For nearly a billion Christians, the weeks leading up to Easter are a time of fasting, solemn contemplation, and the giving up of certain luxuries and foods.
Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season on the liturgical calendar that represents a 40-day period, plus Sundays that are not counted.
There are many traditions and customs associated with Lent. Some, like Ash Wednesday’s ash cross on the forehead and Catholics not eating meat on Fridays, are fairly well known.
Here are seven interesting facts about Lent. They include a ban on alleluia songs, a half-time celebration, and why many Protestants do not observe the season.
1. The Meaning of Ashes
Ash Wednesday worship involves church services where ashes are placed in the shape of a cross on the foreheads of worshipers. The practice is meant to stress mortality and penance.
The usage of ashes for these purposes has a long history in Judeo-Christian circles, as seen in the Old Testament when various figures would wear sackcloth and put ashes on their heads as a solemn call to repentance.
“This act symbolizes our mortality as well as our need for ongoing repentance. It is a reminder that this life is short and merely a foreshadowing of what we shall become through the redemption of Jesus Christ on the cross,” explains catholic.org.
“The work of our redemption will not be complete until we are raised from the dead, in resurrected bodies like His own and called to the eternal communion of heaven.
2. Why People Give up Stuff for Lent
A common way Christians observe Lent is to give up something they like during the season. Popular options include soda, candy, television, drinking, or smoking.
According to a 2011 entry on the website “What’s in the Bible?” this practice has a scriptural basis in Luke 9:23, which reads “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
“So, essentially it’s about self denial, carrying our cross and following Jesus. It is something that’s done in a prayerful way, so that we can wholly renew ourselves in Christ,” explains What’s in the Bible.
3. ‘Alleluia’ Is Not Allowed During Len
It is customary for churches observing Lent to refrain from having songs featuring the Hebrew phrase “Alleluia,” translated as “Praise the Lord,” during Lent.
According to an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America paper on worship, the custom of avoiding the usage of the word either in song or in statements goes back to the fifth century.
“Because of the penitential character of the season of Lent in the Western church, singing or saying the word ‘alleluia’ has historically been suspended during Lent’s forty days,” notes the ELCA.
“This period of individual and congregational reflection on the quality of our baptismal faith and life suggests that the joyful nature of alleluia is more appropriately reserved for our Easter celebrations when it is given full and jubilant voice.”
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Christian Post