Lent is an Old English word for spring. In almost all other languages the word for ‘Lent’ comes from the Latin word for “forty days.”
In the Bible, forty days is a traditional number of discipline, devotion, and preparation. Moses stayed on the mountain of God forty days (Ex. 24:18, 34:28). The Israelites’ spies were in the land of Canaan forty days (Num. 13:25). Elijah travelled forty days before he reached the cave where he had his vision (1 Kings 19:8). Nineveh was given forty days to repent (Jon. 3:4). It is also a reminder of Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the desert.
Most significantly for us, Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness praying and fasting before his ministry (Matt. 4:2). Thus, it is fitting for Christians to imitate him with forty days of prayer and fasting as we prepare for the ending of Jesus’s ministry on Good Friday and its fulfilment in his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
During the season of Lent, we are given a beautiful opportunity to deepen our relationship with God. We are asked to devote ourselves to seeking the Lord through prayer and the study of Scripture. This is a time for us to immerse ourselves in His Word, allowing it to guide and shape our lives. As we engage in prayerful pondering, we open our hearts and minds to receive God's guidance and wisdom. It is through this intentional seeking that we can experience a profound sense of spiritual growth and renewal.
In addition to prayer, Lent calls us to serve others through giving alms. This act of generosity allows us to extend God's love and compassion to those in need. By sharing our resources, and especially our time, with others, we not only make a real difference in their lives but also experience the joy of selflessness ourselves. Through such acts of service, we can discover the true meaning of discipleship and learn to live out our faith in practical ways.
Fasting is another essential aspect of Lent, which calls us to restrain our self-centred impulses. By denying ourselves certain pleasures or comforts, we create space for God to work within us. Fasting helps us develop self-discipline and reminds us that our ultimate satisfaction can only be found in God. It is through this intentional self-restraint that we can experience a deeper dependence on Him and a greater freedom from our own desires.
Lent is not just a season of self-denial; it is a retreat, a time for spiritual cleansing and renewal. It is an opportunity for us to refocus our hearts on Jesus and draw closer to Him. Through prayer, service, and fasting, we can strengthen our Christian commitment and grow in our love for God.
Let us embrace this season with open hearts and minds, allowing God to transform us from the inside out. May our Lenten journey be one of deepening faith, abundant blessings, and a renewed sense of purpose in following Jesus. (By Fr. David)