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From the Pastor and First Lady’s Heart
HISTORY OF LENT
The origin of Lent was founded in the Catholic Church. It’s a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation for the celebration of Easter. The word Lent itself is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words lencten, meaning “Spring,” and lenctentid, which literally means not only “Springtide” but also was the word for “March,” the month in which the majority of Lent falls.
Since the earliest times of the Catholic Church, there is evidence of some kind of Lenten preparation for Easter. For instance, St. Irenaeus (d. 203) wrote to Pope St. Victor I, commenting on the celebration of Easter and the differences between practices in the East and the West: “The dispute is not only about the day, but also about the actual character of the fast. Some think that they ought to fast for one day, some for two, others for still more; some make their ‘day’ last 40 hours on end. Such variation in the observance did not originate in our own day, but very much earlier, in the time of our forefathers” (Eusebius, History of the Church, V, 24). When Rufinus translated this passage from Greek into Latin, the punctuation made between “40” and “hours” made the meaning to appear to be “40 days, twenty-four hours a day.” The importance of the passage, nevertheless, remains that since the time of “our forefathers” — always an expression for the apostles — a 40-day period of Lenten preparation existed. However, the actual practices and duration of Lent were still not homogeneous throughout the Catholic Church.
Once the 40 days of Lent were established, the next development concerned how much fasting was to be done. In Jerusalem, for instance, people fasted for 40 days, Monday through Friday, but not on Saturday or Sunday, thereby making Lent last for eight weeks. In Rome and in the West, people fasted for six weeks, Monday through Saturday, thereby making Lent last for six weeks. Eventually, the practice prevailed of fasting for six days a week over the course of six weeks, and Ash Wednesday was instituted to bring the number of fast days before Easter to 40. The rules of fasting varied. First, some areas of the Catholic Church abstained from all forms of meat and animal products, while others made exceptions for food like fish. Over the years, modifications have been made to the Lenten observances, making the practices not only simple but also easy. Ash Wednesday still marks the beginning of Lent, which lasts for 40 days, not including Sundays.
As your Pastor, I’m persuaded that there isn’t a biblical mandate for Lent. The only two ordinances we must fulfill and celebrate in the (Protestant) Baptist Church is Holy Communion and Baptism, which is clearly found in the Holy Scriptures. However, I’m also persuaded that if you observe this time of prayer, fasting, confession and renewal unto THE LORD in sincerity and truth, He honors your sacrifice. (Romans 14:1-8)
Excerpts: Saunders, Rev. William. “History of Lent.” Arlington Catholic Herald.
Pastor and Mrs. Rickey Jones, Sr.