There are several holy days within the season of Lent:

  • Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in Western Christianity.
  • Clean Monday (or "Ash Monday") is the first day in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
  • The fourth Lenten Sunday, which marks the halfway point between Ash Wednesday and Easter, is sometimes referred to as Laetare Sunday, particularly by Roman Catholics.
  • The fifth Lenten Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday (however, that term is also applied to Palm Sunday) marks the beginning of Passiontide.
  • The sixth Lenten Sunday, commonly called Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent immediately preceding Easter.
  • Wednesday of Holy Week is known as Spy Wednesday to commemorate the days on which Judas Iscariot spied on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane before betraying him.
  • Thursday is known as Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, and is a day Christians commemorate the Last Supper shared by Christ with his disciples.
  • Good Friday follows the next day, on which Christians remember His crucifixion and burial.

In the Roman Catholic Church, no Mass is celebrated after Holy Thursday until the Easter Vigil. Services held are purely commemorative in nature and do not include communion.

Holy Week and the season of Lent, depending on denomination and local custom, end with Easter Vigil at sundown on Holy Saturday or on the morning of Easter Sunday. In many liturgical Christian denominations, Maundy Thursday (also called "Holy Thursday," especially by Roman Catholics), Good Friday, and Holy Saturday form the Easter Triduum.

In the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions, the altar linens and priest's vestments are violet during the season of Lent. However, during the holy days the linens often change.

There are some Christian denominations that do not practice Lent and see it as an obscure tradition practiced without Biblical merit.7

Great Lent

In Eastern Christianity, Great Lent is the most important fasting period in the church year which prepares Christians for "Holy Pascha" (Easter). Although it is in many ways similar to Lent in Western Christianity, there are important differences in the timing of Lent (besides calculating the date of Easter), the underlying theology, and how it is practiced, both liturgically in the church and personally.

Before Great Lent itself, there is a five-week Pre-Lent season, to prepare for Lent. A special service book called the Lenten Triodion begins to supplement or replace the regular services. This book is used until the lights are extinguished at the Paschal vigil. (Ash Wednesday is not observed in Eastern Christianity) On three successive Sundays, Zacchaeus, the Publican and Pharisee, and the Prodigal Son are commemorated. Next comes Meatfare Sunday (its proper name in the typikon is Sunday of the Last Judgment), the last day to eat meat before Pascha. It is followed by Cheesefare Sunday (its proper name is Sunday of Forgiveness), the last day to eat dairy products before Pascha; on this Sunday, Eastern Christians identify with Adam and Eve, and forgive each other in order to obtain forgiveness from God, typically in a Forgiveness Vespers service that Sunday evening. It is during Forgiveness Vespers that the decor of the church is changed to reflect a penitential mood.

Observance of Great Lent is characterized by abstention from many foods, intensified private and public prayer, personal improvement and almsgiving. The foods traditionally abstained from are meat and dairy products, fish, wine and oil. (According to some traditions, only olive oil is abstained from; in others, all vegetable oils.) Since strict fasting is canonically forbidden on the Sabbath and the Lord's Day, wine and oil are permitted on Saturdays and Sundays. If the Feast of the Annunciation falls during Great Lent, then fish, wine and oil are permitted on that day.

Besides the additional liturgical celebrations, Orthodox Christians are expected to pay closer attention to their private prayers and to say more of them more often. The Fathers have referred to fasting without prayer as "the fast of the demons" since the demons do not eat according to their incorporeal nature, but neither do they pray.

Each of the five Sundays of Great Lent has its own special commemoration. The first Sunday is the Feast of Orthodoxy, which commemorates the restoration of the veneration of icons after the Iconoclast controversy. The second Sunday is kept in memory of Gregory Palamas. The Veneration of the Cross is celebrated on the third Sunday. John Climacus is remembered on the fourth Sunday, and Mary of Egypt on the fifth Sunday.

During the weekdays of Great Lent, there is a liturgical fast when the eucharistic Divine Liturgy is not celebrated. However, since it is considered especially important to receive the Holy Mysteries during this season the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, also called the Liturgy of St. Gregory the Dialogist, may be celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays. At this vesperal service some of the Body and Blood of Christ reserved the

One book commonly read during Great Lent, particularly by monastics, is The Ladder of Divine Ascent, which was written in the seventh century by St. John of the Ladder at St. Catherine's monastery on Mt. Sinai.

Like Western Lent, Great Lent itself lasts for forty days, but unlike the West, Sundays are included in the count. It officially begins on Monday seven weeks before Easter and concludes on the eve of Lazarus Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday. However, fasting continues for the following week, known as Passion Week or Holy Week, up until Pascha or Easter Sunday.


Both Lent and Great Lent are times when the Christian participates fully in preparing himself to praise and glorify his God as Lord and Savior. This period of forty days is like a "workshop" where the character of the faithful is spiritually uplifted and strengthened; where its life is rededicated to the principles and ideals of the Gospel; where the faith culminates in deep conviction of life; where apathy and disinterest turn into vigorous activities of faith and good works. Lent is not for the sake of Lent itself, as fasting is not for the sake of fasting. They are means by which and for which the individual believer prepares himself to reach for, accept and attain the calling of his Savior. Therefore, the significance of Lent is highly appraised, not only by the monks who gradually increased the length of time of the Lent, but also by the lay people themselves, although they do not observe the full length of time. As such, Great Lent is the sacred Institute of the Church to serve the individual believer in participating as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, and, from time to time, to improve the standards of faith and morals in his Christian life. The deep intent of the believer during the Great Lent is "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus," (Philippians 3:13-14).


  1. ↑ The Anglican Catholic Church: The Liturgical Year-Lent Retrieved May 4, 2008.
  2. ↑ Spirit Home: Lent-disciplines and practices Retrieved May 4, 2008.
  3. ↑ Lent & Beyond: Dr. Peter Toon-From Septuagesima to Quadragesima Retrieved May 4, 2008.
  4. ↑ F. M. L. Thompson, The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750-1950 (Cambridge University Press, 1993), 251.
  5. Summa Theologica Q147a8 Retrieved May 4, 2008.
  6. ↑ Sacred Destitations Travel Guide: Cathédrale Notre-Dame (Rouen Cathedral), Rouen Retrieved May 4, 2008.
  7. ↑ The Restored Church of God: The True Meaning of Lent Retrieved May 4, 2008.


  • Martz, Kathy, John O. Eby, and David H. Covington. Roll Back the Stone: Celebrating the Mystery of Lent and Easter Through Drama. CSS Publishing Company, 2005. ISBN 978-0788023545
  • Mitchell, Leonel L. Lent, Holy Week, and Easter: A Ceremonial Guide. Cowley Publications, 1996. ISBN 978-1561011346
  • Niemann, Paul J. The Lent, Triduum, and Easter (Ml Answers the 101 Most-Asked Questions). Resource Publications (CA); Answer Key edition, 1998. ISBN 978-0893904470
  • Thompson, F. M. L. The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750-1950. Cambridge University Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0521438155

External links

All links retrieved June 25, 2018.

  • Lent and Easter United Methodist Church
  • Lent Liturgical Resources
  • Lent Catholic Encyclopedia
  • The Great Lent & The Holy Paskha Coptic articles and hymns
  • Great Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha in the Greek Orthodox Church
  • Great Lent: History, Significance, Meaning