Lent, a time of prayer and spiritual growth
As a time of dedication and prayer, Lent marks a special time on the Christian calendar.
But what is the meaning of Lent? Why is participating in the 40-day period so special for Christians? According to Father Peter Cullen from the Parish of St Peter and Paul’s Parish, Lent began prior to the fourth century. “In the old days, Lent started as a preparation period for people becoming Christians and to be accepted into the church during the Easter period.”
As time wore on, Christians took the opportunity to use the period to renew their faith. “Other Christians joined as a sign of solidarity and a sign of a practice of their faith,” he explained. With this, a new tradition was born. A tradition of faith, penance and prayer.
As Lent starts tomorrow, February 14, Father Peter reminds Newcastillians of the true meaning of the period. “The 40 days are about prayer, fasting and strengthening your faith.”
During the 40 days, Christians are encouraged to fast and focus on scriptures. “This means having one decent meal during the course of the day, having a light meal during the evening. But abstinence is especially importance on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.”
On these two days, refraining from meat, alcoholic drinks and other luxuries is of the utmost importance. This shows one’s willingness to sacrifice worldly temptations, in order to form a form a spiritual bond with God.
“During Lent, people can spend extra time reading the Bible and praying. In South Africa, a theme is usually suggested. Parish groups or individuals can then focus on the theme for a higher aspect of Christian life.”
With Lent beginning tomorrow, the question remains, how did Ash Wednesday get its name?
The name Ash Wednesday began through public penance. “Serious sinners would be banned from the church on the day. They would then come dressed in sackcloth and be sprinkled with ashes outside the church.”
However, Christians now celebrate Ash Wednesday through their priests or ministers making the sign of the cross on their foreheads with ash.
As Christians begin the Lent period tomorrow, Father Peter encourages them to remember the tenents of their faith.
“Traditionally, lets try to be more faithful in our prayers, deny ourselves some luxuries and make an effort to support the less fortunate,” he concluded.