What Are Lenten Devotions?
Lent is the 40-day period before Easter when Christians prepare to witness, celebrate, and participate in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the early church, the forty days before Easter were devoted to study of the essential elements of Christian teaching so that the new converts could make informed and faithful confessions of faith on the day of their baptism. Later, Lent became a time of contemplation of Jesus’ suffering and the significance of the Christian faith for daily life. Christians throughout the centuries have marked the season with prayer, study, and fasting (or, more recently, “giving something up for Lent”) as a way both to identify with Jesus, who fasted in the wilderness for 40 days, and to focus on the importance of their faith.
Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and runs to Maundy Thursday. If you’re counting, you’ll realize that there are more than 40 days between those two dates. That’s because Sundays in Lent are not counted. Given that each Sunday celebrates the resurrection, the Church teaches that it’s not appropriate to fast on Sundays.
The practice of daily devotions stems from Lent’s emphasis on deepening one’s faith through study and prayer. Lent offers the opportunity to take up a “discipline” or “spiritual practice” for 40 days, not as a way of meriting God’s favor but because disciplined practice increases our appreciation and understanding of the faith. For generations, parents would read devotions during Lent and Advent at suppertime as a way of passing on the faith to their children, and individuals would read devotions to grow and deepen in their faith.
The advent of the internet makes sharing devotions all the easier and invites us to renew this ancient practice. The devotions you’ll find at this site will read through chapters 14, 15, and the first part of chapter 16 in Mark’s Gospel, the part of the story that records the accounts of Jesus final hours, his cross, and his resurrection. Mark’s Gospel is the account of Jesus’ life read from most frequently this year in those congregations that follow the Revised Common Lectionary.
I hope you find these devotions helpful. They are brief – most under 300 words – and conclude with a prayer to help you more richly experience God’s presence in your life and in the world. Blessings on your Lenten Journey.