Lent as we now have it seems to derive from four separate practices, both individual and communal;as it is now observed, preparation for baptism is a prominent feature. At the beginning of the sixth century the preparation was gradually extended to create a pre-Lenten period before Ash Wednesday. In the present calendar, Ash Wednesday, now an abrupt interruption without a preparatory introduction, may be regarded as a beginning of the liturgical year; the ashes are a rich symbol of mortality, repentance, cleansing, and healing. A basic image of the season of Lent is the pilgrimage, following Abraham in his archetypal journey to the promised land, our true home. The First Sunday, focusing of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, serves as an overture to the Paschal mystery: obedient discipline leading to victory and anticipating glorification;the Fourth Sunday, mid-Lent, offers a brief respite on the way;the Fifth Sunday still bears traces of the former two-week Passiontide. The chapter concludes with a consideration of the Eastern Church’s observance of Lazarus Saturday as a prefiguring of the resurrection of Christ and consequently of his people.
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