What is Lent? A Complete Guide by Our Little Roses
(Updated March 1, 2021)
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 periods of time for followers of the Christian faith is a season known as Lent.
Religious Seasons 101: What is Lent?
So, we know that Lent is a time 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 historic 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. The day Jesus was nailed to the cross in Jerusalem is recognized as Good Friday in modern times.
We’ll explain all of the days that make up Lent in a moment, but Lent begins the day of Ash Wednesday, which is a religious 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.
Though not all Christians abstain from eating meat and drinking on Ash Wednesday, members of many denominations will participate in a full day of fasting once a week – typically on Fridays. In regards to the element of fasting, there is no hierarchy of devotion to one’s religion or dedication to the season of Lent.
Just because one person decides to fast for the entire six weeks, that doesn’t mean their faith is stronger or better than someone who doesn’t restrict their intake. Fasting is simply an additional way of paying mind to one’s deep repentance for prior sins, but the decision is optional, and more importantly, it’s entirely personal.
In today’s Christian community there are many iterations of fasting. Many people make a vow to fast from things such as negative thoughts, gossiping, social media binging shows on streaming sites, alcohol, and much more. New traditions also include adding things to your life for these 40 days such as setting aside time to meditate and pray each day, visiting shut-ins, and doing service.
Giving alms 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 are making by fasting from something you enjoy.
To help everyone throughout their Lenten journey, Our Little Roses’ Chaplain, Reverend Gustavo Galeano, has put together a slurry of meditations. Each meditation, released weekly throughout Lent, focuses on the three pillars of Lent – Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.
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 prior to Easter.
Working backward, the day that Easter falls on each year is in relation 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, which is a process that can start to sound very confusing. But just know that the specific 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. All that being said, Easter for the year 2021 will be on Sunday, April 4th.
Easter denotes the end of Lent, and since Lent is six weeks long, it is easy to look at this information and figure out when Ash Wednesday will be, too! Six weeks before April twelfth leads us to find that… This year, Ash Wednesday will fall on Wednesday, February 17th.
The Significant Days During Lent
The entire Lenten Season is important and significant, but there are certain days that are more symbolic than the others. Those days include:
- Ash Wednesday
- Palm Sunday
- Holy Thursday
- Good Friday
- Holy Saturday
Holy Week at Our Little Roses
Palm Sunday is the very first day of Holy Week, and it is a week prior to Easter Sunday. Our Little Roses begins Holy Week at the Home with the blessing of the palms on Palm Sunday, followed by processions outside and the Eucharist.
On Sunday afternoon, everyone hops on our bus to head for the mountains to Our Lady of the Roses Retreat 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, which was the final dinner that Jesus shared with his disciples. It is also the beginning of the Triduum which includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
The atmosphere changes on Holy Thursday when the girls and staff participate in the washing of the feet during the Eucharist that is followed by an elaborate Agape meal. This day is special because of the significance that it holds for each person that participates in this ritual. Then, a meal is served with notes of love and friendship that show Christ-like love and solidarity.
Good Friday falls on the Friday right before Easter Sunday. This day, signifying Jesus’ crucifixion, brings different activities that the older girls of Our Little Roses participate in by using their creative talents to illustrate the Stations of the Cross on posters that will later be set on altars around the Home. When the sun is less intense, 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. On this day many years ago, everyone who knew and loved Jesus came together to mourn the loss of the person they adored. Today, in churches around the world, new members of the faith receive the Sacraments of Initiation and are welcomed into the Church at the Holy Saturday Vigil.
Holy Saturday is commemorated with a ceremony of the Veneration of the Cross. 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 begin the work of preparing 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 31st of this year). 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
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.
For more information on what we do at Our Little Roses, contact us!