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Lent, in Christian tradition
"is the period of the liturgical year leading up to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Conventionally, it is described as being forty days long, though different denominations calculate the forty days differently. The forty days represent the time that, according to the Bible, Jesus spent in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by Satan.

This practice was virtually universal in Christendom until the Protestant Reformation. Some Protestant churches do not observe Lent, but most, such as Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Episcopalians, do.

Lent was also traditionally the term used to describe the period leading up to Christmas before the term Advent was officially recognized.

Duration
Most followers of Western Catholicism observe Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday (midday) and concluding at the Ninth Hour of Holy Thursday (44 days in the Catholic Church) or on Holy Saturday (46 days).

"One notable exception is the Archdiocese of Milan which follows the Ambrosian Rite and observes Lent starting exactly 6 weeks before Easter. The six Sundays in Lent are not counted among the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter," a celebration of Jesus' victory over sin and death. When Lent is to continue until Holy Saturday, this leaves exactly forty days of fasting."

In those churches which follow the Byzantine tradition (e.g. Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics), the forty days of Lent are calculated differently: the fast begins on Clean Monday, Sundays are included in the count, and it ends on the Friday before Palm Sunday. The days of Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday and Holy Week are considered a distinct period of fasting. For more detailed information about the Eastern Christian practice of Lent, see the article Great Lent. Amongst Oriental Orthodox Christians, there are various local traditions regarding Lent. The Coptic, Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches observe a total of fifty-five days for Lent. Joyous Saturday and the week preceding it are counted separately from the forty day fast in accordance with the Apostolic Constitutions giving an extra eight days. The first seven days of the fast are considered by some to be an optional time of preparation. Others attribute these seven days to the fast of Holofernes who asked the Syrian Christians to fast for him after they requested his assistance to repel the invading pagan Persians.

Origin
"The Lenten semi-fast have originated for practical reasons: during the era of subsistence agriculture in the West as food stored away in the previous autumn was running out or had to be used before it went bad in store, and little or no new food-crop was expected soon (compare the period in Spring which British gardeners call the "hungry gap"). In its earliest Christian form Lent was an intense period of fasting and prayer for catechumens preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil."

Associated customs
There are traditionally forty days in Lent which are marked by fasting, both from foods and festivities, and by other acts of penance. The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigour during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbour). Today, some people give up a vice of theirs, add something that will bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations."

In many liturgical Christian denominations, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday form the Easter Triduum. Lent is a season of grief that necessarily ends with a great celebration of Easter. It is known in Eastern Orthodox circles as the season of "Bright Sadness." It is a season of sorrowful reflection which is punctuated by breaks in the fast on Sundays."

In the Roman Catholic Mass, Lutheran Divine Service, and Anglican Eucharist, the Gloria in Excelsis Deo is not sung during the Lenten season, disappearing on Ash Wednesday and not returning until the moment of the Resurrection during the Easter Vigil. On major feast days, the Gloria in Excelsis Deo is recited, but this in no way diminishes the penitential character of the season; it simply reflects the joyful character of the Mass of the day in question. It is also used in the Mass of the Lord's Supper. Likewise, the Alleluia is not sung during Lent; it is replaced before the Gospel reading by a seasonal acclamation. In the pre-1970 form of the Roman Rite omission of the Alleluia begins with Septuagesima. During the lenten season, some Catholic Churches remove the holy water at the entrances of their churches. Instead of water, stones are place in. This practice (removing the holy water) has been forbidden by the Vatican though."

The last two weeks of Lent are known as Passiontide. It begins on the Fifth Sunday in Lent, which in the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal is called the First Sunday in Passiontide and in earlier editions Passion Sunday. All statues (and in England paintings as well) in the church were traditionally veiled in violet, and according to the rubrics should continue to be so. This was seen to be in accordance with the Gospel of that Sunday (John 8:46-59), in which Jesus “hid himself” from the people. The veils were removed at the singing of the Gloria during the Easter Vigil. Following Vatican II, and in the Reformed Kalendar of 1970, the name Passiontide was formally dropped, although the last two weeks are markedly different from the rest of the season. The tradition of veiling images is left to the decision of a country's conference of bishops."

In the Byzantine Rite, the Gloria (Great Doxology) continues to be used in its normal place in the Matins service, and the Alleluia appears all the more frequently, replacing "God is the Lord" at Matins."
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Research Also:
Asceticism  /  Ash Wednesday  /  Carnival  /  Clean Monday  /  Cold Food Festival  /  Easter  / 
Eastern Orthodox Church: Fasting  /  Good Friday  /  Maundy Thursday  /  People's Sunday  /  Quinquagesima
Ramadan  /  Shrove Tuesday  /  Tisha B'Av  /  Vassa

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