“Lent is the season of the Church calendar that spans the 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent is from the old English word which means “lengthening” and refers to Springtime, when the days are getting longer and lighter. Another name for this season is “Quadragesima” which simply means “fortieth,” counting backwards from Easter to the fortieth day before Resurrection Sunday.
In the history of the Church, no other season has perhaps been so abused or misunderstood as Lent. Historically, Lent began as a discipleship class for new believers. It became customary to have baptisms at Easter, and so new believers would be enrolled in these classes prior to Easter to teach them the basics of the faith, frequently working through the Apostles’ Creed, the most basic Christian confession. Eventually, many leaders in the Church saw the need for all Christians to be annually reminded of the basics of the Christian faith and reminded of the basic Christian disciplines.
Over time, many practices like superstitious fasting and various forms of abstinence became substituted for real Christian disciplines and by the time of the Reformation, Lent had become something of a symbol of the oppression of the Roman church, and therefore many of the great Reformers cheerfully taught their congregations to disregard the Roman church’s rules and regulations for Lent. Standing squarely in the Reformation tradition, we want to remember and embrace their wisdom and courage in freeing the people of God from man made traditions and rules. In Christ, we are free, and no Christian man or woman should be bound by man-made customs or traditions regarding eating or fasting, food or drink, days or seasons. No one should feel any tinge of guilt for doing absolutely nothing different during Lent.
At the same time, the broader historic Church believed that it was fitting and good for the people of God to be annually reminded of the basics of the faith, to be called to greater faithfulness, and to be called to war against sin and the devil and the flesh in the hope of the resurrection. In that spirit, we celebrate Lent as a season of growing light, a season that celebrates the light of Christ come into the world, and a time to examine our lives and families, to cast off the works of darkness and to put on the armor of light. We enter this season together on Ash Wednesday remembering that the way of the cross is foolishness, the way of life is through the dust of death.”
If you’re looking for resources to learn more, try these:
And of course Peter Leithart’s 40 Reasons for Lent: An Exaltation of Tweets
A number of CREC pastors have also put this devotional guide together.