*See the hand-painted items pictured in my Etsy store!*
Let’s talk about Lent.
What is it? Why do Christians celebrate it? What’s Ash Wednesday? Why do people ‘give something up’? There’s a lot of questions to be asked, and even being raised a Catholic Christian, I still don’t know all the answers when people ask me these questions this time of year. So let’s talk about it!
I’d like to start by saying I’m no expert. But I am curious and I like my questions answered, so I hope I can clear up some of your questions about Lent, too, that you’re also wondering or maybe too scared to ask. Even if I can’t directly answer all your questions (because faith isn’t simple!), I hope I can at least direct you to some resources that can (I’ve linked all the resources I used in the bold pink text throughout this post!). Also, I am Catholic, so I can’t speak for other Christian denominations, since different people and different churches celebrate Lent different, so just keep that in mind!
What is Lent?
READ MORE: Lent FAQs from Catholic Online
Lent is a period of 40 weekdays (Sundays aren’t included in the count), starting on Ash Wednesday, in preparation for Easter Sunday. ‘40’ is biblically significant in multiple ways, and the 40 days of Lent resemble Jesus’s 40 days spent in the desert when he resisted the temptations of the devil.
Lent is a period of preparation to prepare for Jesus’s resurrection and simultaneous defeat over sin and death.
What’s Ash Wednesday?
READ MORE: What is Ash Wednesday? from Bibleinfo.com
Ash Wednesday is celebrated in the Catholic church to begin and prepare for the Lenten season. The ashes come from burnt palm branches (read more: about the significance of palms in the Bible and Christian faith). The ashes are placed on our foreheads in the sign of a cross and we’re told “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
The ashes are a sign of humility and are a reminder of our humanity and sin.
Why do people ‘give something up’?
READ MORE: ‘Giving something up’ from Catholic Online
This is where lots of the confusion happens about Lent and its significance, for Catholics, Christians, and non-Christians alike. When we’re little, Lent seems to just be a time where we ‘give up’ candy for 40 days, but then get Easter baskets full of treats… but why?
As I got older, people would give up other things that seemed arbitrary. How does not eating at your favorite fast food restaurant lead you closer to Christ? At face value, it doesn’t, which is where I take issue with the whole idea of ‘giving something up’ without a purpose or deeper meaning to grow in faith.
‘Giving something up’ isn’t necessarily going to improve your faith life, unless you chose something that really can bring you closer to Christ. Maybe you give up your daily Starbucks, but instead donate that money to your church. Maybe you give up Netflix, and instead spend that time in nightly prayer, prayer journaling, or diving into scripture.
Giving something up can be a powerful tool to faith, if you let it.
I think that adding something for Lent can be just as powerful, though. You could choose to read a book of the Bible each week or finally make the habit of daily prayer you keep saying you’ll start… There’s so many life-changing, faith-bringing things you can do to let your life look more like Christ’s, way beyond giving up chocolate and French fries.
What are you doing for Lent, Kristen?
Great question. This year I’m focusing on the ‘fasting’ and ‘prayer’ parts of the prayer-fasting-almsgiving trio also closing associated with Lent. I’ll be giving up meat entirely for Lent (read more: FAQs from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops) and taking the Friday fasts more seriously than I have before. I’ll be continuing my practice of daily prayer and continuing to discern the things in my life that are leading me closer to Christ and happiness, and the things that do not.
So, what are you doing for Lent, friend? If you already know what you’re doing, be it giving up or adding, I’d love to hear from you in a comment below. If you haven’t figured it out yet, you’ve still got time to figure it out! Regardless of where you stand in faith, or how seriously you’ve taken Lent before, I encourage you to open yourself to prayer and see what God is calling you to do in your own life for this season!
Thanks for reading, happy Sunday and happy almost-Lent!