How Lent came to be?

Frequently, folks talk about how to do Lent, but what is it? why is it a season in the Church’s year?

In the earliest days of the Church, getting baptized was a huge deal! Many people had to study, pray, and change their lives for years before they were allowed to fully join the Church through baptism. Some people even had to change professions. Gladiators, soldiers, and many others had to find other work before becoming Christians. Likewise, being a Christian was a big deal and if you separated from the Church through “notorious sins” (BCP 265), you had to do public penance to rejoin the Church.

At that time, there was really only one major festival in the Church, Easter, and so it made sense to the folks back then to prepare for baptism and rejoining the Church through a season of preparation. But how long should we prepare? Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, which lasts 40 days in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, was the perfect template for the early Church. That’s why it’s called “Fortieth” in Latin (Quadragesima). When the Church made it to Britain and the season was translated into the Anglo-Saxon language it got a new name, “Lent”, which means “to lengthen,” a reference to the lengthening days of spring. And that’s how Lent got to be a season.

How are you preparing for Easter? Are you supporting anyone as they prepare for baptism? Is there anyone you need to get right with before Easter?

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