Lent, in the Christian church, is a period of penitential preparation for Easter. In Western churches it begins on Ash Wednesday, six and a half weeks before Easter, and provides for a 40-day fast (Sundays are excluded), in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry.
The practice of observing Lent was not formalized until the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. It was a time of preparation of candidates for baptism and a time of penance for sinners. In the early centuries fasting rules were strict, as they still are in Eastern churches. One meal a day was allowed in the evening, and meat, fish, eggs, and butter were forbidden. The Eastern church also restricts the use of wine, oil, and dairy products. In the West these fasting rules have gradually been relaxed. The strict law of fasting among Roman Catholics was dispensed with during World War II, and only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are now kept as Lenten fast days.
Today sadly very few Christians outside of the Roman Catholic Church take Lent as seriously as in the past. I remember pancakes and being told that they were meant to use up all the ingredients that were forbidden to be consumed during Lent. Nowadays they are simply a quaint custom which we hold and the day after, Ash Wednesday, when we should be fasting, is just another day. Lent in many western churches is not as strictly adhered to as in other churches. This is especially true amongst the Free Churches which often see Lent as something from the Roman Catholic tradition and as such should be avoided. The same goes for Advent, the time of preparation to celebrate the birth of our Lord. Yes, we light candles once a week in church but we don’t really observe it.
This can’t be right can it? Surely as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, people who have sworn allegiance to the Lord of life and have been accepted into the family of Almighty God, we should be doing something to prepare our hearts to remember and celebrate the greatest events in the history of the world. It was at Easter just over 2000 years ago that Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world died and rose again so that we might be forgiven our sin - forgiven the one thing that separated us from our creator, our heavenly Father.
Maybe fasting, especially, the strict fasting of yesteryear is not for us. But surely we should be doing something to prepare for Easter. (and I don’t mean getting the bucket and spade ready to go to the beach!).
And so, a challenge for us all. This Lenten time if you are not engaged in preparation already, I want to set a challenge. The challenge is that everyday right up until Easter Sunday we all read a portion of the Bible. No one is going to check up on you so don’t worry as there will NOT be questions at the end.
I would suggest reading a Gospel which of course ends at Easter time with the resurrection. But it is up to you. The most important thing is that we prepare our hearts in some way for what is to come.
If you already read your Bible daily, then good on you; maybe you can think of something else you could do to prepare. But prepare we should, if we are truly children of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
God bless you all.