“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry” – Luke 4:1-2.
The Lenten tradition of the Church takes its inspiration from Jesus’ 40 days of solitude, prayer, and fasting in the wilderness.
Ash Wednesday, in the calendar of Western Christianity, is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter. It is a moveable fast, falling on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter. It can occur as early as February 4 or as late as March 10.
This year Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with services, February 13 and ends on Holy Saturday, March 30, the day before Easter Sunday. Some churches will also hold Shrove Tuesday pancake dinners, following the Lenten tradition of using up all the butter, eggs and yeast in the kitchen before Lent actually begins.
Some church denominations practice the wearing of ashes on the forehead in the sign of a cross on Ash Wednesday. Ashes symbolize true heartfelt repentance. More important than the outward symbol of ashes is the inner reality of a contrite heart. “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” - Daniel 9:3.
Lent is a season of repentance, self-examination and quiet contemplation of the mysteries of God. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days. Christians prepare for the forgiveness of their sins and fleshy lives with the death of Jesus on the cross on Good Friday as they follow his footsteps through Holy Week.
To learn more about Wednesday Lenten services, contact your local church. Lent is generally celebrated by Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Greek Orthodox, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and some Baptist and Mennonite congregations.
Calendar of Dates for Lent and Easter 2013
Ash Wednesday - February 13, 2013
First Sunday in Lent - February 17, 2013
Second Sunday in Lent - February 24, 2013
Third Sunday in Lent - March 3, 2013
Fourth Sunday in Lent - March 10, 2013
Fifth Sunday in Lent- March 17, 2013
Liturgy of the Palms - March 24, 2013
Sixth Sunday in Lent
Liturgy of the Passion - March 24, 2013
Sixth Sunday in Lent
Easter Sunday - March 31, 2013
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