All the festivities of Carnival and Mardi Gras leading up to Ash Wednesday this week kicked off one of the most important periods of the Christian calendar – Lent.
“It’s a time of penitence and self-examination,” the Rev. John Knutson of Christ the King Lutheran Church said. “The liturgy changes. It tends to be more somber during this time. There are no hallelujahs or hymns of praise. We wait until Easter for those.”
Lent is the 47-day period leading to Easter.
“I tell people it represents the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted before beginning his public ministry,” said the Rev. Jeff Huber, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church of Durango. “We don’t count the Sundays, which are days of rest.”
The Christian calendar corresponds to nature’s seasonal cycles.
The word “Lent” comes from the Latin word for lengthening and means a lengthening of days, Knutson said. “It’s a time when the world’s awakening, spring beginning, when we hope and pray for our souls.”
A common practice during Lent is for believers to make a sacrifice, to give up something important in their lives, whether it’s a food such as meat or chocolate or a favorite activity.
“It’s not about giving up TV and watching movies instead,” Huber said, laughing. “It’s about stepping away from bad habits and replacing them with something good – reading the Bible, loving your neighbor, making food for someone in need.”
During Lent, Huber is offering a sermon series called “Final Week,” focusing each Sunday on one day of Jesus’ last week. He will also offer devotional and weekly meditations in the bulletin.
“Last year we did ‘24,’” like the television show, about the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life,” he said.
Several churches in town have banded together to observe Lent. They alternate Wednesday evening services with soup suppers afterward, a tradition that began several years ago.
“The ecumenical services are just a wonderful gift in this community,” Knutson said. “Worshipping together and eating together bring Christians together.”