Historically, Lent is the 40-day period before Easter. This is the period the Church uses to prepare for the celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday. In this period, Christians commit to prayer and fasting. Lent is a period of preparation and repentance which are represented by the colour purple.
When does lent start?
Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, which is the day on which Christians have their foreheads signed with ashes in the form of a Cross. Lent ends on Holy Saturday. The 40 days exclude the five Sundays of Lent.
Why is Lent forty days long?
In the Bible, forty days is a traditional number of discipline, devotion, and preparation. Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness praying and fasting (Matt 4:2), Moses stayed on the Mountain of God forty days (Ex 24:18, 34:28), Elijah traveled forty days before he reached the cave where he had his vision (1 Kings 19:8), Nineveh was given forty days to repent (Jonah 3:4). Since Lent is a period of prayer and fasting, it is appropriate for Christians to imitate their Lord with a forty-day period.
Christ used a forty-day period of prayer and fasting to prepare for his ministry, which ended with his death and resurrection. So, it is fitting for Christians to imitate Jesus with a forty-day period of prayer and fasting to prepare for the celebration of his ministry’s climax, Good Friday (His crucifixion) and Easter Sunday (His Resurrection).
Why are Christians exempted from fasting on Sundays during the forty days?
Sunday is the day on which Christ rose (Easter Sunday), making it an inappropriate day to fast and mourn our sins. On Sunday we must celebrate Christ’s Resurrection for our salvation. The Sundays of the year are days of celebration and the Fridays of the year are days of penance.
Who can fast during lent?
Christians who are eighteen to sixty years of age are required to keep a limited fast. This means that one may eat a single, normal meal and have two snacks, so long as these snacks do not add up to a second meal. Children are not required to fast, but their parents have to ensure they are properly educated in the spiritual practice of fasting. Those with medical conditions requiring a greater or more regular food intake can easily be dispensed from the requirement of fasting by their minister/priest/pastor.
Day of abstinence
All Fridays during lent are days of abstinence. It is Friday when we commemorate Jesus’ death for our sins that is why Christians are not allowed eat meat on Fridays. Fridays are days of mourning our sins by denying ourselves something we enjoy. Fridays are days of penance on which we are required to do something expressing sorrow for our sins.
Also, Good Friday, the day on which Christ was crucified, is another day of both fast and abstinence.
For people with special cases like the sick, elderly and any other person that requires special diets may not eat meat but eating fish, eggs, milk products, and condiments or foods made using animal fat are permitted.
Basis: Daniel 10:2 states “I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.” By giving up good things and denying them to ourselves the church encourages an attitude of humility and cultivate the spiritual discipline of being willing to make personal sacrifices, and remind ourselves of the importance of spiritual goods over earthly goods.