Lent: Is it Only for the Roman Catholic Church? (Part 2)

By: Rev. Dr. Andrés E. Hernández

In our last post we touched on this interesting topic; today we will continue learning more about Lent.

What, then, is Lent and what is its origin? There is evidence that, from the second century, the Christian church practiced fasting before the day of resurrection. However, there was no consensus as to how many days this fast would last. In the third century the church of Alexandria fasted for the whole week before Easter, while the Montanists fasted for two weeks.[1]

Dr. Justo González points out that one anonymous author, apparently in Syria, composed a document called Discalia, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, where he says: “The apostles indicated a fast of 40 days before the passion of the Savior, and after the passion, until the day of resurrection.” If this is an original document, then it would be one of the oldest references to 40 days of fasting before Passover. However, in another older version of this document it merely says: “Fast the days of Passover from the tenth [apparently Nissan 10], which is the second day of the week [Monday], until the fifth day of the week. the week [Thursday], every day at the ninth hour feed yourselves with water, bread and salt.”[2]   

It is by the fourth century that we find clear evidence that in preparation for Easter there was a fasting period that lasted 40 days. It is precisely from those 40 days, in Latin Quadragesima, that our English word “Lent” is derived.[3]

John Wesley in his sermon titled: “On the sermon of our Lord on the mount”,[4] based on Matthew 6:16-18, speaks of the fact that fixed fasts were celebrated in the ancient Christian church. About these Wesley says: “To the first belonged the one before Easter, which some observed for forty-eight hours; others for a week, many for two weeks, without tasting food, but until the evening of each day.” He then points out: “The annual fasts in our churches are: the forty days of Lent…” I should clarify that Wesley was referring here to the Anglican Church, and he is quoting the Book of Common Prayer.

As we can see, the celebration of a time of fasting, confession, and spiritual preparation on the way to the celebration of Easter Sunday has been a practice of the Christian church in general since the 4th century. Therefore, Lent is a tradition of the Christian church and not the Roman Catholic Church,[5] although they have been the ones who have seemed to emphasize it most.

Lent is a time that invites us to reflect, fast, and pray. We can include in this celebration the reading of a devotional for this specific time. For the past several years the Nazarene Publishing House (“The Foundry Publishing”) has prepared devotional books for these 40 days of Lent. Last year, that 40-day devotional was written by Dr. Jeren Rowell,[6] President of the Nazarene Seminary in Kansas City. For those who are fluent in English, it is a good resource for these days.

[1] Kenneth Scott Latourette.  History of Christianity: Volume I

[2] Justo L. González.  Holy Week: Origens and meaning

[3] Justo L. González.  Holy Week: Origens and meaning

[4] John Wesley.  Works of Wesley Volume II: Sermons II

[5] Eric Buell. Lent is not just for Catholics. rvcnaz.org

[6] Jeren Rowell. These Forty Days: A Lenten Devotional.  https://www.thefoundrypublishing.com

One thought on “Lent: Is it Only for the Roman Catholic Church? (Part 2)

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  1. Good teaching!!  I was always puzzled why they called it a 40 day fast when there is more than 40 days to Resurrection Sunday….or even to the “Last supper”.  I used to do the long term “fast” by adding a spiritual discipline….a DO rather than an abstinence.  One year I posted a daily devotional thought on fb.  Another year I sent an exhortation of faith to encourage someone each day…sometimes with a gift.  Another year I “fasted” saying anything critical about anyone…..I had to do a lot of repenting that time because I had a habit of complaining about my husband or my kids to my mom.  I think I am over that and am quickly convicted over my grumbling of any kind!!!!  I have learned to extend grace….cuz I need grace!!I used to make myself watch at least the crucifying part of “passion of the Christ” so I would remember the price He paid.  I may do that this year!!  I am fasting ice cream for Lent…..I love ice cream!  Maybe I can break its hold on me!!!  Break bad habits and make good ones!

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone


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