- 20 Feb, 2023
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MARK JUDE MUGERWA
Why do we celebrate lent? Why do we start with Ash Wednesday? Why is the colour of the season purple? Why does Lent last 40 days? Lent is the season of the church year that follows the Epiphany Season. It is a time we set aside each year to remember the love of God that poured out through Christ Jesus on the cross in His death; and His defeat of death, sin and Satan in Christ’s death and resurrection that brings Eternal life to you.
Through the twofold theme of repentance and baptism, the season of Lent disposes the faithful to celebrate the Pascal mystery. The faithful, listening more intently to the word of God and devoting themselves to prayer, are prepared through a spirit of repentance to renew their baptismal promises. During lent penance should not be only inward and individual but also outward and social, and should be directed toward works of mercy on behalf of our brothers and sisters.
The faithful should be urged to take a greater and more fruitful share in the Lenten liturgy and penitential services. They should be advised particularly to approach the sacrament of penance during Lent in accordance with the law and traditions of the church, so that they may share in the joys of Easter Sunday with purity of heart.
On Ash Wednesday, a universal day of fast, ashes are distributed. The faithful, by receiving ashes, enter upon the season appointed for spiritual purification. This sign, biblical in origin and preserved among the customs of the Church until our own day, expresses the human condition as affected by sin.
In this sign we outwardly profess our guilt before God and thereby, prompted by the hope that the Lord is kind and compassionate, patient and abounding in mercy, express our conversion that will reach its goal in the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation during the days leading to Easter.
Lent is 40 days as a reminder of Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness, and His defeat of temptation. We are reminded that Jesus was also tempted and that He stood firm against Satan’s temptations. He is our strength against all temptation in this life and our need for Christ’s death on Good Friday.
It also reminds us why we have a character of penance in the season of Lent: we are in need of redemption from sin, death, and Satan. During Lent we observe a period of fasting, repentance, moderation, self-denial, and spiritual discipline. The purpose of the Lenten season is a time for reflection on Jesus Christ-to consider his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.
The colour purple is used by the church to remind us of the character of the season. Purple is used as a colour of penitence. This character is carried over in the words we use in worship as we will omit the alleluias until Easter. This is also shown in the length of the season.
The Sundays of this season are called the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Sunday of Lent. The Sixth, which marks the beginning of Holy Week, is called Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday). On Passion Sunday, the church enters upon the mystery of its crucified, buried and risen Lord, who, by his entrance into Jerusalem, gave a glimpse of his own majesty. Christians carry branches as a sign of the royal triumph that Christ won by his acceptance of the cross.
St Paul says: “Provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” The link between these two aspects of the paschal mystery should stand out clearly in the liturgical celebration of Palm Sunday. Lent observance should conspire to manifest clearly and promote the life of the local church. Holy week has as its purpose the remembrance of Christ’s passion, beginning with his Messianic entrance into Jerusalem.
MARK JUDE MUGERWA