It’s Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday/Carnival! That means Lent begins tomorrow! Are you prepared to prepare? Do you have a plan for observing this holy season?
Every year, we are given 40 days (actually, a little more) to prepare for the 50 days of Easter celebration. That’s 90+ days during which our spiritual attention is focused on this deep mystery of our Faith: the Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus for our salvation.
We can trace the history of this season in the Church all the way to the 3rd and 4th centuries of the Church. The word “Lent” originally meant the spring season (the etymology comes from the word that means “lengthen” because the days are getting longer), but it has been used for hundreds of years to mean the “40 days” before Easter (maybe because it is easier to say than “Quadragesima” ;-). These 40 days, in turn, recall the 40 days of Jesus fasting in the desert before beginning His public ministry, and the 40 years of the Israelites’ wandering in the desert before entering the Promised Land. The ritual, readings, art, music, and symbolism are so rich, we must absorb them in layers. The Church knows we need to experience this over and over again, every single year!
How will your household make the most of these holy days? If we haven’t already, we should take the time to talk about Lent – what it is and why it is, feasting and fasting, and how we can best remember what is essential and deny ourselves what is inessential. A good (and simple) place to start are the 3 “pillars” of Praying, Fasting, and Giving. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that we will be repaid a hundred times over for whatever we “give up” in this life. This truth should prompt us to be generous in what we offer for Lent!
It all begins with remembering where we come from and where we are going: “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” Tomorrow, Catholics around the world – from the Pope to the priests to the people in the pews – will receive the sign of ashes. Universal rituals like ashes, fasting, and abstaining are an outward sign of our reliance on Christ, and can unite us as one family in God’s Heart.
Liturgical calendar bonus info: Ash Wednesday is always a different date because it is determined by the date of Easter, which is determined by a lunar calendar: the Sunday after the first full moon after March 21 (which is the Spring Equinox).
More bonus info: Lent actually ends as soon as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins on Holy Thursday. As soon as that Mass begins, it’s a new liturgical season: Triduum (“3 Days”).
During this Lent, let’s all resolve to offer all we can so that our world will be blessed, and we will know the joy of giving for love of God and others.
Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Father Rob), and four grandchildren. She is President of the local community of Secular Discalced Carmelites and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 30 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio. Currently, she serves the Church by writing and speaking, and by collaborating with various parishes and to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is www.KathrynTherese.com
Feature Image Credit: Thays Orrico, https://unsplash.com/photos/JoCCv4jcoYo