Every year in March I hear things about Lent. Ash Wednesday, fasting, giving something up. But what is Lent? Why is it important to many Christian denominations? And, more importantly, what can members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (still getting used to that mouthful) learn from Lent?
The observation of Lent probably goes back to apostolic times, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. It was formalized during the First Council of Nicaea in 325 BC. Lent typically begins 40 days before Easter to symbolize Christ’s journey into the wilderness and His 40-day fast to prepare for His ministry.
The last week of Lent is Holy Week, which commemorates Christ’s last week. Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday, includes Good Friday, and ends with Easter—the day Christ was resurrected.
According to Wikipedia, “The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego.” This typically involves periods of fasting and many give up a luxury during this time. This to mimic Christ’s fasting in the wilderness.
Exactly how to fast is different depending on the specific denomination; some are stricter than others. most observe a meatless fast on Fridays, which does not always include fish. That is why so many restaurants have specials on fish around this time.
I served my mission in Texas and in one area our building was next to another church. I distinctly remember seeing Friday fish-fry signs going up around Easter.
Christianity Today reported that many American observers of Lent give up a favorite food or beverage. Other options were a bad habit (like swearing) or a favorite activity (like social media).
Many observers of Lent supplement their fasting with an increase in daily devotional activities, such as reading scriptures, daily devotions, or praying. Many will use cravings from fasting as a reminder to pray and come closer to God.
What Can We Learn?
Many Christians use Lent as a way to prepare for Easter. They fast and use that to come closer to God. As General Conference and Easter approach, that is not a bad idea. Some Latter-day Saints will fast before Conference to prepare themselves to receive revelation, but there are always those who can’t fast who still desire that revelation.
Giving up a luxury is a great way to fast when you are not physically able to fast from food. I am not suggesting that we all need to participate in a 40-day fast (but you do you), but there is so much more that I know that I can do to prepare for Easter.
As Latter-day Saints, we do not have a monopoly on truth. It is important to realize that other religions have truth in them as well. Personally (this is definitely my own opinion), I think we could learn a little bit from our Christian brothers and sisters and put a little bit more into our Easter preparations.
What do you do to prepare for Easter? Let me know in the comments below.