What is Lent?
Beginning on Ash Wednesday, the church enters the fourth liturgical season of the year, which is known as Lent. This year Ash Wednesday is on February 10th.
Lent comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word lencten which means spring. The season of Lent always begins in the winter and ends after the vernal equinox when spring officially arrives.
Lent lasts for 40 days, not counting Sundays. The 40 days commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness after His baptism in the River Jordan. In the early Christian church Lent was the time during which new believers prepared to join the church on Easter Day.
The color for Lent is purple. It is not the rich, royal purple of Advent but the solemn purple of mourning. The saddest day of the Christian year, Good Friday, falls during Lent when we remember that Jesus died for us. All through Lent we are preparing for Easter. We never lose sight of the fact that Lent is a time of preparation for the most joyous day of the Christian year — Easter.
One common symbol for Easter is the butterfly. A butterfly symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Just as a butterfly emerges from its cocoon, so did Jesus emerge from the tomb on Easter morning. Lent can be seen as the cocoon time. It is a period during which to deepen your own spiritual faith and to explore your relationship with God.
Each year the length of the liturgical season of Epiphany (after Christmas) varies depending upon the date of Easter. A rather simple formula is used to calculate this. To find Easter you need to know the cycles of the moon for any given year and when the vernal equinox — commonly called the first day of spring — falls. Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon AFTER the vernal equinox. This year the vernal equinox is 20 March. The full moon comes on Wednesday, 23 March. Therefore Easter is on Sunday, 27 March, nearly the earliest Easter can be.