The season of Lent is an important one for many Protestant denominations, including Presbyterians. It is a solemn period in the liturgical calendar when worshipers pray, fast and reflect on their sins and the suffering of Jesus Christ. Presbyterians use this time to focus specifically on their baptism into the faith and what it means to them. Each congregation may observe the season in its own unique way, following the traditional church calendar.
The Lenten Season
Lent begins with the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday. Each worshiper is invited to come to the front of the church to receive the sign of the cross on his or her forehead. The minister may say, "You are dust and to dust you shall return," or something similar. The season lasts for 40 days -- the amount of time that Noah spent on his ark, Moses spent on Mount Sinai and Jesus spent wandering in the wilderness -- and it ends on Easter Sunday.
Maundy Thursday and Good Friday
Maundy Thursday and Good Friday commemorate the last supper and the crucifixion, respectively. Services are solemn, and appropriate passages from the Gospel are read to the congregation. Tenebrae also may be practiced during this time. Candles are extinguished after each reading to symbolize the darkness in Christ's tomb, but one candle is lit at the end to remind worshipers that there is hope and that Easter is coming.
Although it is not a requirement of the Presbyterian Church, ministers often encourage their congregation to make some sort of personal sacrifice during the season of Lent. This may be giving up a vice or small pleasure. On its website, the Presbyterian Mission Agency writes: "Some disciples may find a more valuable spiritual exercise in taking something on during Lent — a more Christ-like attitude toward others, a humble spirit at work, or a feeling of gratitude in the midst of scarcity."
The season that begins with Ash Wednesday ends with Easter. A baptismal font is often placed at the front of the church to remind the congregation of their birth in Christ. All fasts come to an end. Joyous songs are sung and praise is given for the resurrected son of God.
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