The Lenten season is the fourth season in the church year (after Advent, Christmas and Epiphany). It begins with Ash Wednesday and is the oldest season of the church year. The original period of Lent seems to have been 40 hours. It was spent in fasting and contemplation on the sufferings of Christ. Later it became 30 days, then 36, and finally, in the reign of Charlemagne (about 800 AD), 40 days. Lent originally had one purpose — to prepare candidates for Baptism. For hundreds of years, the Baptism itself took place late Saturday evening or early Sunday morning before the dawn of Resurrection Day, during an all-night vigil.
The 40 days of Lent do not include the Sundays. Sundays in Lent - like every other Sunday - were to be “mini” resurrection days celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and not part of the Lenten fast. The 40 days of Lent correspond to Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness. The date of Lent is determined by the date of Resurrection Sunday. The Council of Nicea (held in 325 AD) determined that Resurrection Sunday would be observed on the first Sunday following the 14th day of the paschal moon. Lent probably comes from the old English word for Spring: Lenten (it may also be related to the German word for the time when the days lengthen: lenz).
The day before Ash Wednesday, Shrove (or FAT) Tuesday, is celebrated in many parts of the world with feasting. The French call it Mardi Gras; the Germans call is Fasching. The feasting comes from the custom of using up household fats prior to the 40 days of Lenten fasting when no fats were used. Today, many people have the tradition of “giving up” something for Lent or dedicating themselves to greater service and alms-giving during Lent as a way of focusing more attention on our Savior — who gave up His very life that we might live with Him in His heaven forever!
However, more than “giving up” or “doing” something the Lenten Season is a bold exhortation and call to “repent” and return to the Lord! The Lenten Season has a strong repentance theme. What our Lord wants us to give up is our “sin” and then to bear fruit in keeping with that repentance … not just during Lent, but “daily.” Luther rightly taught they we are to “daily” drown the Old Adam within, so that the New Man might “daily” emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
May your Lenten journey be blessed and may the season be a reminder to you to “daily” answer our Lord’s call to return to Him in repentance and faith.
Pastor Bryan E. Drebes
Pastor Drebes attended Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, beginning in 1997. He spent the summer of 1999 teaching English to Chinese middle school teachers in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China. He served a four-month vicarage at St. John Lutheran Church, Plymouth, Wisconsin, followed by eight months at Bethany Lutheran Church, Overland Park, Kansas. Pastor Drebes was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry at Zion Lutheran Church, Palmyra, Missouri on August 19, 2001, and installed as Associate Pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church, Overland Park, Kansas on September 9, 2001. He served Bethany for 14 years. Pastor Drebes accepted a Divine Call to be Senior Pastor at Pacific Hills Lutheran Church in November, 2015.