Lent is here. The 2017 season began on Wednesday, the first day of March.
The 40-day Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Sundays are not counted during Lent because they already commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Since Easter falls on a different date each year, the start of the Lenten season varies. The 2016 Lent season started early because Easter occurred on March 27 and Ash Wednesday was Feb. 10.
This Easter is not until April 16. Consequently, the season began a later and will culminate on April 15.
Lent is a time of intensive soul-searching and repentance for Christians around the world. According to calendarpedia.com, "during Lent many Christians commit to fasting or giving up certain foods, habits or luxuries (for example meat, cakes and sweets, alcohol, and smoking) for its duration.
"The money saved is often then donated to charity. This is done both as a form of penitence and as a spiritual tool to tame the body and ‘sharpen the spirit’ for prayer, reflection and contemplation in preparation for the celebration of Easter."
Christians have celebrated Lent since the early days of the church as a preparatory time for Easter. The faithful took this time to rededicate themselves and converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism.
By observing the 40 days of Lent, individual Christians imitate Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry for 40 days of praying and fasting. Jesus’ 40 days of prayer and fasting are recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Chapter 4.
Liberty County, which has a plethora of churches, is steeped in religious faith. Local churches take an active role in celebrating the season and recognize it as a time of fasting, prayer, repentance and self discipline.
Time is set aside for various types of fast. Some people abstain from meats and sweets, while others include fish during Lent. Church doors are also open more for prayer during the Lent period.
Members of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Hinesville will celebrate Lent with various services. The Rev. Denise Roone, pastor of St. Philip’s, said they celebrated Ash Wednesday at two services.
"We will also have Palm Sunday services on April 9 at 10 a.m.; Maundy Thursday services at 6:30 p.m. April 13; Good Friday services on April 14 at 6:30 p.m.; and Easter services at 10 a.m. on April 16," she said.
Other churches will culminate the season with special Good Friday services on April 14. Some will have services at noon, while others will have services later in the day.
On Easter morning, many churches will have early sunrise services, some joining together for one large service. These services normally start at 5:30 or 6 a.m.