When Is the Midpoint of Lent?

Taking Stock of Our Lenten Journey

The 50 yard line.
The 50 yard line. Dan Moore/Getty Images

When Is the Midpoint of Lent?

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent marks the midpoint of the season of preparation for Easter. At first glance, this may seem confusing, because the Third Thursday in Lent falls 23 days after Ash Wednesday (inclusive), and there are another 23 days from the Third Friday in Lent through Holy Saturday (inclusive). And there are, as everyone knows, 40 days in Lent. So how can this be?

Sundays Aren't Part of the Lenten Fast

The 40 days of Lent refers to the traditional Lenten fast, which ran from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturdaya period of 46 days. But from the earliest days of the Church, Sundays—the day of the Lord's Resurrection—have never been days of fasting. And between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday, there are six Sundays. Thus, 46 days total minus 6 Sundays equals 40 days of fasting.

So when we're determining the midpoint of Lent, we have two options. We can count out 20 days of the Lenten fast from Ash Wednesday forward (skipping the Sundays), or we can take the easier route and just count all the days from Ash Wednesday, stopping at 23 (since 23 is half of 46). Either way, we wind up at the Third Thursday of Lent.

Date of the Midpoint of Lent

Here are the dates for the Thursday of the Third Week of Lent in this and future years:

  • 2017: March 23
  • 2018: March 8
  • 2019: March 28
  • 2020: March 19 (the Feast of Saint Joseph)
  • 2021: March 11
  • 2022: March 24
  • 2023: March 16
  • 2024: March 7
  • 2025: March 27
  • 2026: March 12
  • 2027: March 4
  • 2028: March 23
  • 2029: March 8
  • 2030: March 28

Laetare Sunday: Lightening the Mood

Since most Catholics don't attend daily Mass (and, historically, never have), the the Church has long noted the milestone on the Sunday following the Thursday in the Third Week of Lent.

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is known as Laetare Sunday; Laetare is Latin for "rejoice," and the entrance antiphon for the Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Lent is Isaiah 66:10-11, which begins "Laetare, Jerusalem" ("Rejoice, O Jerusalem"). Laetare Sunday is also popularly known as Rose Sunday, because, to lighten the austerity of Lent, the Church uses rose vestments instead of the penitential purple normally used during the season. In addition, flowers may be used on the altar, and the organ, which is normally silent during Lent, may be played.

Taking Stock of Our Lenten Journey

As we begin the second half of Lent, it's time to take stock of our Lenten journey. Have you gone to Confession, in preparation for making your Easter duty? How are you progressing toward your spiritual goals? If you still haven't set any, now is the time to do so.

Staying on Track

Three very simple activities can help you stay on the right track this Lent. Two are prayers that are commonly prayed by Eastern Catholics (and Eastern Orthodox) during this season: the Prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syrian and the Jesus Prayer. Both are easy to memorize; the Prayer of Saint Ephrem makes a good prayer for mornings and evenings, and the Jesus Prayer helps keep our thoughts focused on our Lenten journey throughout the day.

The third activity, Daily Scripture Readings for Lent, is best when you have ten minutes or so of quiet time to reflect. In our house, we read the daily reading at the dinner table, after saying Grace After Meals. (Since children are often ready to jump up from the table as soon as they're done eating, check out these Tips for Lenten Reading With Your Children.)

If at First You Don't Succeed . . . 

And remember—if you get distracted and find that you're not making as much progress as you wish this Lent, there's always tomorrow. Begin each day with a Morning Offering, firmly resolving to concentrate on your Lenten discipline, and let God take care of the rest. As St. John Chrysostom reminds us in a famous Easter homily which is read in Eastern Orthodox and many Eastern Rite Catholic churches on Easter, it is never too late to get our spiritual house in order—both the man who has fasted from the beginning of Lent and the one who only fasts for a day at the end share in the joy of Easter.