Lent is the Christian season of preparation before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts 40 days (excluding Sundays), ending just before Easter, on Holy Saturday. The Lenten season is a somber time when many Christians observe a period of fasting, repentance, self-denial and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ—his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial, and resurrection.
During this six weeks of self-examination and reflection, Christians who observe Lent typically make a commitment to fast, or to give up something—a habit, such as smoking, watching TV, swearing, or a food or drink, such as sweets, chocolate, or coffee. Some Christians also take on a Lenten discipline, such as reading the Bible and spending more time in prayer to draw nearer to God. The goal of these spiritual disciplines is to strengthen the faith of the observer and develop a closer relationship with God.
The significance of the 40-day period of Lent is based on two episodes of spiritual testing in the Bible: the 40 years of wilderness wanderings by the Israelites after the exodus from Egypt and the Temptation of Jesus after he spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness.
The liturgical color for the season of Lent is purple. The significance of this is two-fold: Purple is associated with mourning and so reflects the pain and suffering of the crucifixion. Purple is also a color associated with royalty and celebrates Christ’s resurrection and sovereignty.
Just as we prepare for other major events in our lives - birthdays, weddings, anniversaries - Lent invites us to prepare our hearts and minds for remembering the significance of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.