What is Lent?
The Christian season of Lent
Lent is the Christian season of preparation before Easter. In Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday is the day Lent begins. It occurs forty days before Good Friday. The official name of Ash Wednesday is “Day of Ashes.” The Bible does not mention Ash Wednesday, or Lent either, for that matter.
Ash Wednesday is the commencement of this period of repentance. The Bible contains numerous accounts of people using dust and ashes as symbols of repentance and/or mourning (Genesis 18:27; 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 11:21). The tradition is that the symbol of the cross is made in ashes on a person’s forehead as a symbol of that person’s identification with Jesus Christ. A similar concept is mentioned in Revelation 7:3; 9:4; 14:1 and 22:4.
Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. It is intended to be a time where sinful activities and habits are forsaken. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ - his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.
Not all Christian churches observe Lent. Lent is mostly observed by the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican denominations, and also by Roman Catholics. Eastern Orthodox churches observe Lent or Great Lent, during the 6 weeks or 40 days preceding Palm Sunday with fasting continuing during the Holy Week of Easter. The six Sundays in Lent are not counted among the forty days of lent because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter", a celebration of Jesus' victory over sin and death. Lent for Eastern Orthodox churches begins on Monday and Ash Wednesday is not observed.
Lent in 2010 starts on Wednesday, the 17th of February and will continue for 46 days until Saturday, the 3rd of April. So, the first Sunday of Lent is 21 February.