Pastor Scot Kinnaman at Blog My Soul explains the meaning of the season of Lent. Here is what he wrote:
THE TIME OF EASTER
Easter celebrates the chief event in the life of Christ. It was the earliest and major celebration among early Christians. Given that Easter is both a movable date and also a principal celebration of the Church Year, the date of Easter determines much of the rest of the Church Year. Generally speaking, Easter is observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. The date of Easter will influence the date of Ash Wednesday, the fortieth day (not counting Sundays) before Easter; the date of the Transfiguration, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday; and the number of Sundays in Epiphany and after Pentecost.
The resurrection of Jesus is our great salvation. To prepare to celebrate the feast of the Resurrection (Easter), the Church sets aside a period of preparation. In AD 325, the Council of Nicaea recorded the first reference to the specific number of days for Lent: forty. This forty-day preparation was first prescribed for baptismal candidates and became known as Lent (from the Old English word for “spring”). During this period, the candidates were examined in preparation for Baptism at the Easter (or Paschal) Vigil. Later, these forty days were associated with Jesus’ forty days in the desert prior to His temptation. The forty day period is is symbolic of other periods of 40 in Scripture: the forty years Moses and the children of Israel were detained from entering the Promised Land, Elijah’s forty days spent in the wilderness, Noah had rain for forty days and forty nights, the Israelites wondered forty years to the promised land, and Jonah gave the city of Nineveh forty days to repent.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with midday prayer on Holy Saturday.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the observance of Lent. The name is derived from the practice of placing ashes on the forehead as a sign of penitence and a reminder of human mortality. The color for Ash Wednesday is black, while the liturgical color for Lent is violet. Lent is a season of forty days. The Sundays during this season are not counted as a part of the forty-day season; the Sundays are not “of Lent” but “in Lent.” Thus the Sundays retain an Easter tone and may be less solemn than the midweek services that congregations typically offer. The observances of Lent are concrete reminders of the greater solemnity of this season, yet Lutherans emphasize the Gospel of Christ as central even to this penitential season. The Gospel on the Sundays in Lent do not speak of Christ’s Passion, rather they prefigure the great Easter victory
The Lent Quarantine
The observation of Lent is characterized by the liturgical omission of the joyous Alleluias. After the Epistle we hear the Tract or Verse instead. The Gloria in Excelsis also is not sung. Some congregations forbid the playing of the organ or limit its use to accompanying congregational singing, thus there are no instrumental preludes, postludes, or anthems. Though less enforced today, weddings were not to be scheduled during Lent. Another of the traditional omissions is to not place flowers in the chancel. Crucifixes and crosses are covered with opaque viels of violet or unbleached white linen. The quarantine sets the tone for the liturgy of Lent which is patient preparation and waiting for the climactic liturgies and services of Holy Week.