Learning Lent

Lent is a time for learning. Primarily it is a time for learning how to deny ourselves, but first we have to learn what we treasure most in order to make the denial truly test our limits -- and help us to learn what those limits are and how to extend them.

It is also a time to learn more about God and our relationship with Him. To learn more about why we behave the way we do, "leaving undone the things we ought to have done and doing those things we ought not to have done."

It is a time to learn more about practicing the virtues of generosity, patience, caring, self-control, humility, abstinence, and diligence. If it takes 21 days to form a new habit, surely in the 40 days of Lent we can learn a new one or extend an old one.

The word Lent comes from Anglo Saxon times which means spring. In Latin, Lent is quadragesima which means forty days. In Greek, it is tessarakoste (fortieth), a word formed on the analogy of Pentecost (pentekoste). The season of Lent is the period of forty days before the celebration of the great feast of the Church, Easter.

In determining this period of forty days the examples of * Israel (wandering for forty years in the desert, Deut 8:2,4), * Moses (who stayed on Mt Sinai for forty days and forty nights, Ex 24:18), * Elijah ( who walked for forty days and forty nights to Mt Horeb, 1 Kg 19:8) and * Christ (who fasted forty days and forty nights in the desert, Mt 4:1-2) must have exercised a predominant influence, but it is also possible that the fact was borne in mind that Christ lay forty hours in the tomb. On the other hand just as Pentecost (the fifty days) was a period during which Christians were joyous and prayed standing, though they were not always engaged in such prayer, so the Quadragesima (the forty days) was originally a period marked by fasting, but not necessarily a period in which the faithful fasted every day.

In order to have an exact forty days of fasting, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday as Sundays (even during Lent) are considered non fasting days.

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