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Campus Life

Lent, 2010

What people say and think about an ancient tradition

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In the video above, thoughts on Lent, midway through.

Lent is here.

The name for this period of reflection, abstinence, and repentance has nothing to do with borrowers and lenders; it derives from “spring,” much like the Dutch word lente, suggesting that it has roots even deeper than Christianity.

Lent began on Ash Wednesday, February 17 this year, the day after Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), and by most reckoning ends on Holy Thursday, April 1 (although in some Christian traditions Lent ends on Holy Saturday, April 3). It lasts about 40 days (not including Sundays), a number long been associated with spiritual reflection: Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai before coming down with the Ten Commandments, the Jews spent 40 years wandering in the desert before coming to Israel, Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert, during which time he was tempted by the devil. Few take the number literally, more as a mark of holy time passing.

Most people think of Lent as a time to give up something — alcohol, smoking, sweets, coffee, even surfing the Net. Others take it as a time to embrace community service, something positive. Its historic imperative, setting time aside for instruction and discipline, is not so much a part of University life as in days past, but its call still resonates, as this impromptu survey of Commonwealth Avenue passersby reveals.

Nicolae Ciorogan can be reached at ciorogan@bu.edu.

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