The Mass Explained website has added some fun facts about Lent that I would love to share:
1. Who or what is a Lent?
Derived from the word lencten, which is Anglo-Saxon for springtime, Lent is the 40-day season of preparation prior to Easter which begins on Ash Wednesday.
2. Why is it 40 days?
Next to the number seven, the number forty occurs most frequently in the Bible. It represents a period of testing or judgment. Lent’s duration of 40 days reflects other times of trial, testing and hardship found in the Scriptures:
- The story of Noah tells of rain falling on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights.
- Both Moses and Elijah fasted for 40 days before beginning their missions.
- The Hebrews wandered for 40 years in the desert after leaving Egypt.
- It took the spies 40 days to search out the promised land and bring back fruit.
- Goliath taunted the Israelite army in the morning and evening for 40 days.
- Jonah warned the Ninevites they had 40 days until God would overthrow the city.
- Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days before beginning his ministry.
3. Fasting vs Abstinence
Also of biblical origins are the Lenten customs of fasting and abstinence. Although often used interchangeably, fasting refers to the amount of food consumed, while abstinence describes the type of food denied such as meat on Fridays.
4. My parish prays the Stations of the Cross during Lent. How did this custom originate?
The Stations of the Cross originated during the crusades when it was popular to visit Jerusalem to follow the steps to Calvary. After the Holy Land was captured, pilgrimages became a very dangerous affair. A desire arose to reproduce these holy places in other lands as a
substitute pilgrimage. The Stations help the participant make a spiritual pilgrimage to the major scenes of Christ’s sufferings and death. Prayers are said until the entire route is complete, enabling the faithful to more literally take up their cross and follow Jesus.
5. Why is there no Gloria or Alleluia sung at Mass?
The Church teaches by absence as well as by presence, and Lent is a time of great loss. Eating is diminished and some foods forbidden—a fast of the body. Music is scaled back, bells are silenced and the Gloria and Alleluia are dropped from the liturgy—a fast of hearing.