Friday, February 27, 2009

Why do Catholics celebrate Lent?

Lent is an extremely important season for the Catholic Church. First, it is a season, the Church leaves “Ordinary Time” and our clergy hang up their green vestments and put on their purple; signifying repentance. Lent contains the only day each year that Mass is not celebrated (Good Friday). Catholics put ashes on their foreheads, pray, fast, abstain from meat, and do many other things. The outward signs of Lent are unmistakable; but why do we do them?

Lent is a time for Catholics to imitate Jesus and follow him from the garden of regular life to the desert of self-denial and sacrifice. Jesus literally went to the desert in Mk 1:12-15 for forty days and forty nights. Here he prayed, fasted, and was tempted by the devil. Afterward, he was hungry.

Jesus did this just before beginning his public ministry where he spoke to the crowds, performed miracles, and eventually offered himself as a sacrifice for all of us. The time in the desert was a time of preparation for the work to come. If Jesus needed time out to pray and fast, how much more do we need that time?

Lent was a time of preparation for Jesus and it is for us as well. We prepare for the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper which we celebrate on Holy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter). As Jesus was hungry after fasting, we are hungry for him and he doesn’t leave us empty. Individuals coming into the Catholic Church use Lent as a final preparation. Candidates have spent months learning about our faith and on the Easter Vigil (Saturday before Easter) they will be baptized, confirmed, and receive the Eucharist. Lent is a time of preparation of our souls as we repent for our sins. We remember on Good Friday that it was our sins that Jesus suffered and died for.

Lent is the preparation of many things, and the crowning of them all is Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Lent has been around since at least the fourth century but the writings of that time indicate that the practice began with the apostles. The customs from place to place and from time to time have changed, and will continue to change, I imagine, but the basic idea of denying ourselves to take up our crosses remains the same.

I pray that you embrace this Lenten season, that you may grow closer to our God through your prayer, fasting, and alms-giving, and that you may see resurrection with Jesus on the last day.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog as for me. I'd like to read a bit more concerning that topic. The only thing I would like to see here is some pics of some devices.
John Karver
Block phone

Anonymous said...

This was a perfect explanation for me to pass on to my protestant friend who asked why Catholics practice Lent. Thank you.

D RUIZ said...

you say it has been apractice since 4th century yet writings say the apostles did it ? Then why did they not continue in the the 2nd and third century ? I do believe if anything is to be practiced and hallowed ,the apostles would lead..I am not convinced they led us to what catholics do today. It certainly is very ritualistic and religious, and by works of the flesh shall no man be saved. I am not saying you do Lent to be saved . It is good to fast and pray ,as led by the Spirit, but a good thing can be ritulized wrongly , like Peter wanting to build three memorials at the Transfiguration. Again, there is no mention of such practices in God's Word to us, that is the "canning", "boxing" or ritualizing of such good practices of Spirit led confessing, praying, fasting, reflection, etc . The church grew in leaps and bounds with simplistic faith and Spirit led living, without contrivances of feasts and holydays, and moons and sacraments (except for baptism and communion ). Agian, if you are led by the Spirit to fast and pray or reflect on what is true, and good and pure and holy - good. May it be more so for all of us. Alleluia

D RUIZ said...

you say it has been apractice since 4th century yet writings say the apostles did it ? Then why did they not continue in the the 2nd and third century ? I do believe if anything is to be practiced and hallowed ,the apostles would lead..I am not convinced they led us to what catholics do today. It certainly is very ritualistic and religious, and by works of the flesh shall no man be saved. I am not saying you do Lent to be saved . It is good to fast and pray ,as led by the Spirit, but a good thing can be ritulized wrongly , like Peter wanting to build three memorials at the Transfiguration. Again, there is no mention of such practices in God's Word to us, that is the "canning", "boxing" or ritualizing of such good practices of Spirit led confessing, praying, fasting, reflection, etc . The church grew in leaps and bounds with simplistic faith and Spirit led living, without contrivances of feasts and holydays, and moons and sacraments (except for baptism and communion ). Agian, if you are led by the Spirit to fast and pray or reflect on what is true, and good and pure and holy - good. May it be more so for all of us. Alleluia

D RUIZ said...

you say it has been apractice since 4th century yet writings say the apostles did it ? Then why did they not continue in the the 2nd and third century ? I do believe if anything is to be practiced and hallowed ,the apostles would lead..I am not convinced they led us to what catholics do today. It certainly is very ritualistic and religious, and by works of the flesh shall no man be saved. I am not saying you do Lent to be saved . It is good to fast and pray ,as led by the Spirit, but a good thing can be ritulized wrongly , like Peter wanting to build three memorials at the Transfiguration. Again, there is no mention of such practices in God's Word to us, that is the "canning", "boxing" or ritualizing of such good practices of Spirit led confessing, praying, fasting, reflection, etc . The church grew in leaps and bounds with simplistic faith and Spirit led living, without contrivances of feasts and holydays, and moons and sacraments (except for baptism and communion ). Agian, if you are led by the Spirit to fast and pray or reflect on what is true, and good and pure and holy - good. May it be more so for all of us. Alleluia

stargazers1998 said...

Thank you very much, I could not have painted a better picture for understanding. As a chaplain I too have had many people ask why we celebrate lent. your description is the best I have seen to date, God bless my brother.

Dan said...

Thank you for the kind comment! I'd be delighted for you to check out our Facebook page since the blog hasn't been updated in a while.

God bless during your Lenten celebration!

Dan

Anonymous said...

I believe everything that God wants us to do is written for us in the Bible. Where are the scriptures backing this tradition?