Preparing for Lent 2018

(REUTERS / Juan Carlos Ulate)A woman with a cross of ashes on her forehead prays during the traditional Ash Wednesday service, at the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Jose, Costa Rica February 25, 2009.

The beginning of the Lenten season is on February 14, also known worldwide as the Valentine's Day.

During Lent, Christians are expected to fast, pray and reflect upon their lives. Giving alms to the poor also becomes a common practice during Lent.

People are usually aware of the practices during the Lenten season, but how much do we know of it as a Christian tradition?

This Christian season actually represents the 40 days that Jesus wandered the desert, focused on prayer and fasting. This takes place after Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.

Current tradition states that the entire season lasts a total of 46 days. Yes, this is certainly a few days off the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, wandering and fasting. If you deduct Sundays from the total day count, you are left with exactly 40 days of Lent.

The 40th day of Lent is its culmination – March 29, 2018. Masses held on March 29 symbolize and remember Jesus' last supper. The following day remembers Jesus' death and crucifixion, while April 1 commemorates Jesus' freedom from death when he rose from the dead three days after he was entombed.

Why are practices like fasting necessary and recommended during seasons like Lent? Typically, the Church encourages Christians to use Lent and fasting as a way of killing worldly desires and our attachment to this world, enabling us to focus more on God and be strengthened in our faith and commitment to the things of God. 

The Conference of Catholic Bishops recommend fasting for people who fall between the ages of 18 to 59. The fasting should be done on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday.