Easter will soon be here, and now is the time of Lent.
Most Protestants do not really understand Lent. They think it’s just a Catholic thing and do not really pay it much mind. So what is it really, and why is it such a big deal?
Easter represents the resurrection of Christ. We all know that. This is why we celebrate it on Sunday. Christ was crucified on a Friday; we now call that Good Friday. He was taken down and hurriedly buried the same day because the next day was the Sabbath and no work could be done. (John 19:31). He rose on the third day, and so we celebrate Easter on Sunday. (Remember that the Sabbath was Saturday until a few hundred years after Christ).
We pick Easter by a “simple” little formulary: Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. Simple right? Like Christmas, when the early church were declaring the dates for Christian holidays, they merged several of the traditions of the pagan and indigenous religions into one big Christian festival.
So now that we’ve got Easter down pat…
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which is forty-six days before Easter, and was originally considered a 40-day fasting period (fasting is not allowed on Sundays) to represent the 40-day fast of Jesus in the desert. The day before Ash Wednesday is known as Fat Tuesday. Yes, good readers, it is true. What we now know of as Mardi Gras came to be because of people eating and drinking and partying it up prior to having to fast for Lent.
As I said above, Lent was designed as a fasting period where all Christians ate very little for the 46-days (minus Sundays) to represent Christ’s fasting in the desert. At some point in time the fasting became simply not eating meat (beef, pork, poultry). Then from there it went into not eating meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Fasting has somewhat fallen out of favor among Christians in modern society. I really feel this is because fasting was too hard and not worth many people’s time – sadly, a lot like prayer and meditation has also become today.
More traditionally in today’s time, during Lent, Catholics and many Protestants pick one thing that means something to them, or that they enjoy, and they do without it for the period of Lent. Common things are chocolate, or sodas, or fishing, or some other item. Again, this is to represent the trials that Christ went through in the desert prior to the crucifixion.
Everyone says that we should put the meaning back into the season. Well, that is what Lent is. If you don’t want to pull the full 40-day fast, at least find something else to do without. But it has to be something you enjoy. How about trying to do without television or movies? Perhaps doing without gossip (sorry, current events)? Or better yet, how about giving up Facebook for 40 days? Instead of spending time posting “If you love Jesus, you’ll repost this!” How about acknowledging His trials and tribulations by spending your posting time in prayer or helping others? It’s just a thought.
Think about it.