Lent is a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial. In Lent, many Christians commit to fasting and abstention from the consumption of meat, as well as giving up certain luxuries in order to replicate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s journey into the desert for 40 days. You may love to read our article on “The Things one should give up on this Lent“.
For Catholics, fasting is the reduction of one’s intake of food, while abstinence refers to refraining from meat (or another type of food). The Catholic Church teaches that all people are obliged by God to perform some penance for their sins and that these acts of penance are both personal and corporeal. The purpose of fasting is the spiritual focus, self-discipline, imitation of Christ, and performing penance. Many Christians also add a Lenten spiritual discipline, such as reading a daily devotional or praying through a Lenten calendar, to draw themselves near to God. The Stations of the Cross, a devotional commemoration of Christ’s carrying the Cross and of his execution, are often observed.
“The 40 days of Lent” has always been more of a metaphor than a literal count. You have always learned that Lent commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent praying in the desert before his public ministry. If, however, you actually count the days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, you’ll realize there are actually 46 days! What? Yes, there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Because each Sunday of the year, however, is a grand celebration and commemoration of the Resurrection of Jesus, we don’t count them in the 40 days of penance. There are six Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. So, by subtraction, we are left with 40 days.