The Season of Lent : Tradition, Reflection and Renewal

The Season of Lent: Tradition, Reflection and Renewal. 


Maybe you are quite familiar with the Season of Lent and it is part of your Christian life. Maybe you’ve heard of Lent but it means nothing to you; or most likely you are part of that great majority in our society today who have never heard of Lent and therefore Lent means nothing to you.

Let me try to help you understand this important time in the Christian Calendar.

What is The Season of Lent ?

Lent is an old English word meaning “lengthen”. Lent was originally observed in the northern hemisphere spring when the days gradually get longer.

The Season of Lent is a time in the Christian Church Calendar, when many Christians begin a period of reflection and preparation for the celebration of Easter.

Christians do this by observing a period of fasting, self-denial, soul-searching, confession and repentance and spiritual discipline. In the past it was a long and strict period of fasting, when people gave up all rich food. Today, the Church does not impose a strict fast. However some  Christians follow the example of Christ and deny themselves some pleasures such as eating chocolate or some other activity which they enjoy.

Although the Christian Bible does not mention Lent, the Season of Lent originated in the very early days of the Church. It was a time when the Christians rededicated themselves and converts to Christianity were instructed in the faith and prepared for Baptism.

Traditionally, the Season of Lent commences forty days before Easter. It begins on  Ash Wednesday  and ends on the day before Good Friday. This day is often called Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday.

The day before Ash Wednesday, is Shrove Tuesday. This day is recognised for two reasons;

  • First, was the ritual of “shriving”, when people confessed their sins and received absolution for them from the Priest.
  • Secondly, as Lent was a time of fasting and abstinence, the faithful would not eat foods such as meat, fish, eggs and milk products during that time.   So that they would not be wasted, a feast would be held to use up these foods on “Shriving Tuesday”.

Shriving Tuesday is often called Pancake Day. Pancakes became associated with Shrove Tuesday, because they were  a dish that could use up the eggs, fat and milk with addition of flour.

The Tuesday before Lent has also been called “Fat Tuesday” after the French “Mardi Gras”. This referred to the need to eat up any fats so that they would not go rancid.


Why forty days?

The number 40  is mentioned many times in Jewish and Christian scripture.

  • The flood recorded in Genesis lasted 40 days and nights  (Genesis, Chapters 7-9)


  • After escaping from Pharaoh and Egypt, the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land (The Book of Exodus)


  • Moses fasted on Mount Sinai for forty days before receiving the Ten Commandments from God.(Exodus: 20)


  • Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days before commencing His ministry. (Luke 4:1-15)



It is this last reason which has most relevance to The Season of Lent. Christians try to follow the example of Jesus.

Lent reminds us of the events leading up to and including Jesus’ crucifixion by the Romans in Jerusalem.


 How is the Season of Lent calculated?

Lent is 40 days long, but different denominations of the Christian Church calculate the forty days differently.

In the Western Church, the Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are not included in the 40 days.  Sunday is always a day of celebration in the Christian Church, because it commemorates the Resurrection.

Therefore the Season of Lent in the Western Church, begins on the 7th Wednesday before Easter and ends on the Thursday before Easter

The Eastern Church, Greek and Russian Orthodox, include the Sundays, so  the Season of Lent begins on the  Monday of the 7th week before Easter (Clean Monday) and ends on the Friday before Palm Sunday, 9 days before Easter. The Lenten fast is relaxed on Saturdays and Sundays. The Season of Lent in the Eastern Orthodox Church is called the “Great Lent”

The Great Lent is followed by Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday which are feast days. The Lenten fast resumes on the Monday of Holy Week.

The actual date of The Season of Lent changes from year to year because Easter is a movable feast.

The date of Easter is determined by what is called the Paschal full moon.  

I hope this has helped you to understand why many Christians consider The Season of Lent, to be a very meaningful part of their faith.

Jesus was not only the greatest Man and Teacher that ever lived;  He is the Son of God, who came to show us how God wants us to live. He came to die in our place, to pay the penalty for our sins and  to rise again that we might have eternal life. ( John 3:16 )

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 I  pray, that if you have not already done so, you may be challenged to investigate Jesus.

Doctor Bill