Lent is the time of spiritual preparation prior to Easter Sunday. As a Liturgical Season, Lent is to Easter as Advent is to Christmas. Lent brings to our minds the fact that Christ which we received on Christmas, will undergo sufferings and die as the Father willed, and all who hope to share in His resurrection and glory on Easter Sunday, must first acknowledge and accept the cross that is ever bound to Christ. As it is usually said, “a Christ without a cross doesn’t exist” (Lk. 24:46, Mt. 16:24).
“Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.” -Pope Benedict XVI
LENTEN MESSAGE FROM THE HOLY FATHER
Lent this year 2018, begins on Wednesday, 14th February and ends on Thursday, 29th March, 2018.
Each year the Holy Father offers a new Lenten theme, his exhortation to the faithful as they enter the liturgical season in mind and heart. This year’s theme is:“Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24: 12).
Message of the Holy Father
“Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24: 12)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Once again, the Pasch of the Lord draws near! In our preparation for Easter, God in His providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a “sacramental sign of our conversion”. Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.
With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth. I will take my cue from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).
These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time. They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.
THE LENTEN SEASON/ FAST
Lent happen to have two common definitions depending on the context it is used. Some Catholics define Lent as the Period of the Lenten Fast, others define Lent as a Liturgical Season. The Liturgical season of Lent was the same as the Period of Lenten Fast, but since 1956, the Liturgical Season of Lent ends before the Lenten Fast.
THE LENTEN FAST
When the word Lent is used, it usually refers to the 40 days period of preparation for Easter. This 40 days period usually accompanied with Lenten Observances of fasting, abstinence, prayer, and almsgiving, is what is referred to as the Lenten Fast.
The Lenten Fast begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday), excluding the six Sundays in Lent, which are never days of fasting. There are actually 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday; but since it is considered inappropriate to fast on Sundays(the day of Christ Resurrection), the 6 Sundays within this period is subtracted, giving us 40 days of Lenten Fast (Lent). The 40 days of Lent mirrors the 40 days of Christ in the wilderness, where He fasted, prayed and was tempted by the devil; before His public ministry (Mt. 4:2).
THE LITURGICAL SEASON OF LENT
Just as in the case of the Lenten Fast, the Liturgical season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday. From the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, to the evening prayer on Easter Sunday, is another Liturgical season known as “Easter Triduum”.
N/B: While the Easter Triduum is liturgically a separate season from Lent, it remains part of the 40-day Lenten Fast.
The colour used during the Liturgical Season of Lent is Purple.
THE LENTEN OBSERVANCES
To prepare ourselves for Easter, all Christians as expected to partake in the following observances during Lent.
- Fasting: Eating less food than normal. Obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday for healthy persons between 18-59years. One should however do this in truth and in spirit (Isaiah 58:1-12).
- Prayer: The Communication with God. As a Season that mirrors the Praying and fasting of Christ in the wilderness, Christians are also obliged to pray earnestly during this period for the forgiveness of sins, and for the grace to overcome temptations (2 Chronicles 7:14, Mt.26:41).
“Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.” –Pope Benedict XVI
- Abstinence: To abstain from meat and dairy products. Obligatory on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent for persons above 14years (Proverbs 23:20).
- Almsgiving: Giving material assistance to the poor and less privileged. Any kind act of charity is considered Almsgiving, and it helps the penitent to make up for sins committed (1 Peter 4:8).
Almsgiving “represents a specific way to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods . . . Almsgiving helps us to overcome this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor’s needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness.” –Pope Benedict XVI
The Lenten Observances are not meant to make us extravagant instead of being charitable, or become stingy instead of being modest, contented and mortified, neither are there meant to make us become recluse. The aim of the Lenten observance is to make us cut down on all excesses, with the hope that we shall channel them to the needy in form of charity. Christ tells us in Matthew 6:1-6,16-18, how we should go about these observances.
The Church hopes that by partaking in the Lenten Observances, we shall become so accustomed to these practices that there will become practices of our daily lives, not just during Lent.
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- Message of the Holy Father Francis for Lent 2018, 06.02.2018- http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2018/02/06/180206c.html
- Easter/Lent– http://www.catholic.org/lent/
- Lenten Season 101: A Guide for Everything you Need To Know– https://www.catholiccompany.com/getfed/lenten-season-101/
- What Are the liturgical seasons of the Catholic Church-https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-the-liturgical-seasons-542492
- What is Lent?- https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-lent-542448