Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the fortieth weekday before Easter. Lent is a period of special fasting and preparation, and especially a time of discipline and preparation for those who will be baptized at Easter.
As Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness fasting, praying and being tempted by Satan, so we follow him in a period of discipline and prayer. The passage for the First Sunday in Lent is always—and always has been—the account of Jesus’ temptations. This reading sets the theme and the length of the season.
The Book of Common Prayer asks us on Ash Wednesday to observe “a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (p. 265).
Lent is, then, a season of penitence, but not only that. It is also a time to “prepare with joy for the Paschal feast” (BCP, p. 379, the Catechism). It is a time of preparation for Jesus’ death, but above all it is a time of anticipation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our own redemption through that saving act.
The liturgical color of Lent is a deep purple, the traditional color of penitence.
(from Weaving God's Promises)
What is Lent?
Lent comes from the AngloSaxon word lencten referring to the lengthening of days in springtime. It is observed in the spring as a time to prepare for rebirth. The season was first named and observed in the fourth century as a period of discipline and fasting for people preparing to be baptized on Easter. Over time, it has grown into a season of penitence and fasting in making ready the observation of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.