Lent is a time to renew one’s faith, repent one’s sins and prepare for Easter.
“It’s from an ancient practice in the church, in probably the second century, that was a preparation for those being baptized,” said Sister Pat Hall, of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. “Now, it is a time of renewal for all those that have been baptized.”
The 40-day period leading up to Holy Pascha is known as Great Lent. It begins on Clean Monday and ends before the Vespers of Lazarus Saturday. This year, it started Monday and continues until March 30.
The Lenten fast begins during “Cheesefare Week” in which one is prohibited from eating meat from a vertebrate, but can eat eggs and dairy products. After Clean Monday, all meat products, fish, dairy, eggs, alcohol and oil are prohibited, as well as eating between midnight and noon. On Saturdays and Sundays, olive oil and alcohol are permitted.
Lent, which lasts from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday — it began Wednesday and continues until April 7 this year — varies in Protestant churches.
“Some of the evangelical denominations, like Baptist and non-denominational churches, don’t do a lot with Lent,” said the Rev. Dave Benson, pastor of Campus Lutheran Church. “The more liturgical churches, like Lutheran and Episcopalian, put more of an emphasis on the Lenten season.”
The observances of Lent in Protestant churches include Catholic practices, such as the use of ashes, and more simplified versions, like voluntary fasting and abstinence from certain foods.
The Roman Catholic observance of Lent began on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday — April 5 this year. The Lenten practices of fasting, prayer and penance, however, are maintained up to the Easter Vigil. Ending Lent on Holy Thursday gives prominence to the Triduum, which is composed of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Catholic Lenten rules since the Second Vatican Council are that Catholics 14 years or older abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, the Fridays of Lent and on Good Friday. Catholics 18 to 59 years old are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Sources: Beliefnet.com; Goarch.org; Catholiceducation.org; Christianitytoday.com; Americancatholic.org