What is the origin and meaning of Lent?

It is pure scholarship to know that the word “Lent” was, in the past, a simple Latin adjective. She was at the beginning of a sentence and started to call an entire period of the liturgical year. Here is the phrase in question: “Forty-die Christus pro nobis tradétur” , which translates as follows: “In 40 days (on the fortieth day), Christ will be delivered by us” for our salvation. Lent is short for fortieth. In the Latin phrase in question, fortieth is in the feminine because, in Latin, day, in addition to being masculine, is also feminine. The Portuguese language kept the word in the feminine.

Lent is, therefore, the word used to designate the period of 40 days, in which Catholics prepare for Easter, the most important feast of the Christian liturgical calendar, as it celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus, the main basis of the Christian faith. During this period, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Wednesday of Holy Week, the faithful are invited to have a special confrontation between their lives and the Christian message expressed in the Gospels. This confrontation should lead the Christian to deepen his understanding of the Word of God and to intensify the practice of the essential principles of his faith.

Illustrative photo: Wesley Almeida / cancaonova.com

When Lent appeared

Around AD 350, the Church decided to increase the preparation time for Easter, which was three days, which remained the Holy Triduum of Holy Week : Holy Thursday, Good Friday (Passion) and Holy Saturday. The preparation for Easter then became 40 days old. This was because Christians realized that three days were insufficient to adequately prepare for such an important and central event. Thus, Lent was born.

The number 40

The number 40 is quite significant within the Holy Scriptures. The flood lasted 40 days and 40 nights, in addition, it was the preparation for a new humanity purified by the waters. For 40 years, the Hebrew people walked through the desert towards the promised land, having crossed the Red Sea. Before receiving God’s forgiveness, the inhabitants of the city of Nineveh did penance for 40 days. The prophet Elijah walked 40 days and 40 nights to reach the mountain of God. Preparing to fulfill his mission among men, Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses had done the same. The ancient peoples attributed to the number 40 different meanings. One is of special importance for Christians : a time of intense preparation for important events in the History of Salvation.

Lent in Brazil

From the 1970s onwards, the Church in Brazil placed the devotion of the faithful who traditionally accompany Jesus’ walk for Easter with great piety, reinforcing the experience of love, of the charity that liberates, since Jesus gave His life to save us. By placing the Fraternity Campaign in the period of Lent, she wants its organization and realization to be a very practical mediation for the experience of charity, to develop and deepen fraternity, according to the commandment of love: to love our neighbor as Jesus loved us.

Read more:
:: The importance of Palm Sunday
:: What lesson did Mary Magdalene leave us?
:: Are penance and prayer sources of conversion?
:: The meaning of the Holy Week Encounter Procession

Each year, a theme is dealt with in the Lenten spirit of conversion, through meditation, prayer , fasting, almsgiving, in the sense of charity that liberates. To make it easier, the Church offers a text based on the “See, Judge, Act” scheme and various support subsidies, motivating and encouraging the faithful to take the meditation on the persecuted and suffering Jesus, and the other Lent practices for concrete attitudes in favor on the other, privileged sufferers.

The focus of Lent has always been and will continue to be our conversion to the Lord and what He wants from our lives and the world. Our personal and institutional conversion, however, must always materialize, be visible.


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