The Season of Lent Retreating Into the Wilderness with Jesus
The purpose of the liturgical calendar is to study or relive the
major events in Jesus' life, which is why Lent is forty days long.
By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual imitates Jesus'
withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days. All churches that have
a continuous history extending before AD 1500 observe Lent.
Lent is a forty-day period before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday.
Sundays are skiped when we count the forty days. Lent ends the day
In the Roman Catholic Church, Lent officially ends at sundown on 13
April (Holy Thursday), with the beginning of the mass of the Lord's
Supper. In Orthodox churches, this season is called the Great Lent.
It begins on Clean Monday.
Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for
reflection and taking stock. Lent originated in the very earliest
days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the
faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in
the faith and prepared for baptism.
The ancient church that wrote, collected, canonized, and propagated
the New Testament also observed Lent, believing it to be a
commandment from the apostles. (See The Apostolic Constitutions, Book
V, Section III.)
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that does not involve starvation or
dehydration. Quite often, our bodily appetites control our actions.
The purpose of fasting is to make your bodily appetites your servant
rather than your master.
Because Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, we skip over Sundays
when we calculate the length of Lent. Therefore, in the Western
Church, Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday
In many countries, the last day before Lent (called Mardi Gras,
Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, or Fasching) has become a last fling before
the solemnity of Lent.
It is customary to fast and abstain from meat during Lent, which is
why some people call the festival "Carnival", which is Latin for
farewell to meat.
The Eastern Church does not skip over Sundays when calculating the
length of the Great Lent. Therefore, the Great Lent always begins on
Clean Monday, the seventh Monday before Easter, and ends on the
Friday before Palm Sunday—using of course the eastern date for Easter.
The Lenten fast is relaxed on the weekends in honor of the Sabbath
(Saturday). The Great Lent is followed by Lazarus Saturday and Palm
Sunday, which are feast days, then the Lenten fast resumes on Monday
of Holy Week.
Technically, in the Eastern Church, Holy Week is a separate season
from the Great Lent.