Lent is a season of preparation for the celebration of Easter. It probably began as a season of preparation for those to be baptised on Easter Sunday or those to be re-admitted to the church after serious sin. It then became a season in which all Christians were encouraged to prepare for our celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The 40 days reflect the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry. The calculation of the forty days has varied considerably in Christian history. It is now usual to count them continuously to the end of Holy Week (but not Sundays), so beginning Lent on the 6th Wednesday before Easter, Ash Wednesday. Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence; from the middle ages it became the custom to begin Lent by being marked in ash with the sign of the cross.
This history explains the characteristics of Lent – study, self-examination, penitence, self-denial, and generous giving. Christians still find considerable value in exercising these spiritual disciplines in the hope of change. So giving things up or fasting may reflect our desire to rely on God, humble ourselves and get rid of sinful elements of our life, while choosing to do something extra for Lent may reflect our desire to grow in Christ-like character, virtue and love for others.
For many, Lent is also a special time to meet with others; to study scripture; to pray with and for each other; to learn, support and encourage each other as collectively we seek to prune away the bad and grow the good. That is why we are inviting everyone from St. Matthew’s and St. Stephen’s to join our different Lent Groups as a means of making this a significant season for us all.
Please see the diary for details of the Lent Groups.
How we spend 40 days has the potential to change the rest of our life.