Lent (A Series): Origins and Meaning

This weekend, here in St Louis, people have been celebrating Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras (also known as Carnival and “Fat Tuesday”) precedes the Holy Season of Lent. Most people, Christians included, know more about Mardi Gras than they do about Lent.

In a series of brief blogs, we’ll explore the Season of Lent. Topics will include Origin and Purpose, Important Days, Obligations and denominational differences in observing Lent.

Origins of Lent

There is nothing in the Bible establishing the celebration of the Lenten Season. Its origins are in Christian tradition, perhaps as early as Apostolic times. Early Christians began preparing for celebration of the Resurrection (Easter or the Paschal Feast) with two days of reflection and fasting (modern Good Friday and the Saturday following.) Gradually, the time of preparation and fasting was expanded until by 350 CE it was 40 days.

Today the Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (March 9, 2011) and runs though the Saturday preceding Easter (April 23, 2011). The 40 days of Lent exclude Sundays, the Lord’s Day.


In the early days of the Church (Roman Catholic was the only church then), Lent had two major emphases:

(1) It was seen as a time of repentance and denial of self. All Christians were to examine their lives according to the Ten Commandments and other Christian ethical precepts and repent where necessary. They were to remember what it cost their Savior to save them.

(2) It was a time of instruction and preparation for the electi who wanted to become members of the Christian Church. This practice has generally been replaced with formal preparation for First Communion or Confirmation in the modern church.

The celebration of Lent varies widely among various denominations today. For some, especially in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Lent is given great importance. In some Protestant denominations, Lent is barely recognized at all. We’ll look at the reasons for these differences in a later blog.

Shalom, Art
Alive in The Word

About aliveintheword

Missouri, USA Married to Marty, 45 years 2 sons (with 2 daughers-in-law) and 2 granddaughters Life dedicated to serving Jesus Christ and delivering the Good News
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4 Responses to Lent (A Series): Origins and Meaning

  1. ptl2010 says:

    Reblogged this on ChristianBlessings and commented:

    Thanks to aliveintheword, we are continuing with his series on Lent. Mardi Gras New Orleans was celebrated on 4 March, 2014.

  2. Pingback: Lent (A Series): Origins and Meaning (via ChristianBlessings) « the Squished Diorama

  3. Pingback: Skinny, Lent-Less Christian « Indigo Moods

  4. ptl2010 says:

    Thank you for initiating this series Art. I do believe you are contributing to the body of Christ as many do not know what the traditions are and what it represents. To know gives us the opportunity to compare with what the Word says so that there is good understanding and no schism in the body of Christ.

    Looking forward to the future blogs on this subject.

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