Lent, The Season of
- The word "Lent" has no special significance save only as it designates the time of the Fast before Easter. The word is derived from the Anglo-Saxon lencten, meaning the spring season. From this we learn that the Lenten Fast means simply the Fast that comes in the spring of the year. It was appointed at this time for the reason that our Lord's Passion and Death occurred at this time of the year and these devotions of the faithful grouped themselves around that sad hour on Calvary. At first, the Fast may not have extended over the Paschal Week, but it was arranged at a very early period to cover the forty days preceding Easter. Beginning with Ash Wednesday the Lenten Season really covers a period of forty-six days, but as Sunday has always been regarded as a Feast, these six Sundays are not counted as belonging to the Fast. (See LENT, SUNDAYS in.) There can be no great difficulty in assigning a reason for this solemnity to be kept for forty days. For many reasons "Forty" is a Scriptural number. Forty years the children of Israel were under discipline in their pilgrimage in the wilderness. Moses fasted forty days in the mount. Elijah was forty days in the wilderness. Forty days did the Ninevites fast and repent them of their sins to avert the judgments foretold by the prophet Jonah. And forty days did our Lord fast in the wilderness when about to enter upon His public ministry. From these references we learn that it is both Scriptural and helpful that this Season of Penitence should be prolonged for us, that bearing in mind these incidents of "forty years" and "forty days" of devotion and discipline which characterized the history of God's people, and also our Lord's example, we may be like minded in prayer, in discipline and in turning to God. The devotions of the Lenten Fast are intimately connected with Easter which it precedes and are intended to prepare the mind and heart for the devout celebration of the "Queen of Festivals" and for the Easter Communion. Lent being a penitential season the ecclesiastical color is purple or violet. The Benedicite takes the place of the Te Deum and the Ash Wednesday Collect is used every day throughout the Season.
American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia. — New York, Thomas Whittaker. William James Miller, M.A., B.D.. 1901.
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