Most Catholics seem to be aware of the forty-day period before the feast of Easter. Lent, which comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, meaning “spring,” is a time marked by particular rituals, such as reception of Ashes on Ash Wednesday or the decision to “give up some habits, food or drink as a Lenten practice. Actually, Lent is broader than just these practices.
The first reference to Lent as a period of forty days’ preparation occurs in the teachings of the First Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 and, by the end the end of the fourth century, a Lenten period of forty-days was established and accepted.
In its early development, Lent quickly associated with the sacrament of baptism since Easter was the great baptismal feast. In Lent, the baptized are called to renew their baptismal commitment. Others prepare to be baptized through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a period of learning and discernment for individuals who have declared their desire to become Catholics.
Lent is a journey that is measured from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday, but more accurately, Lent is measured from Ash Wednesday to the beginning of the period of time known as the Triduum. Triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, and closes with the proclamation of the Exscultet. “Rejoice O Heavenly Powers,” during the Mass of Holy Saturday.
The Lenten journey is a process of spiritual growth. In one of his Lenten messages, Pope Francis asks us to "make our hearts firm" (Jas 5:8) and to be "merciful, attentive and generous." Embrace his call to mercy by reaching out to those in need. Be attentive to the Lenten call to prayer; be generous with your time and treasure. "Through prayer, charity and humility before God, people receive a heart "which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference," Pope Francis says in his Lenten message.
Lent is the penitential period of time during which people attempt to become more sensitive to the role of sin in their lives. During Lent, the Church asks us to surrender ourselves to prayer and to the reading of Scripture, to fasting and to giving alms. The fasting that all do together on Fridays is but a sign of the daily Lenten discipline of individuals and households: fasting for certain periods of time, fasting from certain foods, but also fasting from other things and activities. Likewise, the giving of alms is some effort to share this world equally—not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents. Contemplate the meaning and origins of the Lenten fasting tradition in this reflection.
The season of lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Join our parish family this Wednesday March 2, 2022 at 9:00am at St. Theresa, Salem, and 6:00pm at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Kinmundy for Ash Wednesday Masses.