The Original Meaning of Lent in English

Explore the historical origins, true meaning, and significance of Lent in the Christian faith. Discover its symbolism and contemporary relevance in today’s world.


In the Christian calendar, Lent represents 40 days dedicated to fasting, prayer, and penance, before the celebration of Easter. The term ‘Lent’ originates from the Old English word ‘lencten’ which refers to ‘spring season’. This article aims to explore the true meaning of lent and its significance.

The Origins and Historical Significance of Lent

The practice of Lent dates back to the early Christian church, although its form and duration have evolved over the centuries. Initially, the duration of fasting varied, but by the 4th century, it was set at 40 days in imitation of Christ’s period of fasting in the wilderness. This period also aligns with other significant biblical events that lasted 40 days or years, such as Moses’ time on Mount Sinai and the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land.

The Purpose of Lent

Lent serves as a time of penance, reflection, and preparation for Easter—the most important celebration in Christianity. The 40-day fast is seen as a spiritual journey that introduces believers to the life, sacrifice, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. During Lent, Christians worldwide engage in activities such as:

  • Fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence.
  • Praying and meditating on the life, words, and works of Christ.
  • Engaging in charitable works and almsgiving.

The Symbolism of Lent

The most visible symbol of Lent is perhaps the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday—the first day of Lent. The ashes symbolize mortality and repentance, helping believers to reflect on their lives and growth in faith.

The Relevance of Lent Today

Even today, in an age of rapid technological changes and busyness, Lent offers an opportunity for believers to re-center their lives around their faith. It remains a relevant period of spiritual introspection and transformation.


In summing up, Lent is much more than a period of fasting or abstaining from certain foods. It is a season of similar importance as Advent – it serves as a preparation for the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It provides an opportunity for believers to reflect on their actions, repent, and grow closer to God, aligning their lives with the teachings of Christ.

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