What is Lent and Why is it So Important?
You might see restaurants touting fish specials this time of year.
Because it’s the season of Lent – a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at Easter.
It’s a time of preparation whereby faithful are encouraged to spend more time in prayer, give to others and sacrifice.
That kind of foundation should make anyone take note whether you’re religious or not.
After all, America is a place of second chances where the weak can be made strong, the hopeless can find hope, and good can come out of evil.
We’d all do well to spring clean our hearts. It’s still a time of new beginnings and fresh starts, where we can be reborn into new life when we start to put others first.
Let’s take a closer look at the importance of Lent.
Spring training for the soul
In warmer climates across America, baseball players are getting ready for the long season ahead.
Another kind of preparation is needed in our spiritual lives, such as more devotion to prayer, doing things to help others and cutting out those things which have, often senselessly, dominated our lives.
Whether or not you observe Lent, spring is a great time to take inventory of ourselves, perhaps recalling those good-intentioned resolutions we made in January and forgot about.
What’s with ashes?
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, whereby ashes are marked onto foreheads of Christians in the shape of a cross.
Solemn words accompany the gesture, such as, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”
Those words are intended to encourage worshippers to reject sin, and serve as a reminder of our own mortality.
The custom is credited to Pope Gregory I, who served as pope from 590 to 604.
What about fish?
The practice of eating fish on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent has a long, ancient history that’s closely connected with fasting and almsgiving.
Christian tradition of fasting developed from Old Testament practices, and many churches teach that God wants us to perform some personal and corporeal, or bodily, penance for our sins.
As such, the custom originated on Friday as a sacrifice in communion with Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, which occurred on Good Friday.
Eliminating meat, the most expensive portion of a meal, allows one to donate the money saved to give to the poor.
Understood in these simplest terms makes far more sense than just banning a food item.