The Catholic and Lutheran churches hold similar views on Lent.
The Catholic and Lutheran churches hold similar views on Lent.

The Lutheran Church broke off from the Catholic Church in the 16th Century, preaching the primacy of the Bible and salvation by faith alone. The Lutheran and Catholic churches remain close in doctrine, however, and Lent is in the liturgy of both churches. The main difference between the churches is Lent's authority -- for Catholics it is Sacred Tradition, while for Lutherans it is a voluntary, non-Scriptural activity.

The Season of Lent

In both churches, Lent is the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter, the holiest day of the year that marks the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The period is marked by solemnity and contemplation, and it is common for Christians to fast and sacrifice certain things during this time. The word alleluia, which is a joyful exclamation, is taken out of the liturgy of both churches during this period. Lent is often preceded by a celebration on Fat Tuesday, which is the last day of festivals such as Mardi Gras and Carnival in Brazil.

Lent in the Catechism

The Catholic Catechism, which is an official summary of Catholic beliefs, compares the 40 days of Lent to the 40 days in which Jesus was tested in the desert. The Catechism views Lent as an opportunity for believers to work on their spiritual lives. Lent is particularly appropriate for engaging in spiritual exercises, penitence, pilgrimages, fasting, alms giving, charity and missionary work. The Catholic Church continues to emphasize Friday, in particular, as a time for fasting and self-denial.

Lent in the Book of Concord

The Book of Concord contains the Lutheran Confessions, which are the doctrinal statements of the Lutheran Church. The word "Lent" is only mentioned one time in the Book of Concord -- in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XV part 42 -- and it emphasizes giving sermons year-round instead of just during Lent. The Book of Concord is characterized by Lutheran arguments about Catholics; the absence of Lent in its pages shows how little animosity there is between the two churches when it comes to Lent.

Major Differences

For Catholics, Lent is an obligatory Sacred Tradition. For Lutherans, who do not hold anything holy outside of Scripture, it is considered a positive but not sacred tradition. Theologian Martin Luther wanted to keep Lent because it reminded Christians of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Aside from Lent's authority, most differences between the two churches are cultural. Catholics often refrain from eating meat on Friday during Lent, but this is not common among Lutherans. Lutherans are also less likely to recite the Stations of the Cross, which is a ritual that re-enacts Jesus' crucifixion.