Lent is the six-week period leading up to Easter. For many Christians around the world, especially those who follow the Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox traditions, it is one of the most important times of the year and is regarded on par with Advent, the period leading up to Christmas.
While Advent is a celebration and a time of great anticipation, Lent is observed as a time of solemn observance and preparation for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter.
Lent has traditionally been a period for abstinence, giving up something, or fasting from the beginning of the season on Ash Wednesday to the end of the season on Easter Sunday.
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday begins Lent. The day gets its name from the traditional blessing of the ashes taken after the burning of Palm branches (or crosses made from Palm leaves) from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. The day is so named because it is customary to bless the ashes left over from burning palm branches (or crosses fashioned from palm leaves) after Palm Sunday celebrations the year before.
In certain churches, individuals are marked with a cross on their heads to signify the start of their Lenten fast. The phrase "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15) or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" is repeated when drawing a cross (Genesis 3:19).
Ash Wednesday gives way to the Lent period which involves life adjustments for the Church and the believers.
It is a prayerful period commemorating Jesus Christ's sojourn in the wilderness, during which he fasted and prayed for 40 days.
Lent is derived from the word "Lengthen," which refers to its observance during the spring when the days begin to lengthen; it is related with a number of traditions.
How to observe Lent?
Christians around the world observe Lent in a variety of ways. Many people in more orthodox and traditional denominations will still fast strictly, beginning with the wearing of ashes on Ash Wednesday and continuing until Easter Sunday, abstaining from meat, fish, eggs, and sweets.
Some people will decide to give up just one thing for Lent, usually a "luxury" such as alcohol. Nowadays, it is also becoming common for people to give up other activities, such as viewing TV, gym visits, and even social networking.
With the help of the various devotional books and courses that are currently available, many Christians also utilise Lent as an opportunity to increase their Bible study and prayer time.
Dos and Don’ts on Lent
Dos: The three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving which means that we’re called to do more than just abstain from a particular food or activity.
During Lent, one is expected to fast and pray, and emphasize repentance to strengthen one's faith.
Attend Mass as often as possible: In addition to weekly Sunday service, it would be beneficial to attend mass as often as possible during Lent.
Daily Gospel reflections: Reading the Bible daily and practising devotions are a great way to put yourself in the right mindset for Lent.
Go for Confession: Reconciliation, or Confession, is a great way to turn away from sin and reunite yourself with Christ. By going to confession on a regular basis we can make our relationship with God more fruitful.
Don'ts: One can choose to avoid alcohol, smoking, eating meat or using drugs.
Don't focus too much on oneself: During the Lenten season, we are called to improve our relationship with God. If we selfishly withdraw without giving a thought about others, we diminish a positive aspect of our call to Lenten love.
Hence, we must focus on being charitable and showing empathy to bring us closer to those around us.
Don't set impossible standards: Setting too many lofty goals for oneself may result in unnecessary failure. It is preferable to do a small number of things well than to aim for an unreasonable number of goals all at once.
Don’t make temporary Lenten intentions: Lent is a time to make long-term growth in our lives, both spiritually and in our relationships with others. We must let the Lenten season enrich our spiritual development and relationship with God via others.
What is Holy Week?
Holy Week, the final week of Lent leading up to Easter, begins on Palm Sunday. Christians around the world recall Jesus' victorious entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. A procession of palm branches is seen during church services, representing the ones that were laid at Jesus' feet as he rode into the city.
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