Lent began as a time of final intense preparation for those adults who were to be baptized at Easter and as a time of renewed spiritual intensity among all who had previously been baptized. In imitation of Jesus’ sojourn of forty days and nights in the desert, it came to be a season of forty fast days.
Sundays were excluded since the Lord’s Day, being a perpetual commemoration of the joy of his victory over death, can never be a fast day. Lent begins on a Wednesday, named for the ashes placed on the foreheads of the faithful both as a sign of repentance and as a reminder that we have come from dust and will return to dust.
Therefore, Lent is a journey from death to resurrection: from the natural death we have earned through our sins to the gift of life we can never merit but which God nevertheless offers us in Christ who dies for us and with us, who joins us to himself in his victory over death.