What comes in your mind when you hear the word Lent? The things that I hear the most frequently are: penance, purple, fish, ashes, fasting, sacrifice, and abstinence. These are all good answers, but I have the best answer - Baptism.
I am convinced that Baptism provides the richest symbol for what we do during Lent. The more we see a link between “Lent” and “Baptism” the more we will understand the Churches’ selection of readings and symbols during the Lenten Season. As for me, Lenten Season is where we remember our Baptism.
It is where Jesus Christ had penance in 40 days. It is a 40-day retreat where we have the time for praying, penance, fasting, alms giving and listening to the Gospel. Historically speaking, in the 4th and 5th centuries, a detailed process for becoming a Christian was worked out. When a person entering the Church came towards the end of this process (called the “catechumenate”), there was a 40-day retreat during which the “catechuments” prepare to be fully initiated into the Eucharist during the Easter Vigil.
This final period of preparation for baptism became what we now call Lent. Lent has become once a “retreat before Baptism”. For the majority of us, who are already baptized, Lent can be a great opportunity to rediscover the rich, ever powerful reality of our Baptism.