Lent is a season of preparation and spiritual renewal preceding Easter.
The season is made up of forty days that pass between Ash Wednesday, which we commemorated this past week, and Holy Saturday, commemorating the full day in which Jesus’ dead body lay in the tomb.
If you’re good at math, you will have noticed that there are actually forty-six days between Ash Wednesday, this year, March 6, and Holy Saturday, this year, April 20. That’s because Sundays aren’t included in the count of days for Lent. Sundays are always meant to be “little Easters,” celebrations of Christ’s resurrection.
This is why, unlike other seasons of the Church Year, when we gather on days designated with names like “First Sunday of Advent” or “Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost,” we speak of the first through sixth Sundays in Lent.
In the early Church, Lent was a time when adult converts to the Christian faith, formed a catechumenate, students of the faith preparing to be baptized and to receive Holy Communion for the first time. They received the two sacraments at the Easter Vigil. (Many churches, Roman Catholic and Protestant, commemorate the Easter Vigil today.) Also today, you can see separate baptistries for the catechumenate associated with Medieval churches and cathedrals.