The fourth chapter of Luke recounts the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness.
For 40 days, he was alone, denying his physical body by fasting and undergoing temptation from the devil.
The Rev. Cynthia Taylor of St. Paul's Episcopal Church likens the Lenten season with Christ's wilderness experience. ``Lent is a period of quiet reflection before entering into the glory of Easter,'' she said. ``It's a time to do as Jesus says, to `take up your cross and follow me.'''
Lent is the 40 days beginning with Ash Wednesday (Feb. 12 this year), and ending with Easter Sunday (March 30). That's actually 46 days, but Sundays don't count in the tally, according to Fletcher Bingham, pastoral assistant at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity.
Lent has been observed in Christian churches for hundreds of years. Earliest records date similar observances to the fourth century, he said. Something like Lent was used as the final preparation period for new converts.
Sacrifice has long been part of the Lenten tradition, with people ``making a voluntary denial of something meaningful'' to them, said the Rev. Taylor.
``Traditionally people have been giving up things for Lent to help them concentrate on other things,'' Mr. Bingham said. ``It's about denying oneself to free us up to serve Christ.''
Mr. Bingham said that sometimes people will give up something such as a snack and use the money they would have spent on junk food and make an offering to the church.
For the family of Steve and Karen Swenson of Augusta, Lent is a time of sacrifice and a time of extra devotion to God.
Each of the four Swenson children who live at home gives up something like candy, and the family watches no television, except for something special on the weekend.
By denying themselves for a short period of time, it shows them how blessed they are, said Mr. Swenson. ``It gives Mom and Dad a whole lot more opportunities to show what's important,'' he said.
During Lent, the Catholic family also spends more time on spiritual pursuits such as attending Mass daily and saying the rosary together each afternoon. Each family member tries to work on a virtue, such as temperance or perseverance.
Others are using the season as a time to do service to others or to do something that will draw them into a closer walk with Christ.
The Rev. John Edwards of Advent Lutheran Church said families volunteer for organizations like Habitat for Humanity or the Golden Harvest Food Bank during Lent.
``People are looking for a positive rather than a negative of having to give up something,'' said the Rev. John Edwards, pastor of Advent Lutheran Church. ``They are looking at it different now.''