The Meaning of Lent

Even early Christians observed a season of penitence and fasting as they prepared for the Paschal or Easter feast. The season now known as Lent (from an Old English word meaning “spring” or the “time of lengthening days”) has a long history. Originally, the fast was only for two days, but in the third century the fast was lengthened to six days. Eventually, this fast became attached to, or overlapped another fast of forty days, in imitation of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness. The forty day fast was especially important for converts to the faith who were preparing for baptism and for those guilty of notorious sins who were being restored to the Christian community. In the western church the forty days of Lent extend from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, omitting Sundays. The color of the vestments for Lent is usually purple, although in some churches, the Lenten vestments are the natural color of unbleached linen. Episcopalians observe Lent as an opportunity for inward reflection, self-examination, and repentance as they prepare for the great feast of Easter. In addition, many people observe the season by taking on a special program of study or service, by fasting, or by self-denial. All of these acts of devotion are intended to deepen the spiritual experience of the believer during this very special season of the Church Year.


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