For some Christians, Lent has always been a part of their spiritual life, but for others it is unfamiliar. Lent is a season leading up to Easter, a time when Christians have historically prepared their hearts for Easter with reflection, repentance, and prayer. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and proceeds for forty days, excluding Sundays, and culminating with Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Since Sundays are weekly celebrations of the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays in Lent are not counted as part of the forty-day season, which focuses on introspection, self examination, and repentance. Many Christians choose to celebrate a fast throughout the season of Lent, but the focus is not on depriving themselves of something as much as it is on devoting themselves to God and his purposes in the world.
Lent is an important season of the church year. The church year is an excellent way to help focus our attention on God with the way we organize our time. Rather than following the solar calendar's more familiar structure, organized by the rhythms of nature, the church calendar is organized around God and his activity in the world. The church calendar follows six seasons of varying length: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. Each of these seasons have different focuses: Advent focuses on the anticipation of God's coming into the world, both in the incarnation and in Christ's return. Christmas focuses on the birth of Christ. Epiphany focuses on the light of God's presence shining in the world. Lent focuses on human sin and God's gracious solution. Easter focuses on resurrection life. Pentecost focuses on the ongoing activity of the Holy Spirit in the world. The annual rhythm of these seasons can have a powerful effect on personal and communal spiritual growth.