Lent is the period lasting forty days that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday, when Christians celebrate the re-birth of Christ. The precise time of Lent varies, because Easter depends on the lunar cycle, falling on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox. This year Lent began on Wednesday February 18th and Easter Sunday arrives on April 5th.
Lent is a time of atonement and self-sacrifice, when people remember all that Jesus gave up and endured in order to save humankind from eternal damnation. It mirrors the forty days that Christ spent in the desert, fasting and being tempted by Satan. On Good Friday, two days before Easter Sunday, the death of Christ on the Cross is commemorated, followed by the joyful festival of the Resurrection, on Easter Sunday.
This is also called ‘Pancake Day’. Traditionally pancakes are served, as a special meal. This is because during Lent rich food was usually forbidden, meaning that some stocks had to be used up, rather than let them go bad. Pancakes are a real luxury on a cold evening in late winter, and can be served sweet or savoury – or both!
This day gets its name from the ashes that are placed on the foreheads of worshippers, with the words ‘Thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return’. The ashes come from burning palms that were blessed on Palm Sunday, the previous year. Ash Wednesday was a day of complete fasting, but during the rest of Lent the custom of fasting varied. Usually only certain foods were forbidden, although monks and nuns were more strict.
These days people rarely fast during Lent, but even those who aren’t at all religious will often decide to give something up. Is this a waste of time? Are these folk punishing themselves needlessly? Or are there deeper meanings, that make ‘giving up’ a positive thing.
• Giving up something you enjoy, such as chocolate or alcohol, makes you appreciate it all the more. When you don’t take anything for granted, pleasures are all the more precious.
• There are countless people in the world who do not have enough to eat. By giving up for Lent you are showing solidarity with the suffering of others. On a spiritual level, a bond may be created.
• There are very sound health reasons to consider giving up foods that are over-rich and fattening, even if this is only for six weeks in the year.
• Making a sacrifice is good for you. It helps you get in touch with your higher self, the part of you that does not depend on material comforts. True sacrifice is a gift that you give yourself – the freedom from depending so much on earthly pleasures. This does not mean these pleasures are ‘wrong’ – it’s just helpful to have a reminder that there are other values that matter more.
• If you put aside the money that you would normally spend on treats you can use this for something more productive – or give it to charity.
Observing traditional festivals can increase your spirituality and help you learn more about yourself. However, you may well want more specific guidance. More detailed and exact advice is readily available to you. Monthly horoscopes are there for you. Get free horoscopes and psychic insight at The Circle. If you want to know more about yourself and your path in life, call one of our expert readers at The Circle without delay.
PUBLISHED: 2nd April 2015