Deputy Principal - Mission & Faith

Lent – a time of preparation!

Lent started this year with Ash Wednesday on 18 February.  The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the follower of Jesus Christ through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial for the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  This recalls the events of the Bible when Jesus is crucified on Good Friday and then culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus.  During Lent, many Christians will commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence.  The Stations of the Cross, a devotional commemoration of Christ’s carrying the Cross and of his execution, are often observed.

The Catholic Church removes flowers from their altars, while crucifixes, religious statues, and other elaborate religious symbols are often veiled in violet fabrics in solemn observance of the event.  

Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days, in commemoration of the forty days which, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by the Devil.  However, different Christian denominations calculate the forty days of Lent differently.  In the Catholic Church Lent is taken to end on Holy Thursday rather than Easter Eve, and hence lasts 38 days excluding Sundays, or 44 days in total.

The use of the word “Lent” developed in the late Middle Ages.  As sermons began to be given in the vernacular instead of Latin, the English word lent was adopted. This word initially simply meant spring (as in the German language Lenz and Dutch lente) and derives from the Germanic root for long because in the spring the days visibly lengthen.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent occurring 46 days before Easter, it is a moveable fast that can fall as early as February 4 and as late as March 10.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a celebration and reminder of human mortality, and as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. The ashes used are typically gathered from the burning of the palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday.

At Masses and services of worship on this day, ashes are imposed on the foreheads of the faithful. The priest, minister, or in some cases officiating layperson, marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes in the sign of the cross, which the worshipper traditionally retains until it wears off. The act echoes the ancient Near Eastern tradition of throwing ashes over one's head to signify repentance before God (as related in the Bible).

The priest or minister says one or both of the following when applying the ashes:

  • Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return. (Genesis 3:19)
  • Repent, and believe the Gospel. (Mark 1:15)

In the Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat, and repentance—a day of contemplating one's transgressions.

This Lent, let us prepare ourselves for the joyous celebrations of Easter by contemplating the need for God in our lives and focusing on the needs of others rather than ourselves.

Dr Michal Grace

Deputy Principal - Mission & Faith