“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, March 5 and ends on Holy Saturday, April 19, 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.
We are indeed mortal – we are dust, and to dust we shall return - Genesis 3:19. We are reminded that we are still sinners in need of continuous conversion. The Church now calls us back once again to the graces of our baptism, to do penance, and amend our lives as we approach the greatest celebration and high point of the Christian Church year — Easter.
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 2014
Ash Wednesday - March 5, 2014
First Sunday in Lent - March 9, 2014
Second Sunday in Lent - March 16, 2014
Third Sunday in Lent - March 23, 2014
Fourth Sunday in Lent - March 30, 2014
Fifth Sunday in Lent- April 6, 2014
Palm Sunday - April 13, 2014
Holy Thursday - April 17, 2014
Good Friday - April 18, 2014
Holy Saturday - April 19, 2014
Easter Sunday - April 20, 2014
If anyone seeks to publish a faith article, please contact Mark Gunderman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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