We have five seasons in the liturgical calendar namely; Advent, Christmas, ordinary time, lent and Easter. We shall be starting our Lenten season on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a period of 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday during which Catholics fast, intensify their prayers and give alms in memory of Christ’s suffering.
BEGINNING OF LENT.
The success of any celebration depends on how it is well prepared for.
Around 200 A.D., Christians wanting to reap maximum spiritual benefits of Easter celebration, introduced a custom of having three consecutive days of prayer, reflection and fasting to express the sorrow for death of our lord Jesus Christ.
Christians had high regard for the celebration of Easter. As a result, the celebration was prolonged and so they instituted the 7 weeks (50 days) of Easter until the feast of Pentecost.
150 years passed, and about 350 A.D., Christians realized that 3 days of preparation for such a great feast, were too little and consequently increased to 40 days and so lent came to be.
When we say 2 chicken, 3 tilapia, a glass of wine, a cup of tea, a plate of Githeri, we mean exactly that. The figures in the bible have symbolic meaning and as bible readers, we should be careful not to attach an exact value to them.
40 stand for a symbolic period of time which may be shorter or longer. The figure stands for a considerable period of preparation (of no specific length) for a great event. It would be naïve for anyone of us to take this figure literally. Figure 40 recalls several great biblical events as follows:
- The wandering of the Israelites in bondage for 40 years. This was God given time for the Israelites to prepare for the historical entry into the Promised Land not as slaves but as the chosen people of God.
- Christ’s 40 days stay in the wilderness. God gave his son 40 days to prepare for the public ministry. After this harsh experience in the wilderness, Jesus changed from a private man of Nazareth to a public proclaimer of the Kingdom of God.
- Noah and the survivors of the flood stay in the Ark for 40 days. God used this episode to prepare these survivors to bring forth a new and better humanity. It was enough time for God to purify humanity.
So 40 years, days, nights seem sufficient for us to accomplish something worthwhile in faith.
MAIN PILLARS OF LENT.
The three main pillars of Lenten season are Fasting, praying and almsgiving.
- FASTING. Fasting is not just giving up the candy of our childhood. It is not mere giving up of the food that is prescribed by an authority or the food we like most. In a world that tells us that we should indulge ourselves, fasting gives us an opinion. We must transcend the traditional teaching of the church on fasting and go beyond our human selfishness and ornery-ness that too is needed.
- PRAYER. Prayer is not something seasonal. Christ tells us to pray unceasingly. The season of lent is meant to turn us towards frequent prayers, a life of prayer, for ourselves and for others. It means using time in a more godly manner than we usually do.
- ALMSGIVING. All the prayers in the world and all the fasting imaginable are worthless unless they turn our hearts toward our neighbor. We must be sensitive to the needs of our neighbor.
All these three pillars practiced together will lead us back to Christ. Let us not make empty promises to God. Just start small, look for something good you can do, an extra way for fasting, for prayer and for almsgiving that you can work at faithfully day after day for 40 days. Please make sure you accomplish something worthwhile in these 40 days. God has given you 40 days just like he did to Moses, Noah, Ninevites, Israelites, Jesus. Make good use of this period of Grace through a metanoia, you change your family, community, and the world at large. It must start somewhere and today it is starting with you. Hahahahaaa……you have no excuse….you have 40 days and 40 nights….unataka nini ingine ndio uchange?
Prepared by: Rev.Fr. Bernard N. Kabiu
YOUTH CHAPLAIN AND HEAD OF LITURGY DEPARTMENT.