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Vespers service during Lent in the The Cathedral of St. James, Jerusalem, Israel.
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Armenian Orthodox Vespers service during Lent in the The Cathedral of St. James, Jerusalem, Israel. The service was held completely in the dark except for oil lamps hanging from the ceiling. Photo: J McDowell.

In Christianity, a 40 day long penitential preparation for Easter, or for Holy Week.
The word Lent is derived from the Germanic root for spring, or the Anglo-Saxon word for March.
Lent is performed in remembrance of Jesus Christ's fast in the wilderness, a period during which he was tempted by the devil, but withstood. Several reflections of this are found in the practices during Lent, with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In modern times, more has been added, involving giving up something one enjoys or involving oneself in charity.
Lent is celebrated at different dates between Eastern and Western churches, and regulations are also different.
In Western churches, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday six and a half weeks before Easter. Ash Wednesday changes from year to year, and is between February 4 and March 10. The period is one of semi-fast and does not include Sundays. Lent therefore includes Holy Week. In modern times, rules for Lent have become relatively relaxed.
In Eastern churches, Lent begins the Monday seven weeks before Easter, and ends 9 days before Easter. Lent is often called the season of "Bright Sadness." As is the case with Western churches, the fast is broken by Sundays. Rules for Lent are strict, with restrictions on the use of wine, oil and dairy products. In many countries meat is prohibited.
Early in Christian history, Lent was a period of preparation of candidates for baptism; which often involved converts to Christianity. Then, regulations could be very strict, involving only one meal a day, where the general rule was that meat, fish, eggs and butter was forbidden.

By Tore Kjeilen