Lent lasts for 40 days, and this reminds us of the 40 days that the Gospels tell us of Jesus fasting in the wild.
If you count the days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday you will find their are 46 days. This is because the Sundays are not counted as being truly part of Lent as every Sunday as a celebration of the resurrection so not in the strict sense a fast day.
Historically in the Church it was a time when you could give something up, and the time on money you saved could be put to some worthwhile purpose, such as the support of the Churches missionary endeavours. It is also a good time to take things up, to do a spiritual stocktake, and to renew our commitment to living a more Christ-like life.
The colour of the season is purple, and it is customary that there is an absence of flowers and restraint in decoration in Church in the period.
Normally we do not use the Gloria during the Liturgy in Lent either.
It is interesting to note that we tend to appreciate these things a little more when we return from lent to celebrate the resurrection.
The final week of Lent is called Holy Week, and this starts with Palm Sunday (where we remember the triumphant entry to Jerusalem – liturgical colour is Red) and we will normally read one of the synoptic accounts of the crucifixion. The Friday of Holy Week is Good Friday which is the solemn day we focus specifically on the crucifixion of Jesus. The day after Good Friday, properly called Holy Saturday, has been described as the day that the Church holds its breath, waiting to celebrate the Resurrection on Easter day.
The word “Lent” comes from the old English, “lencten,” which means “spring.” In Middle English is derived the words, lenten, lente, lent; related to the Dutch, lente, the German, Lenz, also rendered “spring.” In Old German are found the related words: lenzin, lengizin, and lenzo, which probably comes from the same root as “long” and referring to “the lengthening days,” as the earth moves from the winter solstice toward the spring equinox.