What does Lent mean anyway?

Posted by James Nagle of Team MISSIO on Mar 6, 2018, 5:27:42 PM

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Do you know the orginal meaning of the word "Lent"?

Ever wonder if are doing something wrong if you didn't give something up for Lent?  

The word "Lent" comes from the old English word that means "springtime,” and the Latin adverb lente, meaning "slowly." On the basis of this hybrid etymology alone, Lent suggests the turning of season and invites us, at the same time, to slow our pace. Obviously, Lent means more the coming of spring and slowing our activity, but it is a good place to start in this liturgical season where the Church prepares collectively for the renewal of our baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil and Resurrection Joy that is Easter. 

As we emerge from winter and slow our pace, we can take stock of our live, self-examine, and attend to those parts of ourselves that need improvement. Many people associate Lent with practices of asceticism and penance like fasting from food or other distractions.  It is important to remember that while this is a part of the history of the preparation for Easter, this devotion is not an end in and of itself. The purpose of these practices are cultivating a greater openness and dependence on God. Voluntary hunger is a good reminder we do not exist in and unto ourselves. But, there are other ways to develop this same spirituality. Attending to those parts of ourselves we want to improve is not always a matter or subtraction. We can add things to our Lenten disciplines.  

The Lenten Season offers a time to more consciously return to God, and enter an intimate relationship with Christ. Lent is an invitation for all God’s people to open themselves to God. Therefore, the season is not simply form of individual action, but activity performed in relation with others to prepare the community for the annual celebration of the greatest Christian feast. 

Even though Lent involves reflection on our shortcomings and areas of improvement, it is not dark. Nor is it only about substraction. Remember, the word “Lent” means “slowly springtime.” Lent is a time of growth and renewal where we practice saying no to somethings so that we can say yes to something else.   

MISSIO offers themed-quizzes in MissioBot to examine your religious knowledge - and this blog by James Nagle, PhD to reflect on questions of faith. 

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