"First popularized in the fourth century, Lent is traditionally associated with penitence, fasting, alms-giving, and prayer. It is a time for 'giving things up' balanced by 'giving to' those in need. Yet whatever else it may be, Lent should never be morose - an annual ordeal during which we begrudgingly forgo a handful of pleasures. Instead, we ought to approach Lent as an opportunity, not a requirement. After all, it is meant to be the church's springtime, a time when, out of the darkness of sin's winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges. No wonder one liturgy refers to it as 'this joyful season.'
Put another way, Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy. Our self-sacrifices serve no purpose unless, by laying aside this or that desire, we are able to focus on our heart's deepest longing: unity with Christ. In him - in his suffering and death, his resurrection and triumph - we find our truest joy."
-- excerpt from the Introduction of Bread and Wine - Readings for Lent and Easter by various authors