Lent is upon us once again. The word "Lent" itself is from the old English word which means spring. The German word "Lenz" also means "spring." From what I could find out its basic meaning means to lengthen and refers to the lengthening of the days in the spring time. Since a part of the pre-Easter season always falls in spring, it is only natural that through the ages this season from Ash Wednesday to Easter should come to be called Lent.
The early Christians remembered Lent with special devotions which were held during the forty hours during which our Savior lay in the tomb. The period of commemoration was later extended to two weeks, and eventually, in recognition of the forty days of our Lord's temptation, to forty days. Since Sundays were never fast days, these days were during Lent but not considered part of Lent. As a result Lent runs from Ash Wednesday up to Easter Sunday.
For many, including Lutherans, Lent is a time of commemoration. The Scripture lessons each Wednesday evening retell the journey that our Lord took to the cross. It begins with his meeting with his disciples to celebrate the Passover on Maundy Thursday, the night he instituted the Lord's Supper. It ends with his dead body being placed in the grave to await the resurrection on Easter morning.
Lent is also a special time of spiritual contemplation. Our focus is on the passion or suffering of our Lord but then also extends to the cause for that suffering. That cause, of course, is our sinfulness. Christ came into the world to carry the burden of our sins on himself. Even though he was holy, without sin, he took on our sins and suffered their consequence. The wrath of the Father was directed toward him. He endured the pain and torment of hell and died in our place.
When we see the dire results of our sins, we cannot help but grieve. It is our sins and those of the world that brought this pain and suffering on our Lord. Lent is a time when we focus our need to repent of our sins and look to Jesus as our only hope and salvation.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of this observance. In the Medieval church it was customary for penitents to come to church on this day in sack cloth and bare feet. After finishing their prayers, they threw ashes on their heads - ashes, made from palms blessed the previous Palm Sunday.
The Lenten season ends with the glorious message of Easter morning, "He is risen!" It assures us that his work was done and was complete. The payment for sin had been made. The wrath of God appeased. The power of sin, death, the devil and the grave were all broken. What a glorious day and what a glorious promise Jesus gives us - "Because I live, ye shall live also!.
So, while Lent is a season of repentance and sorrow over sin, it is also a time when we look ahead to the joy of Easter day. May the Lord bless your meditation this Lenten season!