Ask Augustine with Dr. Paul Tambrino
Ask Augustine is a weekly column where professor/author Dr. Paul Tambrino discusses various theological questions with wit, clarity and substance.
Question #60 – Is Lent Mentioned in the Bible?
Lent, a period of penance that was set apart by the Christian Church, is only indirectly of biblical origin.
Some of the church fathers of the fifth and sixth centuries were of the opinion that Lent was of Apostolic origin, although most modern authorities reject this view.
However, it is quite certain that what we call Lent was observed by the Christian Church within 150 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.
At first the number of days of the fast was not specified. In the fourth century the number of fast days in Lent was fixed at 36 until 487 A.D. when Pope Felix II added four fast days to make the total correspond to the number of days that Jesus fasted in the wilderness.“It is quite certain that what we call Lent was observed by the Christian Church within 150 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.”
During the eighth or ninth century the Lenten period was fixed as it is observed today in the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and most protestant churches.
It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday.
The Sundays are a part of the Lenten season, but since they are considered feast days they are not included among the 40 days of fasting or abstinence.
Therefore, Lent proper is the 40 days preceding Easter, excluding the six Sundays which naturally fall during that calendar period.“Lent is a forty-day (excluding Sundays) period of fasting by the church to prepare for Easter.”
The word Lent is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “lenct,” meaning long.
Spring was called “Lencten-tide” because at that time of the year the hours of daylight noticeably increase in length.
Later “Lencten-faesten,” which means spring fast, was shortened to Lent and became the name of the great Christian fast period in the spring.
In summary, Lent is a forty-day (excluding Sundays) period of fasting by the church to prepare for Easter.
It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with the Easter Vigil, the conclusion of Holy Week.
The final three days (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) of Lent are known as the Easter Triduum.
During Lent the parament color is violet, with the exception of Maundy Thursday when the color is white, Good Friday when the color is red or black, and Holy Saturday when no parament of any color is used.
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