Lent is a solemn, reflective season, a preparation for the mysteries of Easter. It is closely associated with the transition from winter to spring. The word "lent" comes frm the Anglo-Saxon word for springtime. It describes the gradual lengthening of daylight after the winter solstice.
Ash Wednesday officially begins the season of Lent. Ashes from burned palms saved from the previous year are placed on the forehead of parishioners as a reminder of our humanity and an outward sign of repentance. Lent continues for 40 days reminding us of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public ministry. During this season Christians are called to renew themselves through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving (giving money, goods and/or services to those in need).
The Liturgical color for Lent is purple. Notice the stark, solemn differenes in the church's environment.
Fasting and Abstinence: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence; all Fridays in Lent are days of abstinence only. Abstinence (not eating meat) includes persons age 14 and older; fasting (only one full meal each day, noting between meals) includes persons between 18 and 59 years old. Many Christians voluntarily "give up" something important to them during the days of Lent - perhaps a hobby, food, etc. and use that time and money for prayer or charitable works.
Prayer: Spend time in prayer as an individual and/or as a family. Ideas include the Liturgy of the Hours, daily Mass, Lectio Divina, reading Scripture and attending Stations of the Cross.
Scripture references to Jesus praying:
Luke 3:21 - after Jesus was baptized
Mark 1:35 - in a lonely desert place
Luke 9:28-29 - at the Transfiguration
John 12:28 - in Jerusalem at Passover
Matthew 26:39, 42, 44 - in Gethsemane
Luke 23:34, 46 - on the cross
Almsgiving: Sacrificially giving service or money to those in need. Families can give clothing no longer worn to a charitable organization or needy family; can volunteer at a shelter; can give food to a food pantry; can donate money to their church or other charitable organization.