The 40 days of Lent
Lent is a truly unique time of year. Just as we carefully prepare for events in our personal lives, like a wedding, or birthday; or a commencement, Lent prepares our hearts for remembering Jesus’ life, death and his bodily resurrection. This preparation is traditionally made through fasting, abstinence or giving something up – although for 40activists it is also a time to give generously! Whether you’re a Christian or not, the idea of giving something up for Lent is something with which the majority of people in the UK are familiar. You don’t have to be Christian to take part in the 40 days of Lent; indeed, many Christian denominations and church groups differ in their observance or recognition of the festival in the lead up to Easter. But for those who do practice Lent as part of their faith, the principles of fasting, giving up and giving out make this time of year take on a whole new significance and meaning for Christians around the world.. Whatever your background, we invite you to join us as we do Lent generously together this year.
Does Lent Include Sundays?
One of the most common questions people ask about this time of year is “does Lent include Sundays?” The simple answer to this question is ‘no’. Lent is observed over a period of six weeks and four days (46 days in total) leading up to Easter Sunday, though the Lent fast itself only lasts for 40 days as Sundays are not included. Traditionally, many Christians will fast during this time, in remembrance of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness of the desert, being taunted and tempted by Satan, after being baptised by John the Baptist. According to the traditions of the early church, who moved their traditional Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) to a Sunday in remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus, there was to be no fasting or penitence made on that day. So the Sundays during this six week period are not included in the 40 day fast, as they do not focus on Christ’s trials, suffering or death; rather they focus on what happened next – his resurrection that we celebrate at Easter. Sundays during Lent are therefore quite distinct from the traditionally sombre Lent, observed as feast days in some branches of the church. You may already know some of these Sundays – the fourth Sunday during Lent is Mothering Sunday (not to be confused with Mother’s Day, celebrated in the United States), and the sixth Sunday is Palm Sunday, where we remember Jesus riding into Jerusalem to a jubilant reception from the Jewish people, just days before his betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection.
When Does Lent Start this Year?
Lent starts in 2017 on March 1st 2017.
The start of Lent is determined by the date of Easter, which is based on the liturgical calendar and changes each year. So Lent always starts 46 days before Easter Sunday, and moves according to that date – which can be as much as 35 days difference from one year to the next. While there have been calls for the Church to adopt a fixed date in the Western Calendar for Easter (in fact, in 1928 an act of Parliament was passed that allowed for Easter Sunday to be fixed on the Sunday that follows the second Saturday of April, though it has never been enacted). Archbishop Justin Welby confirmed that he is working with other senior church figures, including Pope Francis, to fix the date of Easter, and therefore Lent, before he retires. The date that Lent starts are as follows. We’ve added the dates for the next few years too so that you can see how the date Lent starts changes year on year.
First day of Lent 2017: March 1st 2017
First day of Lent 2018: February 14th 2018
First day of Lent 2019: March 6th 2019
First day of Lent 2020: February 26th 2020