Lent is the Church Year's "springtime." Out of the cold and darkness of winter emerges a people - the Church - reborn in their Lord's Easter resurrection.
Although Easter is the oldest Christian season, the observance of Lent appeared between 200-300 AD. Lent was a time of preparation for persons being instructed in the Christian faith before their baptism. Following the model of Jesus' time in the wilderness, new adult converts practiced Lenten penance and prayer for 40 days while waiting to receive their baptism and confirmation and the first Lord's Supper at the Saturday evening vigil before Easter.
Today Lent calls us to take time out and look back on the impact of our baptism in our lives. How are we doing, we who have died to sin and come alive to new life in Christ? In repentance we ask our Lord to clear our hearts and lives of sin's self-centeredness.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday's somber repentance and leads us to Holy Week's bitter story and Easter's joy in Christ's resurrection.
(Source: The Christian Church Year, by King Schoenfeld, 2000)