Bailey and Potter, CPA

A Lighthouse in the Village



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We exist to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ,

Challenging all to be transformed by Him,

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What is Lent?

Many Protestants know little about Lent. Even some people with a liturgical church heritage are unclear on the meaning of the season. Here are the “FAQS” of Lent. (My answers apply to the Catholic and Protestant churches; there are some differences in Eastern Orthodox tradition.)

Q:        What is the purpose of Lent?
A:        The season is all about reflection (examining the state of our relationship with God, self and others) and repentance (confessing and rejecting everything that undermines our love and obedience to God). The goal in keeping Lent is to deepen our spiritual lives, seek purification from sin, and become more closely united to Jesus Christ.

Q:        What traditions are associated with Lent?
A:        The most common traditions are confession, fasting (from food or some other lawful thing in our lives), and giving to the poor.

Q:        Why is this season called Lent?
A:        Our word Lent comes from Lencten, the Old English word for “spring”.  Lencten was derived from the Germanic Lenz which literally meant, “lengthening” (of daylight hours).
Q:        How long is Lent?
A:        Lent lasts for 40 days, excluding Sundays. Sundays are not included in the 40 days because they are “mini-Easters” that celebrate Christ’s resurrection.

Q:        Is there significance to the number 40?
A:       The 40 days of Lent correspond, first and foremost, to the 40 days Jesus was tempted in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). Other biblical parallels include: the 40 days and nights of rain during the Flood (Genesis 7:4); Moses’ 40 days on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:18); Israel’s 40 years of desert wandering (Numbers 14:32-33); the 40 days and nights Elijah spent traveling to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:8); the 40 days God gave the city of Nineveh to repent (Jonah 3:4); and so on.

Q:        When does Lent start and end?
A:        The season begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday). The dates vary from year to year, but Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the vernal equinox (March 21). In 2009
Ash Wednesday falls on February 25. Easter Sunday is April 12.

Q:        Why is the first day of Lent called Ash Wednesday?
A:        Ash Wednesday is named for the custom of putting ashes on the head as a sign of humility and repentance. Using ashes in this way dates back to the Old Testament, though Ash Wednesday was not established until later.

Q:        Isn’t Lent a merely human religious tradition?
A:        The Bible never mentions Lent. Even so, Lent has ancient origins. It was first mentioned by the theologian Irenaeus, who lived from 130 to 200 A.D. In his lifetime it lasted only two days; however, by the late 200’s the Church was using a full 40 days for the intensive instruction of new believers.

In contrast, the earliest documentary evidence for the observance of Christmas is from the year 354 A.D. It remained a minor event for nearly a Millennium, and was not widely celebrated until the Middle Ages.

Q:        Isn’t Lent just for Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox?
A:        Until recently, most Protestants assumed so. However, there is a growing movement among Protestants (including Evangelicals) to reclaim Lent as a gift for the entire Church.   

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