Lent: A Time for Repentance

Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.

We are officially in the season of Lent. Confusion still plagues my mind, even though I’ve been celebrating it for decades. Questions like: When do I fast or practice abstinence? What I give up for Lent? I know I am not the only one either. To help answer our questions, I complied a Question and Answer list with research gathered from various Catholic resources such as EWTN.

What is Lent?
Lent is forty-day season of preparation for Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday (February 22, 2012) and ending on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter (April 7, 2012). Sundays commemorate the resurrection and are excluded from Lent season.

Why is Lent Forty days?

The number forty represents discipline, devotion and preparation for holiness in the Bible. Jesus prepared himself for ministry by spending forty days in the desert to pray and fast. Deprivation was the reason Jesus retreated to the desert. Deprivation increases our reliance on God, disciplines the flesh and strengthens the spirit.

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. (Luke 4:1-2)

What are the requirements of Lent?
Lent is a penitential season marked by prayer, almsgiving, fasting and abstinence. Prayer is a conversation with God. When we pray we come to God in faith, give thanks and ask for God’s continuous mercy. Almsgiving involves acts of charity such as helping your neighbor in need, feeding the hungry, or donating money to the poor. We also fast by giving up something that gives us pleasure. Common things given up for Lent include: favorite foods, alcohol, music and shopping.

Fasting is the consumption of only one full meal. Smaller meals are permitted, but none equal the amount of a full meal. Abstinence forbids the consumption of meat. In the Catholic religion it is permissible to consume eggs, milk products or condiments made of animal.

When do I fast and/or abstain during Lent?
All Fridays during Lent we abstinence from consuming meat. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the two days we fast and practice abstinence. AmericanCatholic.org provides a through explanation of the Catholic Church’s official rules concerning fast and abstinence.

Why are we not allowed to consume meat during abstinence?
Jesus sacrificed his flesh for us on Good Friday and we refrain from eating meat on Fridays in his honor.

What additional things can I do to enrich my Lent experience?
Continue praying the Rosary and explore the Passion of Christ by saying the Stations of the Cross. Meditate on the Scripture and follow Christ as He makes His ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. Beliefnet has a beautiful presentation of Lent devotionals alongside complimentary Bible readings.

Penance is the theme of Lent. Prayer, almsgiving, fasting and abstinence, are ways to express repentance for our sins. Lent follows Jesus his last days as he makes the ultimate sacrifice with his Precious Blood.
Some Christian denominations have variations on how they celebrate the Lent season. Ask your Church leaders and/or search the web to obtain additional information on how your denomination commemorates Lent.

What are you giving up for Lent? Take the poll above and find out what others are giving up for Lent.

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