin and death.
- Spiritual Discipline- As another way to prepare for Easter, you may choose to add additional prayers, Bible studies or another spiritual discipline to your routine. Some may decide to go on a spiritual retreat to deepen their faith in God.
- Charitable efforts- Many of the Christian faithful devote themselves to performing works of charity and exercises of piety. Charity is the act of witnessing God’s love in everyone. There are many examples of charitable acts. As one act of charity, we can express love for one another through acts of kindness. There are people who may need to overcome obstacles in life and we can help them through this time. We can also donate to those in need. Pope Francis explains piety as “embracing God and others with real love, not fake devotion, not being holier than thou. It’s recognizing our belonging to God, our deep bond with Him. It is a relationship that gives meaning to our whole life and keeps us resolute. It keeps us in communion with him even during the most difficult and troubled moments in life.” (Catholic Herald).
- Abstain from meat on Fridays- Many Catholics abstain from meat during Fridays in Lent as an act of penitence in remembrance of the Friday in which Christ was crucified. This came from a practice during the Middle Ages where people gave up meat and sometimes dairy products as well.
- Engage with your community- If you choose to do so, you may want to teach others the meaning of Lent, why you celebrate it and what it means to you. By learning from each other, we may understand other fruitful ways to celebrate as a community.
What are some ways that you celebrate Lent?
Please share so we can add to our list! Lent is such a special season of reflection, repentance and gratitude. We wish you a wonderful Lenten season and hope that you’ve enjoyed this article. We hope to welcome you to The Leo House soon and wish you a blessed Easter!