The tradition of Lent can be traced back to the 2nd century. During this season, new Christians would prepare for baptism through fasting and study. By the year 325 AD, the time of preparation had been extended to 40 days and entire congregations practiced Lenten disciplines as a sign of Christian discipleship. Church consensus determined that the Lenten period of renewal should correspond to Christ’s forty-day fast. These Christians counted forty days back from Easter (excluding Sundays), to determine the time frame of the Lenten journey.
There is a “bright sadness” to the Lenten journey - a distinct awareness, begun with ashes, that we are frail. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with an honest look at ourselves and the world. We are called to embrace humility and repentance instead of hubris and pride. Ashes remind us of our mortality and need of forgiveness.
We are on a journey toward Easter. What begins with ashes ends with resurrection.