Lent is the season in the church calendar that marks 40 days prior to Easter. It begins in 2018 on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, and ends on Holy Saturday, Mar. 31. The word Lent is an old English word meaning ‘lengthen.’ The event is observed in spring, when the days begin to get longer.
Lent is one of the oldest observations on the Christian calendar. Its purpose is to foster self-examination and penitence, demonstrated by self-denial, in anticipation of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. Second-century AD church father Irenaus of Lyons wrote about Lent, but in that period of history it lasted only two or three days. It’s grown to cover 40 days because of the significance of the number 40 in the Bible; for example:
- In Genesis, the flood which destroyed the earth was brought about by 40 days and nights of rain
- The Hebrews spent 40 years in the wilderness before reaching the land promised to them by God
- Moses fasted for 40 days before receiving the ten commandments on Mount Sinai
- Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness enduring the temptation of Satan in preparation for his ministry.
- Forty days transpired between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.
In the western Christian church, Sundays during Lent are not counted in the 40 days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the penitent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful expectancy of the Resurrection. In the eastern Christian church, where it’s called Great Lent, Sundays are included in the 40 days. In 2018, Great Lent begins Feb. 19 and Paschal (Easter) is celebrated April 8.
Draw closer to Jesus during the Lenten season with the spiritual insights of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dallas Willard, and others.
Bible Gateway free email devotionals will help you contemplate the meaning of Christ’s loving sacrifice. They’ll help you ponder the challenge of living humbly and sacrificially in a confused and chaotic world. Here’s what you can choose from:
• 40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer: this devotional will cause you to consider how to live a life of intentional service and sacrifice. Bonhoeffer—murdered by the Nazis for standing up against Hitler—knew what it meant to follow Christ no matter the cost. His words are powerful and important for Christ-followers today.
• Dallas Willard Lenten Devotions: beloved author and philosopher Dallas Willard wrote much about how to find peace in Christ despite all the distractions and setbacks that life throws at us. This devotional collects his best and most inspirational writing.
• Bible Gateway Lent Devotions: our popular Lent devotional, which alternates Scripture readings and short reflections from the church fathers. A great choice for reading with family or friends throughout Lent!
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