Over the years our church has hosted pancake suppers on the day before Lent starts (Mardi Gras), hiding the Allelujahs, dispensing ashes on Ash Wednesday, Lenten Bible study series, ritual feet washing on Maundy Thursday, a seder, a Passover, Tenebrae, Good Friday prayer vigils, and Good Friday evening services. And for many decades we have hosted the start of the Interchurch Council series of Lenten evening services culminating in our presentation of the annual Choir Festival.
For us, Lent remains a highly personal experience, marked by a time of prayer and preparation for the Easter to come. One of our most enduring traditions is the Tenebrae service of scripture and lights every Maundy Thursday evening.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (46 days before Easter). Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that occur during Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, and are referred to as the Sundays in Lent. The number 40 reminds us of the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry by facing the temptations that could lead him to abandon his mission and calling.
These 40 Lenten days are our time for introspection, self examination, and repentance. It is a time equal only to Advent in importance in the Christian year, a time of spiritual preparation.
Lent has traditionally been marked by penitential prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. Some churches today still observe a rigid schedule of fasting on certain days during Lent, especially the giving up of meat, alcohol, sweets, and other types of food. Other traditions do not place as great an emphasis on fasting, but focus on charitable deeds, especially helping those in physical need with food and clothing, or simply the giving of money to charities. Most Christian churches that observe Lent at all focus on it as a time of prayer, especially penance, repenting for failures and sin as a way to focus on the need for God’s grace. It is really a preparation to celebrate God’s marvelous redemption at Easter, and the resurrected life that we live, and hope for, as Christians.
(Thanks to the Christian Resource Institute for some details)