Excerpt and reflection from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s Seasons of Faith and Conscience: Explorations in Liturgical Direct Action (1991):
It can be fairly said that discipleship is the topic of Lent. The liturgical road from Ash Wednesday leads straight to Passion-week Jerusalem. To enter wholeheartedly into the season costs more than tag along admiration from the margins of a multitude. A call and a choice are put point blank: take up your cross and follow.
Lent was first and still remains a season of baptismal preparation. Before the church year took shape there was only the unitive feast of Easter which went on for fifty days until Pentecost. But for some (those initiates to be baptized into the death and life of Christ on Easter) it was the culmination of a three year period of instruction and discipline. In the underground rigors of pre-Constantinian faith the scrutiny was serious, the preparation prolonged, and the prayer intense. Those demanding final days before baptism were marked with a fast. In part, by a simple act of solidarity and intercession, other members even whole congregations, were drawn instinctively to join the fast and renew their own sacramental vows come Easter sunrise.