Lenten Season 101: A Guide for Everything You Need to Know

Lent Information Guide

Lent is the time of spiritual preparation prior to the Easter season, just as Advent is for Christmas.

“Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.” -Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Here’s a rundown of everything major you need to know about the Lenten season, the 40 days of preparation before the greatest of all Christian feasts: Easter.

Why Latino Catholics Celebrate 3 Life Events in Ways that Other Cultures Normally Don’t

Image source: communitytable.parade.com

In my Hispanic culture, we celebrate life, and even death, in a way that is never separated from religion. For us, being aware of why we do this is not as important as following the inherited traditions and customs. First, let me tell you briefly about two Hispanic traditions celebrated with all the formality required as if they were among the Seven Sacraments: the Quinceañera (or Sweet Fifteen), and the Presentation of a Child. Then I will share how we celebrate someone’s passing from this life to the next.

Pope Francis Prays at Greccio, Location of First Nativity Scene by St. Francis of Assisi

Photo: Catholic News Agency

Ahead of the Feast of the Epiphany, Pope Francis made a surprise visit to Greccio, famously known as the location of the world’s first-ever nativity scene, to pray and honor the Baby Jesus during the Christmas season.

St. Francis of Assisi first began the devotional practice as a special service inside a hillside grotto in that city on Christmas Eve in 1223, with the whole town in attendance. It is now a place of pilgrimage kept by the Franciscan friars. A vision of the Infant Jesus appeared to St. Francis during the event, presumably as a reward for the saint’s pious efforts to recreate the physical setting of the Bethlehem cave in order to meditate and reverence the Incarnation of the Son of God.

Does Christmas End on Epiphany?

Epiphany

We all know that Christmas officially begins on Christmas Eve, but when does Christmas end? It’s complicated …

On January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany (in most places in the U.S. the feast is transferred to the Sunday between January 2 and January 8), the Church celebrates the biblical event where the Magi, also called the Three Wise Men or Three Kings, traveled from the East to pay homage to the newborn King, Jesus Christ. Many Catholics believe that this is the date when the Christmas season officially ends, being the end of the 12 days of Christmas.

However, according to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, Ordinary Time doesn’t officially begin until the Monday after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on the Sunday after Epiphany. This means that the Christmas season actually extends beyond the popular “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

The Three Kings and the Original Gifts of Christmas Tradition

Three Kings with Baby Jesus and Mary

We can’t imagine a Nativity scene without those three men wearing jeweled crowns and rich robes, holding out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the newborn King of the Jews, while Mary and Joseph look on in wonder. This is the biblical event we celebrate each Christmas season on January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany. How much do you know about the Magi and the meaning behind the original gifts of Christmas? Listen below.

Christmastide: The Celebration Has Just Begun!

Christmas Decorations at the Vatican

There is a reason why Christmas is called a season. It does not last for a single day. After Easter, it is the most important liturgical feast in the Church calendar. Why? Because Christmas is what made Easter possible. Without Our Lord’s incarnation and birth, our redemption would not have been brought to completion, and there would be no hope for us in our fallen state.

So first, we celebrate the octave of Christmas. This means that there are eight official solemn days of rejoicing. In the language of the Church, the word “solemn” does not mean what our common use of the word defines it as. It doesn’t mean being grim, serious, or morose.

According to a simple definition: “In the Catholic Church year, a solemnity is the highest ranking holy day possible in the Church calendar…” These are days that are emphasized by particular joy, lavishness, pomp, and glory.

The Story of St. Francis of Assisi and the First Nativity Scene, as told by St. Bonaventure

St. Francis of Assisi and the First Nativity Scene

Nativity scenes have been a popular Advent and Christmas decoration for centuries. And, did you know, it originated with a Catholic saint? St. Francis of Assisi had a special devotion to the Child Jesus, and he is credited with creating the first nativity scene on Christmas Eve of the year 1223. He recreated the scene of Christ’s birth in a special service and Mass he held inside of a cave, inviting both his fellow friars and the townspeople to join in the celebration.

Advent Prayers for the 4th Sunday of Advent

Angel_Announces_the_Holy_Night_Christs_Birth

“Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God, give us miserable ones the grace to do for You alone what we know you want us to do and always to desire what pleases You. Inwardly cleansed, interiorly enlightened and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit, may we be able to follow in the footsteps of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and by Your grace alone, may we make our way to You, Most High, Who live and rule in perfect Trinity and simple Unity, and are glorified God almighty, forever and ever. Amen.”