What is Lent? A Complete Guide by Our Little Roses
Every religion has its own seasons in the same way that every generic calendar year does. If you take a look at the month of February, you’ll stumble upon holidays such as Valentine’s Day and US Presidents’ Day. However, these two examples are representative of global and government-related holidays. Another category of holidays is all about religious days of celebration. One of the most significant time periods for followers of the Christian faith is a season known as Lent, but what is Lent? What are the Pillars of Lent? What are the holy days?
Religious Seasons 101: What is Lent?
So, we know that Lent is a 40-day period that typically begins in February or March (depending on the liturgical year). We’ve already touched on the fact that Lent holds a plethora of importance for followers of Christ. However, what exactly does Lent mean, and why is it so important to the various Christian denominations?
Well, to start with, the Lenten season is an incredibly historical and symbolic time for Christians. The religious season dates back to Jesus Christ’s life on earth. He lives forever in the hearts of his followers, but the Lenten season is a direct reflection of the days that eventually led up to his crucifixion. Lent begins the day of Ash Wednesday, which is a holy day that is observed for the sake of recognizing our faults as human beings and taking the time to repent for the sins we have committed throughout our lifetimes. It is a day that is easily recognized as many Christians attend a service where a cross made out of ashes is placed on their forehead. It is a tradition for many Christians to fast from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and also on all of the Fridays of Lent.
In today’s Christian community, there are many iterations of fasting that hold a deeper meaning than abstaining from meat may have. Many people vow to fast from negative thoughts, gossiping, social media, binging shows on streaming sites, alcohol, and much more. New traditions also include adding things to your life for this six-week season, such as setting aside time to meditate and pray each day, visiting shut-ins, and doing service.
Giving alms (money or other charitable gifts) to the poor is another ancient tradition of the Lenten season. For many, the money they would have used for an item they are fasting from during Lent is collected and donated to organizations like Our Little Roses, whose mission is to Empower and Transform the Girls of Honduras through Education and Love. For instance, if you usually drink a bottle of wine on the weekends and are fasting from that, the funds you would have spent on the wine could be used toward providing school supplies, food, or education to one of our girls who have come to our home from a past full of neglect, abuse, poverty, and trauma. This act of charity adds a deeper meaning to the sacrifice you make by fasting from something you enjoy.
The Three Pillars of Lent
The three pillars of Lent are the aforementioned prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These practices have been a part of the church tradition for centuries and are still observed by many Christians today.
- Prayer is an essential aspect of the Lenten season. During this time, individuals are encouraged to reflect on their relationship with God and to seek a deeper spiritual connection with the divine. This can be achieved through daily prayers, attending church services, or participating in devotional activities such as the Stations of the Cross.
- Fasting is another important aspect of Lent. It involves giving up certain luxuries or desires for a period of time in order to focus on spiritual needs. This can take many forms, such as giving up food for a day, abstaining from certain foods for a period of time, or giving up other things like television or social media. The purpose of fasting is to help individuals draw closer to God by acknowledging their dependence on God and breaking away from worldly distractions.
- Almsgiving is the third pillar of Lent and involves helping those in need. This can involve donating to charities, volunteering time at a local soup kitchen, or helping a neighbor in need. Almsgiving is an expression of compassion and love. It is an integral part of the entire season, as it helps individuals to focus on their obligations to others and to live a life of selflessness and service.
The three pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – serve as a reminder of the importance of spiritual growth and reflection. Through these practices, individuals can deepen their faith, strengthen their relationship with God, and live a more meaningful and purposeful life.
Our Little Roses’ invites you to participate in a very special series of reflections during this special season. For the last eight months, we have had a special guest in San Pedro Sula; Lizzie Robbins, a student at Berkeley at Yale Divinity School, has been living with the girls at Our Little Roses as part of her journey to become an Episcopal Priest. Lizzie has spent her time in Honduras teaching at Holy Family Bilingual School and working alongside The Rev. Gustavo Galeano, our Chaplain. She has become a part of the Our Little Roses family and a role model to our girls. On February 2nd, Lizzie, or the Rev. Mary Elizabeth Robbins, was ordained to the Sacred Order of Priests by Rt. Rev. Leopold Frade, on behalf of the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle in our chapel with all of the girls in attendance. During this Lenten season, Lizzie will share reflections through this unique lens. On Ash Wednesday, the journey begins with a video reflection. For the remaining Sundays of Lent, she’ll share a written reflection. The journey will culminate with a final video reflection on Easter Sunday. We hope you’ll join us.
How Long Does Lent Last?
The Lenten season is six weeks long in the Christian liturgical year. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls on a different day each year, but looking at the calendar, Ash Wednesday will always fall on the seventh week before Easter.
Working backward, the day Easter falls each year is related to something known as the paschal full moon. This refers to the ecclesiastical full moon that takes place any day after March twenty-first, the Spring Equinox, a process that can start to sound very confusing. Just know that the date of Easter each year is determined by referencing the lunar calendar.
The cyclical movements of the moon dictate the exact date, but essentially, Easter is always on the Sunday that follows the full moon of Passover.
The Holy Days of Lent
The entire Lenten Season is important and significant, but certain days are more symbolic than others. Those days include:
Palm Sunday is a Christian holiday that marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of the Lenten season. It commemorates the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, as described in the New Testament of the Bible.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while the crowds cheered, shouting “Hosanna!” and spreading palm branches on the road in front of him. This event is considered significant because it marked the start of the final week of Jesus’s life before his crucifixion and resurrection.
In the early Christian church, Palm Sunday was celebrated with the blessing of palm branches and a procession through the streets, which served as a reminder of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. Over time, the celebration of Palm Sunday became more elaborate. Today, it is observed in many countries worldwide with special services, processions, and the distribution of blessed palm branches. The historical significance of Palm Sunday lies in its representation of Jesus’s arrival as a king, which challenged the authority of the Roman government and the Jewish religious leaders of the time. Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, symbolizing peace, also contrasts with the military conquests of other leaders and represents his message of love and nonviolence.
Palm Sunday is the very first day of Holy Week, one week before Easter Sunday. Our Little Roses begin Holy Week at the home with the blessing of the palms on Palm Sunday, followed by processions outside and a service.
On Sunday afternoon, everyone hops on our bus to head for the mountains to the Schilling-Weeks Retreat and Training Center for three days of fun, relaxation, swimming, hiking, and just kicking back with a good book or a movie.
Holy Thursday is significant because it commemorates the Last Supper, the final dinner Jesus shared with his disciples. It is also the beginning of the Triduum, which includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
During The Last Supper, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, a symbol of humility and servant leadership, and instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist. He also predicted that one of his disciples would betray him and all of them would abandon him. Holy Thursday is observed in many different ways by Christians around the world, but it often involves special church services and the celebration of the Eucharist. Some churches reenact the washing of the feet ceremony as a reminder of Jesus’s teachings of humility and service to others. In some countries, particularly in the Catholic tradition, it is customary to hold an all-night vigil called the “Eucharist of the Lord’s Supper,” in which the faithful gather to pray and reflect on the events of Holy Thursday.
The atmosphere at Our Little Roses changes on Holy Thursday when the girls and staff participate in the washing of the feet during the Eucharist, which is followed by an elaborate Agape meal. Jesus was of the Jewish faith, and this was the Passover meal; many Christian communities mark this with what is called a “Seder” meal, and it is the meal that is remembered when Christian communities share the Eucharist at Our Little Roses; this meal is served after the foot washing ceremony. The girls also share notes of love and friendship that show Christ-like love and solidarity with each other and with the staff.
Good Friday falls on the Friday right before Easter Sunday. It marks the day of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Good Friday is considered one of the Christian year’s most important and solemn days.
Good Friday is significant because it marks the culmination of the events that led to the death of Jesus. According to the New Testament, Jesus was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death by crucifixion by the Roman authorities. Good Friday is typically a day of fasting, prayer, and reflection. Many Christians attend church services on this day, which often include a retelling of the events surrounding the crucifixion, hymns, prayers, and the veneration of the cross. In some countries, there are processions and reenactments of the crucifixion as a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for humanity.
This day brings different activities that the older girls of Our Little Roses participate in. They use their creative talents to illustrate the Stations of the Cross on posters that will later be set on altars around the home. At dusk, everyone participates in the Stations of the Cross in procession around the different stations while they take turns reading the meditations and prayers.
Holy Saturday is always the day before Easter. It represents the last day of the Triduum. It is also known as the Great Sabbath or Easter Eve, is the day that marks the transition from Good Friday to Easter Sunday in the Christian calendar. It is a time of reflection, a time of preparation, and anticipation as Christians wait for the arrival of Easter and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
According to the New Testament, Holy Saturday is the day Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb after his crucifixion on Good Friday. The day is, therefore, a time of mourning and reflection on the events of the previous two days and a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for humanity.
In many Christian traditions, Holy Saturday is a time of fasting and a time of penance, as well as special liturgies and church services. One of the most significant events on Holy Saturday is the Easter Vigil celebration, which is Easter’s first liturgy. This service is an elaborate and beautiful ceremony that includes the lighting of the Paschal candle, the reading of the Old Testament, and the renewal of baptismal vows.
At Our Little Roses, Holy Saturday is commemorated with the Veneration of the Cross ceremony. After the prayers, the processional cross is laid on the floor, and the girls place a votive candle and stone around the outline of the cross to represent their transgressions and prayers. After the ceremony, the older girls prepare the cross for the Easter Vigil and Resurrection.
Easter is not part of Lent, but instead, it’s the first day of the Easter season, which lasts for 50 days until Pentecost Sunday (which is May 28th of this year). Easter is one of the most important and widely celebrated holidays in the Christian calendar. It is the joyful celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the central event of the Christian faith. The resurrection of Jesus is seen as proof of his divinity and the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation for humanity.
Easter is a time of joy, renewal, and hope. Many Christian traditions include special church services, as well as family gatherings, feasts, and gift-giving. In some countries, there are also processions and reenactments of the resurrection and Easter egg hunts, which symbolize new life and renewal.
At Our Little Roses, Easter Sunday begins with the Easter Vigil on the Eve of the Resurrection for the older girls. Everyone comes together to celebrate the Resurrected Christ with the processional cross now adorned with flowers that the girls have had the opportunity to place on it. Then everyone can say,” Alleluya, the Lord has Risen.”
How Our Little Roses Embodies the Teachings of Lent Every Day
The Lessons of Lent at Our Little Roses
We keep the lessons of Lent in our minds every day. Our mission is to live out the teachings of Jesus in all that we do. His love for all of his followers is why we aim to treat everyone we come in contact with as though they are our brothers and sisters, too. Our girl’s lives are a reflection of Lent and Easter Sunday in many ways; they come from the darkness of poverty, abuse, and neglect, and through the love and support of people like you – the stone is removed, and they are able to live a new life full of possibilities and hope.
Our Little Roses is a non-profit organization that provides a safe and loving home to girls who have been orphaned, abandoned, or come from vulnerable families. We believe in giving these girls a chance to grow, learn, thrive, and become confident, capable, and independent young women.
We rely on the generosity of supporters like you to continue our work and to provide the girls in our care with the essential resources and opportunities they need to succeed. Your donations help us provide food, clothing, medical care, education, and support for the girls in our home and their families and communities.
During Lent, we ask that you consider making a donation to Our Little Roses as an act of almsgiving. This is a time for self-reflection, sacrifice, and giving back to those in need. Your donation will make a tangible difference in the lives of the girls in our care and will help us continue our mission to provide them with a bright and hopeful future.
For more information on what we do at Our Little Roses, contact us!