The Lenten season is a solemn period for Christians, especially those belonging to the Orthodox denominations, during which they commemorate the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, before beginning his ministry.
An important event that kicks off the season is Ash Wednesday which was widely observed by many Orthodox Christians on the penultimate Wednesday in preparation for Christianity’s most solemn Easter, which symbolizes the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death. passion and his crucifixion.
Placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful on Ash Wednesday is a symbol of repentance, reminding them of man’s sin before God and his mortality. The priest who imposes ashes says: “Remember, man is dust, and you will return to dust.”
Lent is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Eastern Orthodox, Reformed (including Presbyterian and Congregational), United Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. Some Anabaptist, Baptist and non-denominational Christian churches also observe Lent.
It is also a period of mourning which necessarily ends with a great Easter celebration. The purpose of Lent is the believer’s preparation for Easter through prayer, mortification of the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, simple living, and self-denial. During Lent, many Christians commit themselves to fasting, as well as renouncing certain luxuries in imitation of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ during his journey through the desert for 40 days; this is called the sacrifice of Lent.
Many Christians also add Lenten spiritual discipline such as reading a daily devotional or praying through a Lenten calendar, to draw closer to God. The Stations of the Cross is often observed, a devotional commemoration of Christ carrying the cross and the crucifixion. Many churches remove flowers from their altars and veil crucifixes, religious statues that show the triumphant Christ, and other elaborate religious symbols in purple cloths in solemn respect for the event.
In most denominations, the last week of Lent coincides with Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday. According to the New Testament account, the crucifixion of Jesus is commemorated on Good Friday, and at the beginning of the following week the joyous celebration of Easter Sunday, the beginning of the Easter season, which recalls the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In some Christian denominations, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday form the Easter triduum.
Speaking on the importance of the Lenten period, the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Oyo, Msgr. Emmanuel Badejo, noted that “Lent speaks of the relationship between Jesus Christ and Christians, which should really be the one of friendship and genuine love. According to this logic, those who do not celebrate Lent in prayer, almsgiving, self-denial and fasting surely have a very different understanding of Jesus and their relationship to him. They will themselves give an account of their faith or lack of faith on the day of judgment.
“Christians simply cannot take only the pleasurable things in Christianity like pleasure and prosperity and leave out the saving part of suffering, fasting and prayer. To do so is to empty Christianity of its true power and identity. One might ask, “If we only celebrate the glory and victory of Christ, how can we participate in his mission and salvation?” Our world is not yet perfect, so friends of Jesus must constantly improve and participate in his mission to make the world a better place to convert sinners and save souls,” he added.
Badejo also emphasized that Lent is a time of renewal, retreat and spiritual rehabilitation that everyone needs. Such a period is always useful at the beginning of the new year. Permanent pleasure and amusement corrode the soul and the spirit.
He added that this is a time of reconciliation because “wherever we live and relate to others, we are bound to offend or hurt each other. This is the reason for the message of the prophet Isaiah: “Come, let us speak together. Even though your sins are as scarlet, they will become white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:18).
“Nigeria needs it so much today to reduce the wickedness, injustice, anger, strife and bloodshed in our country. We need to take better care of the poor and needy. We need to repent and change our ways for the better and thus be prepared for our salvation. This is the purpose of the Lenten period,” he said.
The Catholic Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Onitsha in Nigeria have also called on Christians across the country to pray the Holy Rosary “daily and faithfully” throughout the season of Lent imploring peace in the southeastern part of the country. .
In a statement signed by the Local Ordinaries of the Archdiocese of Onitsha and the Dioceses of Ekwulobia, Enugu, Awka, Abakaliki, Awgu, Nnewi and Nsukka, they lamented that South Eastern Nigeria, which is covered by their ecclesiastical seat, “has become a theater of the impious and the wanton destruction of life and property.
“We call on all as individuals, families, associations, parishes to recite their Rosary daily and faithfully in this period of Lent so that this cloud of bloodshed which hangs over our region crumbles like the walls of Jericho” , the Catholic bishops said.
They express their fear of the “forces of darkness and death” which seem to have cast their shadow over the southeastern part of the country and which could lead to the loss of faith in God and hope in man. We also urge people to pray for peace and security in the West African country throughout the Lenten period,” the statement said.