Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter began in the very early days as the period of preparation for those about to be baptised into the Christian family.
In the first days of the Church, baptism was a big thing. In times of persecution it could be a matter of life and death – literally.
Therefore, it was taken very seriously and would normally involve two years of preparation. And the proper time to be baptised was Easter Day, with the final 40 days being the last straight on this spiritual marathon.
In the early days observing Lent was very strict. Fasting meant only one meal a day, and that could not include meat, fish and even eggs for some observers.
As the centuries passed, rules were relaxed – fish was allowed and the time of fasting during the day shrank.
Then we got to “giving something up for Lent”, be it chocolate, smoking or a bad temper.
Is this helpful? Have we lost something as the tradition was faded?
Perhaps the thing we have lost most is the link between Easter and baptism. Those being baptised would be pushed under the water and would come up again a new person. To share in a baptism at Easter can be a powerful reminder to all of us who have been baptised that Easter is not only about Jesus’ dying and rising again, but also a reminder that we all need to die to our old selves and rise again, renewed, refreshed, a new person.