Lent is upon us, the season that anticipates new life even as it denies us access to that life just yet. The Germanic languages gave us the term (shortened from lenten), which referred to spring and to the lengthening of days. But in the West the Church gave it significance as a season during which we prepare for our Easter celebration by observing various forms of restraint and devotion.
The season of Lent is forty days in length, counting the weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter Eve. Traditionally it has been marked as a time of fasting, almsgiving and prayer. In the first three centuries the fasting could be extreme, including only one light meal at the end of each day (much like Ramadan), that meal to exclude meat, fish or eggs. Gradually this was relaxed to permit a light meal midafternoon, and then a noonday meal, with fish and eggs creeping back onto the menu.
As a nod to those days of fasting, moderns often consider giving something up for Lent, perhaps dessert, or smoking, or some other form of abstinence. Some consider, instead, taking something on, perhaps daily prayer and study, or a special outreach project. At
St. Stephen’s we always offer a weekly Lenten study group, as we are this year with “Follow Your Wyrd.”
However you observe it, Lent is a hopeful time, but a time for restraint, as we get our spiritual house in order and prepare for our joyful celebration of the Risen Christ.