Updated: Feb 6
One of the beauties of Visual Faith® Ministry is our cross-denominational impact. We come from a wide variety of devotional and worship practices. Quickly approaching is the season of Lent, the six weeks leading up to the Passion of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Since VFM will be offering a series of seasonal activities to support your observance of Lent, perhaps answering a few questions is in order.
Throughout the history of the Christian church, both the birth and the death/resurrection of Jesus were marked with a period of preparation. Advent is the 4-week season of preparation for Christmas. Lent is the six-week season of preparation for Easter. The word “Lent” comes from an Old English word for “lengthening,” with days growing longer as spring approaches. The Old German root of the word Lent also denotes the season of spring, a time when dreary winter gives way to new life. Preparatory Lenten practices often involve prayer, reflection, and self-discipline.
What is the season of Lent?
Lent is a time to prepare hearts for a deep appreciation of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and continues for six weeks. During this time, the worship tone is somber and reflective, and many churches will use the color purple, which is historically associated with penitence. Worship music during Lent is also less “bright,” and many churches will omit songs/refrains that include the word alleluia; when the alleluias return on Easter morning, they stand in stark contrast to the previous six weeks.
When I count calendar days, it seems as if there are more than 40 days of Lent. Why is that?
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and continues through the Saturday leading into Easter. Sundays are not included in the official forty-day count. You will find that our Lenten materials also contain activities for Holy Week, which are the 7 days between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Day/Easter.
Why do some people observe Lent by "giving up" certain habits or foods, such as avoiding meat on Fridays?
The Scriptures do not require “giving up” as a means of observing Lent. But in Christian freedom, many believers choose to give up a habit or food/drink as a means of remembering and personalizing the enormous sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. These sacrifices are not about losing a few pounds or putting in your time. They are about making room for God to make lasting changes in your character and deepening your faith. Some people take on a discipline or a service to others instead of giving something up. The outcomes should be the same – lasting changes and deeper faith. When kept in perspective our works don’t earn God’s favor, either practice can lead to a deeper walk with Jesus during this penitential season.
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent. Throughout history, ashes have been a symbol of repentance. Ashes are dirty and serve as a reminder of our sins. During the Ash Wednesday service, the pastor imposes an ash cross on the forehead of each worshiper while sometimes reciting Genesis 3:19: You are from dust and to dust you shall return. Without Jesus we are merely dust, but Jesus comes ‘that we may have life and have it abundantly.’ (John 10:10)
What does "Maundy" mean?
Maundy comes from the Latin word “mandatum,” which means “command.” During His last supper with His disciples, Jesus commanded them to ‘Love one another. As I have loved you, so also are you to love one another.’ (John 13:34) That same evening, Jesus commanded His disciples to continue to celebrate Holy Communion: Do this in remembrance of Me (Luke 22:19-20). So on Maundy Thursday, we remember the commands of Jesus, celebrate the Holy Supper that He commanded, and mirror the love He demonstrated for us on the cross.
How could Good Friday ever be considered "good?"
It may seem ironic to label this day “good,” as we reflect on the death of Jesus. Worship songs and readings seem “heavy,” and the tone of a Good Friday service is sorrowful and like a funeral – because it is. However, “good” describes the incredible gift of forgiveness that is ours only because of Jesus’ death on that Roman cross. He paid the price for all who believe. Ephesians 1:7 reminds us that ‘in Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.’ Good news for us, thanks be to God!
Unlike Christmas, the date on which we observe Easter isn't consistent. Why is that?
Easter is a lunar holiday, tied to the Jewish observance of Passover. Easter can occur anytime between March 22 and April 25. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox (March 20).
These are some of the oft-asked questions about the season of Lent. In the next few days, look for a blog outlining all of the tremendous materials that are available in the shoppe for those who want to recognize these 40 Days of meditation and devotion with a specific focus on our Lord’s Passion.
by Jenny Long and Carolyn Bira-
Visual Faith® Vision Team