THE WORD LENT comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for spring, which is derived from a verb meaning to lengthen. Lent comes in the spring when the days become noticeably longer.
This annual season of fasting, prayer, and penitence has been observed by the Western Church since the first century after Christ, although it has not always been forty days long. In more recent times it has been kept forty days, after the example of Moses and Elijah, and to commemorate the forty days of fasting and prayer that Jesus spent in the wilderness.
The first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday from the custom that prevailed in the early Church of sprinkling ashes on the heads of penitents on the first day of Lent, in token of repentance for sin.
Ash Wednesday comes forty-six days before Easter. There are six Sundays in Lent, and they are not considered part of Lent, because in the Western Church Sunday is always a feast day. The forty weekdays beginning with Ash Wednesday constitute Lent.
The fifth Sunday in Lent is known as Passion Sunday, because it marks the beginning of Passion-tide, the last two weeks of Lent. These two weeks specifically commemorate the Passion of Jesus, or His experiences following the Last Supper.
The last week of Lent is called Holy Week. It includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday.
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem when the people strewed palms in His way.
Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, is a corruption of the Latin word mandati meaning "of the commandment," and refers to the command "This do in remembrance of me" spoken by Jesus in regard to His breaking of the bread and drinking of the wine at the Last Supper. Maundy Thursday commemorates the event of the Last Supper.
Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, probably known originally as God's Friday, commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus.
Easter Day, of course, commemorates the Resurrection. The word Easter comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Eastre, the name of the Goddess of spring, in whose honor a festival was celebrated each April. Easter Day always comes on the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after March 21. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, Easter is the next Sunday. Easter can never fall earlier than March 22 nor later than April 25.
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Lent is a season of spiritual growth, a time for progressive unfoldment. When we can blend and merge our mind with God-Mind, the way is open for the Lord to glorify us and to lift us into a higher, purer, more spiritual state.
"Where two or three are gathered together in
my name, there am I in the midst of them," said Jesus. Unity students everywhere are invited to participate yearly in our Lenten program. Christ is in our midst, as the God of our planet, as the one great Teacher. Place all burdens on the Lord and enter the Lenten season expecting definite results.
Fasting means abstaining from; it is abstinence. The place of overcoming is in the consciousness of man. The forty-day fast is an all-round denial of sense demands. In fasting, we as metaphysicians abstain from error thinking and meditate on spiritual Truth until we incorporate it into the consciousness of oneness with the Father.
The desire to excel is in all men. It is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which ever urges us on through earth toward heaven. It should be encouraged and cultivated in the right direction.
As day after day we steadily adhere to our firm resolve to follow the steps outlined for the Lenten season, we discover that we are building on a firm foundation, and are mounting into a higher consciousness. We come to know that Christ is indeed with us and is resurrecting in us His realizations of light, life, and substance.