March 1st is the beginning of Lent, the Christian observance of the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. For many Christians Lent is a time for prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. It is based on supposed events in the life of Jesus Christ.
According to the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, during which he endured temptation by Satan. Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of this 40-day period of prayer and fasting. The number 40 in the Bible has a special meaning. Mentioned 146 times in Scripture, the number 40 generally symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation. During Moses’ life he lived forty years in Egypt and forty years in the desert before God selected him to lead his people out of slavery. Moses was also on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights, on two separate occasions (Exodus 24:18, 34:1 – 28), receiving God’s laws. He also sent spies, for forty days, to investigate the land God promised the Israelites as an inheritance (Numbers 13:25, 14:34).
The prophet Jonah powerfully warned ancient Nineveh, for forty days, that its destruction would come because of its many sins. The prophet Ezekiel laid on His right side for 40 days to symbolize Judah’s sins (Ezekiel 4:6). Elijah went 40 days without food or water at Mount Horeb. Jesus was tempted by the devil not just three times but A lot of times during the 40 days and nights he fasted just before his ministry began. He also appeared to his disciples for 40 days after his resurrection from the dead.
Modern-day Christians turn to fasting or giving up certain types of luxury during this time as if to please a stern father figure, while many Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches clear their pulpit of candles, flowers and other devotional offerings, and cover crucifixes and other religious icons in violet colours as if Jesus is about to die again.
According to tradition, the German word Lent originally meant, simply, the spring season. Since the Anglo-Saxon period, it has been used as the translation of the Latin term quadragesima, meaning the “fortieth day”. This in turn imitated the Greek name for Lent, tessarakoste (fortieth), and that word was chosen by analogy to Pentecost (pentekoste), meaning “fiftieth day.” Pentecost originally referred to a traditional Jewish festival, and later, came to refer to the Christian celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Easter. in Spanish it is “Cuaresma”.
The date of Ash Wednesday, (when Catholics put ashes on their foreheads) and thus the start of Lent, depends on the date of Easter, which varies from year to year. In the coming years, the Churches intend to fix the date of Easter so it will remain the same every year for most countries.
And Christian Science?
Mrs Eddy and her teachings make no mention of Lent, in fact she prohibited people from sending her Easter greetings and left instructions that no special services were to be held in our Churches as she felt it promoted a love of personality. it is important to note that she was talking about her own personality here as people would send her gifts as they appreciated her so much. Our Church Manual is very clear on this point.
Mrs Eddy mentions in Misc Writings page 184: “I love the Easter Service, it speaks to me of Life, not death” implying that Easter is not forbidden as in some puritan Churches but telling us that looking to any human personality will not satisfy our greater sense of good. Easter for us is a reminder of our daily studies, we don’t need a yearly event to remind us of the power of Science (Spirit) in our lives.
In our liturgical cycle the CS Bible Lesson subjects are not the same every year for Easter as Easter moves between February, March and April. However it is normal for the Lessons which cross Easter to focus on this special time by narrating Bible passages with their scriptural interpretation from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.
So Easter is not forbidden for us but it is a time to separate the man Jesus from his message the Christ. Daily we are to look to demonstrate the Christ in our lives whether at Lent or Easter or any other day. For those people who find it difficult to study Religion during the year then Lent may remain as one of the “suffer it be so now” cases (Matt.3:15) The beauty of Christian Science is that it meets us where we are at and is never “more than we can bear” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Christian Science is not tied up into yearly cycles of ritual, it teaches us about the here and now, which always “was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be” as the doxology declares. so while Lent is important to remind people about a material Jesus, it reminds the Christian Scientist about a very real spiritual force never absent from us, which we too can use to free ourselves, and be resurrected from any false sense of things.