For centuries, Christians have observed the season of Lent by fasting from food and observing other self-denying acts.
These acts help us become more aware of our true needs. When we deny ourselves the comforts we are used to - whether a full plate of food, or some other part of our daily routine (TV, coffee, alcohol, Internet, etc.) - we are more mindful of our great need for God. Also, when we deny our sinful desires, we become more acutely aware of them, for when they are not fed, they tend to surface in more noticeable ways. Most importantly, these practices make us mindful of our need for salvation by Jesus' death on the cross.
Our Church has the following canonical lents:
I. Wednesday and Friday lent: The Church directs us to fast on Wednesdays, as it is the day of the Annunciation to the Mother of God. It is also a day of mourning, as Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ on this day. Remembering the persecution and sufferings of the Lord on the day of crucifixion, the church observes Friday as a day of sorrow.
II. The Nineveh lent (3 Days):This lent originated in the 4th century. It falls in January or February every year. Hearing the words of the Prophet Jonah, the people of Nineveh repented and fasted for three days. God was merciful and saved the city. This lent also commemorates the time spent by Jonah in the Stomach of the Whale.
III. The Great Lent (50 Days): This lent originated in 325 A.D. The first forty days are in remembrance of Christ's fast in the Desert. The last 10 are a memorial to his suffering and crucifixion. This lent highlights the salvation of mankind through the incarnation of God. Early Church Fathers such as St Athanasios, St.Polycarpos, and St.Iraneos mention this lent in
their writings. In order to avoid a break in fasting, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated only on Saturdays and Sundays during this lent. Exemptions are made for Annunciation day, the half day, and the fortieth Friday.
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IV. Apostles' lent (13 days): This lent has been observed since sixth century. It commemorates Christ and his Apostles and is observed from June 16th to 29th.
V. Assumption Lent (15 Days): From the sixth century, this lent has been observed. It is carried out in the name of the Mother of God and in remembrance of her assumption. This lent is celebrated from August 1st to 15th.
VI. Advent Lent (Twenty five days):Observed from the sixth century, this lent is conducted in connection with the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Christmas). It falls between December 1st and 25th.