Lent is a 40 day liturgical season observed by Roman Catholics by of fasting, special prayer and almsgiving. The lent is very likely in imitation of Jesus’ fast for 40 days in the desert before His public ministry.
Starting from Ash Wednesday to Easter, this year it started on the 6th March to 18th April, 2019.
According to Chev. Prof. George Menachery, a professor, anthropologist, indologist, historian of Syro Malabar Church and history of Kerala –
Ash Wednesday is a holy day of prayer, fasting and repentance. It derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants to either the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or the dictum “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
During Lent, we are asked to devote ourselves to seeking the Lord in prayer and reading Scripture, to service by giving alms, and to sacrifice self-control through fasting. Many know of the tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, but we are also called to practice self-discipline and fast in other ways throughout the season. Contemplate the meaning and origins of the Lenten fasting tradition in this reflection.
In addition, the giving of alms is one way to share God’s gifts—not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents. As St. John Chrysostom reminds us: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods, is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2446).
Lent is a favourable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ– Pope Francis.
The key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We are called not just to abstain from sin during Lent, but to true conversion of our hearts and minds as followers of Christ. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ’s death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.
Catholics are also encouraged to make going to Confession; a significant part of their spiritual lives during Lent. Lent is the Church’s primary penitential season. Most parishes offer Penance Services during the Lenten season.
Why 40 days? Well, throughout the Bible there are references to events taking place over 40 days or years, such as the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert or Jesus’ 40 days of fasting and prayer in the desert. In the biblical sense, “Forty days is another way of saying ‘long enough’ or ‘enough time,’” according to The Lent, Triduum and Easter Answer Book, by Paul J. Niemann.
We begin those 40 days on Ash Wednesday when we receive ashes on our foreheads as a sign of mourning and penitence. The importance of this tradition is to remind us that we are entering a period of prayer and spiritual renewal, fasting and almsgiving.
Celebrating the Symbols of Lent
With its wonderful traditions and symbols, Lent provides a perfect opportunity for your family to celebrate together. Here are some suggestions for making the most of Lent:
As a family, observe the practice of not eating meat on Friday. Remember that the purpose of this tradition is to make a sacrifice. If one of your family’s favourite meals is meatless, you might consider an additional sacrifice. Meatless Fridays are now also seen as a sign of solidarity with the hungry multitudes worldwide. In addition to abstaining from meat on Fridays, do some abstaining from the television or other types of media, such as the computer or video-game system. Use the time to do activities together as a family, such as taking a walk or playing a game.
Put some extra effort into your decision as to what your Lenten sacrifice will be this year. And remember that doing something can be just as good as giving something up. Last year my focus for Lent was to contact people—by phone, mail or in person—whom I had meant to stay in contact with but hadn’t. Each week I focused on a different person.
How can Children Prepare themselves for Easter Sunday?
When I was growing up, my strongest connection with Lent was that it was the time of year that I had to give something up. As I grew older, however, I realized that, while sacrificing something you enjoy is one option, it’s not the only one. For instance, one year I decided that, instead of giving something up, I would do what my parents asked of me without complaining or arguing. Believe me that was much harder than giving up ice-cream!
This year, take some time to think about your Lenten sacrifice. Talk with your children about why we even practice this custom—as a reminder of God’s great sacrifice for us.
Whatever you decide will be your Lenten sacrifice, draw a picture and post it on the refrigerator where everyone can see—this will help you honour your commitment. For instance, if you’re giving up watching a certain television program, draw a picture of one of the characters. Or, if you’re going to make an effort to play more with your brother or sister, draw a picture of the two of you playing together.
Now, this gold nugget! Lent is a season of grace. The joy of the Risen Lord Jesus depends on how we live out the holy season of Lent. God’s generosity has no limits, but we often fall short in giving God our whole hearts so that He can fill them with His love.
And, this final flourish! Let us always rejoice in the season of Lent, which is a gift and blessing for us every Church year. We must enter this season with true generosity of heart. Let us die to sin and rise to new life!