L E N T
by: Bill Bratt
What is Lent?
Why do people observe it?
The word Lent occurs 7 times in the Bible (Ex. 12:36, Deu. 23:19, 1 Sam 1:28, 2:20, Jer. 15:10). The word Lent is used in these verses as "to beg or borrow" or in connection with usury.
The Bible does not use the word "Lent" in connection with any of God's Holy Days.
Let's look at three encyclopedia articles on Lent:
The New Encyclopedia Britanica - Vol. 7 - 15th. edition.
"LENT, in the Christian Church, a period of penitential preparation for Easter. In the Western Church it begins on Ash Wednesday, 6-1/2 weeks before Easter, and provides for a 40-day fast (Sundays are excluded), in imitation of Jesus Christ's fasting in the wilderness. In the Eastern Church it begins eight weeks before Easter (both Saturdays and Sundays are excluded as fast days).
Since apostolic times a period of preparation and fasting has been observed before the Easter festival. It was a time of preparation of candidates for Baptism and a time of penance for sinners. In the early centuries fasting rules were strict, as they still are in the Eastern Church. In the West, rules have gradually been
relaxed. The strict law of fasting among Roman Catholics was dispensed during World War II, and only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are kept as Lenten fast days. But the emphasis on penitential practice remains.
In the Anglican churches The Book of Common Prayer prescribes that Lent be observed with fasting. In Lutheran and many other Protestant churches Lent is observed with various services and practices."
Encyclopedia Americana - Vol. 17 - 1993 edition.
"LENT is a 40-day period of prayer and penitence in preparation of the feast of Easter. In the 4th century the observance of the Resurrection of Christ was extended to three days, beginning with Friday, the day of Jesus' death. Preparation was limited to fasting for a day or two, or for 40 consecutive hours. By the end of the 4th century, the period had been expanded to 40 days - a Mystical number corresponding to the time Moses spent on the mountain, the duration of the journey of Elijah, and Christ's fast in the desert. In the Western Church the present First Sunday in Lent marked the beginning of Lent until the 7th century, when Ash Wednesday became the first day of the fast. In the Eastern Church, Great Lent (the fast before Easter) began three weeks earlier because Saturdays and Sundays were not fast days. The Eastern Church applies the name Lent to other fasts, such as Advent.
From the 5th century, the faithful were strictly required to eat only one meal a day and to abstain from meat, fish, and eggs. They were also enjoined to give more alms and spend more time in prayer, and to abstain from alcoholic drinks, the exercise of marital rights, and worldly festivities. Self-denial as a way of observing Lent reached its highest point in the early
Middle Ages and declined thereafter.
Reforms in the Roman Church after Vatican Council II limit obligatory fasting to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and stress Lent's twofold character of preparing for baptism and disposing the faithful by charity and prayer to the Paschal Mystery. The Orthodox Church has retained the custom of fasting.
The Anglican Church observes a 40-day period from Ash Wednesday through Holy Week. Protestant churches mark Lent by special services. See also ASH WEDNESDAY; HOLY WEEK.
Moorhead State College"
Academic American Encyclopedia - Vol. 12 - 1997 edition.
" LENT For Christians, Lent is a 40-day penitential period of prayer and
fasting that precedes EASTER. In the Western church, observance of Lent begins 6-1/2 weeks prior to Easter on ASH WEDNESDAY; Sundays are excluded. In the Eastern church the
period extends over 7 weeks because both Saturdays and Sundays are excluded. Formerly a severe fast was prescribed. Only one full meal a day was allowed, and meat, fish, eggs,
and milk products were forbidden. Now, however, instead of severe fasting, prayer and works of charity are emphasized. Lent has been observed since the 4th century."
Holman Bible Dictionary states:
"LENT The English word lent (stems from an Anglo-Saxon word for "spring" and is related to the English word lengthen) refers to the penitential period preceding Easter. Early Christians felt that the magnitude of the Easter celebration called for special preparation. As early as the second century, many Christians observed several days of fasting as part of that preparation. Over the next few centuries, perhaps in remembrance of Jesus' fasting for forty days in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-2), forty days became the accepted length of the Lenten season. Since, from the earliest years of Christianity, it had been considered inappropriate to fast on the day of the resurrection, Sundays were not counted in the forty days. Thus, the Wednesday, 46 days before Easter, came to be regarded as the beginning of Lent.
In the early centuries, the season before Easter was also the usual period of intense training for new Christians. During this period, the catechumens (those learning what it meant to be Christians) went through the final stages of preparation for baptism, which usually occurred at dawn on Easter Sunday. As the practice of infant baptism increased, the emphasis on Lent as a training period decreased. See Church Year.
Fred A. Grissom "
Notice that in these articles that NO scripture is given in support of "LENT".
What is Lent?
Webster's Dictionary gives a good definition: "LENT: The 40 day weekdays before Easter (beginning on Ash Wednesday), observed as a season of penitence."
Why do people observe Lent?
The churches observe Lent, not because the Bible commands it, but because they have adopted the custom and have imposed it upon their followers.
The Bible does NOT tell you to observe Lent, or to fast for 40 days. You cannot find anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus or the Apostles observed Lent. If they didn't observe it, why should you?
The Bible tells us to worship God in Spirit and in truth.
John 4:23-24(NKJV) "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
If you want to worship God in spirit and in truth, look into the Bible and see what days God wants you to keep holy. Lev. 23 outlines all of God's Holy Days for you.
If you would like to learn more about Lent and God's Holy Days request our free booklets:
God's Holy Days
Easter ... Is It Christian?
Write to: Independent Church of God
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