The period of 40 days prior to Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. The word "lent" comes from the Latin word for "lengthen," because the days of Lent occur during the springtime of the year, when the daylight hours increase. The period consists of 40 days because the number 40 has special biblical significance: Moses and the people of Israel were in the wilderness for 40 years; Jesus was tempted in the desert for 40 days.
Since the days of the early church, in the decades and centuries after the death and Resurrection of Christ, Christians have regarded the period of Lent as a time for repentence and reflection. It is invariably marked by fasting (going without food and/or water for a period of time), by giving up something during Lent (sweets; the sports page), and by taking on such habits that will increase one's devotion to Christ.
The root word is "presbyter," which means "elder," and reflects the Presbyterian denomination's form of church government. The Presbyterian Church is organized around the principle of representative democracy, or the rule by "elders" who are elected annually by the members of each congregation. "Elders" may in fact be persons of any age (generally young adults and older) and either male or female. The elders serve on the governing body of the local congregation, called a "session," for a three-year term. The size of the session depends upon the size of the congregation, with nine to twelve members a likely number. "Elder" is a biblical term arising out of the Old Testament descriptions of Israel's form of government, particularly during the time of Moses.
The session is responsible for the spiritual, educational and organizational life of the congregation. The roles and responsibilities for the elders and for the session are laid out in detail in the Presbyterian "Book of Order." The Book of Order may be obtained by contacting any Presbyterian congregation. A 15-minute video, using graphics, animation and documentary footage, has been produced by Interlink Media and may be purchased on this web site or through Cokesbury book stores.
Presbyterians trace their theological roots to the Protestant Reformation in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, and most especially to John Calvin (1509 - 1564). Calvin was French theologian who served a church in Geneva, Switzerland, in the mid 1500s. Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion emphasize the power of God, the love of Jesus Christ, the need for the Holy Spirit, and the importance of the Bible.