Lent began this week on Feb. 22. It ends April 8 with the celebration of Easter. In the Christian tradition, the Lenten period is a time of fasting and prayer, preparation and reflection in anticipation of Easter, which commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Lent is referred to as a 40-day period, even though the calendar count is 46 days. Sundays are excluded, as each represents a mini-Easter, or a break from the Lenten period. These symbolize the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the desert. During this time, Jesus was tempted by the devil three times and resisted each time.
Historically, Lent has been a time to provide instruction to new converts and young Christians as a way to strengthen their faith, as well as a period for believers to spend in reflection to strengthen their faith.
Traditionally, Lent is a time for people to give up a vice, or to participate in virtuous acts. People often give up sweets, bread, alcohol, meat or other items. Good works include helping others, giving money to those in need or time spent in prayer. Lent allows Christian believers to focus on God rather than the world. Prayer and fasting are a way to change the patterns of their everyday lives to allow time for reflection, introspection and contemplation.
The Tuesday before Lent is Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday). This is the last day to feast before Lent begins, the last period of excess.
Lent, which is derived from the Old English word lencten, or spring, begins just as winter starts to be oppressive and transitions us into the next season. It's a time of somberness, seriousness before the joy of spring.
While the Lenten season transitions us into spring, the political primary season transitions the American electorate into the general election. While the primary process is the first hurdle in the race to the national election, it is the general election that ultimately determines who will become our country's next president.
The primary process allows the parties, and the candidates, to hone their message, to ensure it is on target, is clear and well articulated, before the inevitable onslaught of the general election.
Lent reminds each of us that we are to be humble. That, instead of focusing on ourselves, we should focus on God and on how we can serve others.
This humbling is in opposition to the state of hubris, exaggerated pride or self confidence, all too often prevalent in our society.