What is Lent? When does it start? How long does it last? Do I have to give something up? Why do we use the color purple? How can I observe Lent with my family?
Of course you know the seasons of the year: spring, summer, fall, and winter. The church has seasons, too, and one of the church seasons is called Lent.
After I dry my laundry, I might clean a bunch of soft, fluffy stuff off the dryer screen. That stuff is lint. Lint is different than Lent.
If I let someone borrow my stapler, I could say I lent it to them. That word looks and sounds the same, but it doesn’t mean the same thing as the season of Lent.
The word Lent comes from an old English word meaning spring. Like springtime, Lent is a time of renewal and preparation. It is an intentional time of getting our hearts ready for Easter. We serve, pray, give, read Bible stories, and worship, all with the purpose of becoming more like Jesus.
The church season of Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and lasts for forty days (not counting Sundays) until Easter. The first day of Lent is dependent upon when Easter will be, and that varies from year to year. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (the first day of spring). So once the date for Easter is determined, you count back six Sundays and Lent starts on the Wednesday before that.
Do I have to give something up for Lent? The forty days of Lent represent the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for his public ministry. Because Jesus spent those forty days in solitude and with prayer and fasting, many Christians choose to observe Lent with a time of personal sacrifice (giving something up). Others choose instead to add a spiritual practice that will help them focus more on God. During the church season of Lent we examine our hearts, remove distractions, and grow closer to God.
The color purple is used during Lent because purple is a color that represents royalty. Jesus is a special kind of king and his is the kingdom of heaven. Christians call Jesus the King of kings.
In ancient days, as early as 1500 B.C., extracting purple dye from the Mediterranean sea snail murex was a very difficult process. Each murex had a mucus gland which contained a tiny amount of purple liquid. The shells would be removed or crushed, the mollusks salted and then soaked for three days. The remaining liquid would be skimmed, filtered, and heated for nine more days with a specific amount of sun exposure until a desired deep purple color would result. Thousands of mollusks were needed to dye just the hem of one garment. Purple dye was an expensive luxury that became a symbol of wealth and royalty. Although Julius Caesar issued a decree that only members of his family were permitted to wear purple clothing, the high priests of Judaism were allowed to dye the fringe of their prayer shawls, and Cleopatra had the sails of her warships dyed purple. Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky, Penguin Books, 2003.
Below is a simple calendar for Lent 2021. A calendar might help you remember to focus on God during this season.
Download your own free 2021 Lenten calendar here. May this be a time of renewal for you and your family.
Create a clean heart for me, God; put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!Psalm 51:10 Common English Bible (CEB)