The church season of Lent starts on Wednesday, February 10. Here’s a helpful summary:
Originating in the fourth century of the church, the season of Lent spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday and climaxing during Holy Week with Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, and concluding Saturday before Easter…
Today, Lent is marked by a time of prayer and preparation to celebrate Easter. Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that occur during Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, and are referred to as the Sundays in Lent. The number 40 is connected with many biblical events, but especially with the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry by facing the temptations that could lead him to abandon his mission and calling. Christians today use this period of time for introspection, self examination, and repentance. This season of the year is equal only to the Season of Advent in importance in the Christian year, and is part of the second major grouping of Christian festivals and sacred time that includes Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost.
Lent has traditionally been marked by penitential prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Some churches today still observe a rigid schedule of fasting on certain days during Lent, especially the giving up of meat, alcohol, sweets, and other types of food. Other traditions do not place as great an emphasis on fasting, but focus on charitable deeds, especially helping those in physical need with food and clothing, or simply the giving of money to charities. Most Christian churches that observe Lent at all focus on it as a time of prayer, especially penance, repenting for failures and sin as a way to focus on the need for God’s grace. It is really a preparation to celebrate God’s marvelous redemption at Easter, and the resurrected life that we live, and hope for, as Christians. (source)
We’ll start off Lent as a family by attending our church’s Ash Wednesday service. Starting Wednesday, and for the 40 days of Lent, we’re excited to try praying in color. The link explains it all! We each picked a different template we liked, and will sit down with crayons, color pencils, watercolor or markers – whatever we prefer each evening – to prayerfully fill in one of the spaces for each day of Lent. Undoubtedly we’ll all choose different ways of praying in color (great options suggested at the link), and I look forward to seeing our prayers unfold. For me, I will read Psalm 51 each night and choose daily a word or phrase from it to draw, think and pray on. I think this will best keep my brain and heart focused on my need for redemption, my absolute need for Christ. Have you tried praying in color before?
On my own, I will be using The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime to help me better orient my day around Christ, stopping at three fixed points (morning, midday and vespers – evening) to pray. I have yet to get to sharing my two words for the year that I have chosen to help direct my days. One of them is Abide (“Abide in Me, and I in You” – John 15:4). And using this book to pray the hours is one way I’ve chosen to intentionally practice abiding this year, through all seasons. I loved this from the book’s brief history of fixed-hour prayer:
“The Divine Hours are prayers of praise offered as a sacrifice of thanksgiving and faith to God and as a sweet-smelling incense of the human soul before the throne of God. To offer them is to serve before that throne as part of the priesthood of all believers. It is to assume the ‘office’ of attendant upon the Divine…Other prayers may be petitionary or intercessory or…, but the Liturgy of the Hours remains an act of offering…offering by the creature to the Creator. The fact that the creature grows strong and his or her faith more sinewy and efficacious as a result of keeping the hours is a by-product (albeit a desirable one) of that practice and not its purpose.”
I will also use these 40 days to build the habit of using the Five Sentence Examen to end my day (downloaded through the Sacred Ordinary Days Tribe group on Facebook). These two practices are ones I plan to do all year, but since I will also be doing them over Lent, I wanted to share them with you. Lastly, and Lent specific, I will choose between these two free online studies (they have purchasing options, but I will be checking their sites each day for free): Growing a Rule of Life or Lent Study Book.
Ash has a yearlong kid’s devotional that he is excited to continue using, and Dan will be giving something up for Lent.
How do you celebrate Lent as a family? As an individual? Please share ideas with one another in the comments!