Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Lent from Philip's Encyclopedia

Period in the Christian year that precedes Easter. In the Western Churches it begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts 40 days (excluding Sundays); in the Eastern Church it lasts 80 days (excluding Saturdays and Sundays). Lent is a time of fasting, abstinence and penitence in preparation for the remembrance of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.


Summary Article: Lent
From The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

The liturgical season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Saturday (or in the Roman Catholic church, on Maundy Thursday). Lent, meaning “spring” or the “season of lengthening days,” is the period of 40 days when Christians pray, fast, and prepare to commemorate the Passion of the Christ. The 40 days are symbolic of the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. Each of the six Sundays in Lent is considered a feast day and is not included in the season. Because of the penitential nature of the season, alleluias are not allowed in the liturgy during Lent. Christians are called to a Holy Lent each year and many choose to fast or to give up another regular activity in order to substitute these with prayer and reflection. In many denominations, Lent is a time of preparation for new converts to receive the sacrament of Baptism on the Eve prior to Easter.

The Lenten season culminates with Holy Week observances in the Christian church. This week begins with Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm/Passion Sunday and continues on Monday with the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple. On Tuesday, Jesus' debates with the religious leaders, Christ on the Mount of Olives, and the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. No events are recorded in the scriptures for Wednesday; however, many scholars speculate that Jesus was at Bethany this day.

On Thursday, Christians commemorate The Last Supper, The Upper Room, Jesus on the way to Gethsemane, and the events in the Garden of Gethsemane. On Good Friday, Christians remember the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, Jesus before Annas, Jesus before Caiaphas, Jesus before the Sanhedrin, Jesus before Pilate, Jesus before Herod, Jesus before Pilate, the crucifixion of Christ, the sayings from the cross, and the burial of Jesus.

SEE ALSO: Good Friday; Holy Week

References and Suggested Readings
  • Hickman, H. L. et al. (1992). The new handbook of the Christian year. Abingdon Press Nashville, TN.
  • Stookey, L. H. (1996). Calendar: Christ's time for the church. Abingdon Press Nashville, TN.
  • Talley, T. J. (1991). The origins of the liturgical year. Liturgical Press Collegeville, MN.
  • R. Kevin Johnson
    Wiley ©2012

    Related Articles


    Full text Article Lent
    Philip's Encyclopedia

    Period in the Christian year that precedes Easter . In the Western Churches it begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts 40 days (excluding Sundays);...

    Full text Article Christian Food Restrictions
    The SAGE Encyclopedia of Food Issues

    Restrictions on the type or quantity of food eaten, and the time or place of eating, are accepted to different degrees in different Christian denomi

    Full text Article Good Friday
    The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

    The importance of Good Friday for Christianity is summed up with exacting brevity in the second article of the Apostles' Creed: Jesus Christ “suffer

    See more from Credo