You hear people talking about lent this time of the year in many churches but just what is lent all about? What does it mean?
The word, "lent," comes from the Anglo-Saxon word, "lencten," which basically means the time of the year when the days grown longer.
Lent officially begins on Ash Wednesday and continues for 40 days until finishing up on Easter. If you took a calculator and tried to figure out the 40 days you would come up with the wrong figure. You have to subtract every Sunday because each Sunday is considered to be a "miniature Easter." Thus, you calculate the 40 days minus Sundays.
Lent has its origins somewhere between the 6th and 8th century. Originally, the idea was that a Christian, as a sign of repentance, would sprinkle ashes on his or her head. In the Bible, ashes symbolize humility, mortality, fasting and remorse. A person who sinned and felt remorse would sprinkle ashes on their head as a sign of repentance and sorrow.
Ashes reminds us that we are mortal and eventually we will die. At gravesite services, the pastor will usually say something in regard to dust to dust and ashes to ashes.
Over time, instead of sprinkling ashes on a person's head, the ashes were instead rubbed into the forehead in the shape of a cross as a reminder of repentance and baptism. Eventually, many churches gave up this practice. The importance is what goes on in your heart.
Why does it consist of 40 days? That is because after Jesus was baptized, the Bible tells us that Jesus went into the wilderness to fast and to experience being tempted by the devil throughout this 40 day period.
During the 40 days of Lent, we are think about our own troubles and temptations we go through and repent. It is a time for us to receive God's forgiveness and to receive the power of the Holy Spirit to give us strength and spiritual renewal to lead the Christian Life.