How Lent is Recognized Today

Many Christians prepare for Easter throughout the period of Lent, although there is no standardized method of observance. Preparation could involve a minor sacrifice such as giving up a luxury food, or sometimes involves fasting. The period of Lent isn’t mentioned in the bible, but has become an important custom for many Christian churches.

How is Lent Recognized Today?

The purpose of Lent is to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ, including his death and resurrection. Lent is 40 days long to recognize the time Jesus spent in the desert, where he faced constant temptation from the Devil. Lent isn’t a celebration, but instead a time of grief that ends with the celebration of Easter.

The start of Lent is traditionally signaled by the placing of ash on the forehead. This custom probably entered Christianity through a similar tradition in Judaism. The ashes are often from burnt palm fronds during the previous Easter celebrations.

In the past, Lent was observed with strict fasting rules. These involved avoiding all meat based foods for the entire 40 days, aside from Sundays, and eating only one meal a day. Rules such as these have been almost completely eradicated by most churches. Roman Catholics, for example, are only asked to fast on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday. Some churches, such as the Eastern Catholic Church, still abstain from eating animal products including eggs, fish and milk throughout Lent.

Aside from giving up luxuries for 40 days, modern Christians also mark Lent in other ways. These include reading the bible, greater dedication to regular prayer and spiritual self examination. Traditionally, “almsgiving”, which means “justice towards neighbor,” was an important part of observing lent.

As a general rule, Christians try to perform actions that bring them closer to God during Lent. This might mean following traditional customs such as fasting or bible study. Others choose to observe by taking part in charitable activities or giving away money to those in need.

Many churches hold extra Lent services. It’s also common for people of different Christian denominations to meet during the 40 day period, to discuss and share their belief in God.

Do All Christians Observe Lent?

Many Christians observe lent, but not all churches see it as an important period. Different churches have their own customs for the period leading up to Easter. The Methodist, Anglican and Presbyterian churches, for example, consider Lent to be particularly important.

The History of Lent

Lent is a Christian period of recognition and self-examination that lasts 40 days and ends at Easter. It’s observed by Christians in different ways, but often involves some form of fasting or giving up a vice. Lent lasts for 40 days in recognition of Jesus’ time in the desert, where he faced temptation from the Devil.

The word “Lent” comes from the word “lencten,” an Anglo-Saxon word meaning spring. Traditionally, the purpose of Lent is to prepare Christian believers for the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The period following Lent is known as Holy Week.

It’s not known exactly when Lent was first observed, but it’s likely that the time before Easter has always been considered important. There are records of people observing a similar period from almost the beginning of the church. In these early days, however, there was no set method of observance, and the duration of Lent hadn’t been set.

In A.D. 313, Christianity was declared legal by the Emperor Constantine. This slowly allowed church celebrations and traditions, such as Lent, to become more standardized. St. Athanasius was one of the first to ask his congregation to fast for 40 days in the lead up to the Holy Week. Other church leaders subsequently requested similar acts from their followers.

It wasn’t long before the period of 40 days had been set, but there was still a lot of variation in how Lent was observed. People in Rome, for example, fasted every day apart from Sunday, so Lent actually lasted for six weeks. Other Christians didn’t fast at all on the weekend, which meant Lent lasted for 8 weeks. Fasting rules usually forbid eating any animal products, although sometimes fish was considered an exception. In most churches, a person was allowed one meal per day.

Over time, the rules for fasting during Lent became less strict. This evolution began as a necessity, as it wasn’t possible for manual laborers to work all day without eating. Eventually, nearly all churches allowed people to eat fish, and before long meat could be eaten on most days during Lent.

Today, Lent starts with Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days. Fasting rules are much simpler than in the past, with many Christians only abstaining from eating meat on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday. Some churches also avoid eating meet on Fridays during Lent.