Lent, a time of spiritual growth for Christians

Published 10:15 am Friday, February 13, 2015

With Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday fast approaching, some are preparing for the church season of lent.

This year, Lent runs from Feb. 18 (Ash Wednesday) to April 2 and serves to prepare Christians for the crucifixion on Good Friday and the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Anne Matthews, Church of the Redeemer rector, explained the period is a time for self-reflection and to grow closer to God.

Lent mirrors Jesus’s 40 days of temptation in the wilderness.

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“It helps us relate better to him,” she said. “There’s no kind of testing we undergo that he can’t relate to.”

One of the most well known traditions of Lent is that of giving up something. Matthews said it should be something that might be a distraction from God. It gives participants more opportunity to focus on their relationship with God.

“It’s not giving things up for the sake of giving things up. It’s for spiritual reasons,” she said.

Matthews did add that Sundays are not part of Lent. So whatever is given up may be picked up temporarily on Sundays.

Matthews said Lent’s not always about giving things up though. She said when she was young, her mother made her add onto her spiritual routine. Matthews had to memorize things like the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostle’s creed.

“We focused on adding spiritual discipline,” she said.

Matthews said everyone has their own traditions, but the purpose is to grow stronger in faith.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, comes from the tradition of a pancake day. It was a time to use up all the yeast in the house. Lent traditionally was supposed to be a time of simpler foods leading to Easter. Matthews said this connects to the Jewish Passover, the celebration of Israel’s escape from Egypt.

For Matthews, the period of Lent serves as a time for the Church of the Redeemer to grow together.

“It’s the one time we engage in a bible study as a whole church,” she said.

Each Wednesday during Lent, the church holds a service, followed by a meal. The evening is then concluded with a bible study.

“It’s a time of prayers and learning,” she said.