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Lenten Facts

crosspurpledrapeWe are now well into the season of Lent. Of that, it might be interesting to post a number of facts regarding Lent within the tradition of the Catholic Church.

  1. Lent is the period of 40 days before Easter in the Christian calendar. Sundays are not included in the count. It falls on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter Sunday.
  2. Why 40 days? The number is significant in Jewish-Christian scripture: in Genesis, it took 40 days and nights of rain to cause a flood which destroyed the earth; the Hebrews spent 40 years in the wilderness before reaching the Promised Land; Moses fasted for 40 days before receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai; Jesus spent 40 days of fasting in preparation for his ministry.
  3. Lent is derived from an Old English word which means “lengthen.” The last week of Lent is called Holy Week.
  4. Purple is the symbolic color for Lent, with altars, statues and other religious articles veiled in purple fabric.
  5. Why purple? The color is associated with royalty and mourning, which anticipates Christ’s pain and suffering on the cross; and royalty, which celebrates Christ’s resurrection.
  6. Lent starts with Ash Wednesday, which is derived from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance to God. The ashes are made by burning the blessed palms that were distributed the previous year on Palm Sunday.
  7. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are observed by fasting, abstinence from meat, prayer, and repentance. Other days of abstinence from meat include all Fridays during Lent.
  8. During Lent, the faithful are encouraged to surrender a particular vice, such as smoking or favorite food items, as a reflection of Jesus’ deprivation in the wilderness and test of self-discipline.
  9. Sundays are considered “free days” during Lent because Sunday is the day of the Lord’s resurrection.
  10. The three days of Holy Week that are called the Triduum are Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
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