In the Catholic church, we follow a systematic calendar with a series of celebrations and observances throughout the year. This calendar is followed by every Catholic church all over the world. One of the significant celebrations in this calendar is Lent. Lent is a solemn fast and abstinence 40 days before the Christian celebration of Easter (which falls on different dates every year).
During this period, we refrain from eating meat and other food items that contain animal by-products such as cheese, eggs, etc. The practice of lent draws its roots from the stories in Bible where Jesus instructed his followers to fast for certain days to ask forgiveness for the sins they committed. The church later adopted this fasting tradition during the early stages of Christianity. Lent is celebrated with great fervor all over the world.
As part of celebrating Lent, we choose special prayers to recite daily, choosing to be more mindful about our lifestyle choices such as avoiding unnecessary arguments or spending time with family and friends, and more. All these choices are made to spend time thinking about the need for sacrifice and how good it is to die for the sake of Christ. Though Christians pray and fast at different times of the year to strengthen their bond with God, as a church, lent is when we all come together and do it together for 40 days. This is a time to open our hearts and minds to God’s commandments and repent our sins committed throughout the year.
The celebration of lent usually begins on Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent, as we remember how Jesus was anointed with ashes by his sad disciples as a sign of repentance from their sins. Lent ends on Easter Sunday with a special religious service followed by a celebratory dinner as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead after completing his life mission. We continue celebrating for seven more days till ‘Pentecost.’ During this period, also known as Eastertide or the season of Easter, we see many parades going on in churches all over the world.
During this time, we also see several people and communities come together and help the less privileged by feeding the hungry, offering shelter to the homeless, donating clothes, and doing other charity work. This is an excellent opportunity for everyone to open their hearts and mind towards generosity.
The way of the cross is another popular tradition observed during lent. In this celebration, we commemorate the suffering of Jesus as he went through his journey from Pontius Pilate to Mount Calvary by following a route that depicts all stages of Jesus’ agony. The route has 14 ‘stations,’ and every other station is followed by prayers, hymns, and a short reflection on the final days of Jesus’ life.
The colors for the lent season are purple and scarlet. They signify royal magnificence and also remember the sacrifices made by Jesus for human redemption. Between Crucifixion and resurrection (the last three days of Lent), we use black to symbolize mourning for Jesus’ death. During the three days, the church does not issue the holy Eucharist, a ritual of consuming bread and wine as a sacrament in holy mass that is the body and blood of Christ.