For Protestant and Catholic churches, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. The Lenten season spans a period of 46 days, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Eve. Sundays, the weekly commemorations of the first Easter, had never been considered days of Lent. With six Sundays in the period, there are 40 days of Lent, which corresponds and symbolizes the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting, praying and meditating in the desert before beginning his public ministry.
In the Armenian Apostolic Church, Lent begins on the Monday following the Great Sunday of Baregentan. Each of the following Sundays up to Easter is named after a special event of a person in the Bible, such as Expulsion Sunday, Prodigal Son Sunday, Steward’s Sunday, Judge’s Sunday, Advent Sunday and Palm Sunday.
The word Lent is derived from the Anglo-Saxon slow, meaning “spring”. In the Armenian tradition, it is “fasting”. But whatever tradition one belongs to, Lent is a period of deepening and broadening of the spiritual life; that is, a deepening of insight, self-discipline and dedication, and a broadening of outlook, compassion and vision.
Early church leaders realized what this period of self-sacrifice, self-discipline and prayer meant in the life of Jesus. They established this period to help the early Christians realize that the fulfillment of the Christian life came through these very acts.
Today, people observe Lent in different ways. Some observe it by renouncing certain things, others by assuming certain things.
Whether some Christians fast from certain foods and others continue to feast, one thing should be clear: all Christians have a deep need to fast from certain sins that cripple them spiritually. It should also be remembered that Lent is not only a season for giving up certain things but also for doing certain positive things; not only a time of “fasting”, but also a time of spiritual “feasting”.
Lent is designed to be a time of growth and advancement in Christian faith and practice. Self-denial, giving up something just for the sake of giving it up means nothing. Each of us needs those moments when we leave for ourselves to reflect on the main concerns of our life. We must set aside all superfluous and unimportant activities and interests and focus our thought and action on what gives the right direction to our life.
It would be a blessing if Lent became for us a season of true fasting and feasting in our spiritual as well as communal life in the following sense: to fast on license, to feast on true freedom; fasting from unnecessary gossip, feasting on deliberate silence; to fast from suspicion, to feast on the truth; fast from discouragement, feast on hope; to fast from hostility, to feast on forgiveness; to fast from sin, to feast on the Christian life; to fast on hate to feast on love.
May Lent be synonymous with spring and emphasize revival, renewal and rebirth for all of us. But above all, let this be a season to revive and reaffirm our faith in God.