Lent

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The liturgical colour of the season of Lent is purple. Many altar crosses and religious statuary are traditionally veiled during this period in the Christian Year. High Altar of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church during Lent.jpg
The liturgical colour of the season of Lent is purple. Many altar crosses and religious statuary are traditionally veiled during this period in the Christian Year.

Lent (Latin: Quadragesima, 'Fortieth') is a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego. This event is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic Churches. [1] [2] [3] Some Anabaptist and evangelical churches also observe the Lenten season. [4] [5]

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets, and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Ash Wednesday First day of Lent in the Western Christian calendar

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer, fasting, even if it is not a holy day of obligation. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and falls on the first day of Lent, the six weeks of penitence before Easter. Ash Wednesday is traditionally observed by Western Christians, including Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Old Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, some Baptists, some Nazarenes, and most Latin Rite Roman Catholics.

Easter Festival

Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

Contents

The last week of Lent is Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday. Following the New Testament story, Jesus' crucifixion is commemorated on Good Friday, and at the beginning of the next week the joyful celebration of Easter Sunday recalls the accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Holy Week calendar date

Holy Week in Christianity is the week just before Easter. It is also the last week of Lent, in the West, – Palm Sunday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday – are all included. However, Easter Day, which begins the season of Eastertide, is not. Although, traditions observing the Easter Triduum may overlap or displace part of Holy Week or Easter itself within that additional liturgical period.

Palm Sunday Christian feast

Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in each of the four canonical Gospels.

Crucifixion Method of capital punishment in which the victim is tied or nailed to a large wooden beam and left to hang until eventual death

Crucifixion is a method of capital punishment in which the victim is tied or nailed to a large wooden beam and left to hang, perhaps for several days, until eventual death from exhaustion and asphyxiation.

In Lent, many Christians commit to fasting, as well as giving up certain luxuries in order to replicate the account of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ's journey into the desert for 40 days; [6] [7] [8] this is known as one's Lenten sacrifice. [9] Many Christians also add a Lenten spiritual discipline, such as reading a daily devotional or praying through a Lenten calendar, to draw themselves near to God. [10] [11] The Stations of the Cross, a devotional commemoration of Christ's carrying the Cross and of his execution, are often observed. Many Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches remove flowers from their altars, while crucifixes, religious statues, and other elaborate religious symbols are often veiled in violet fabrics in solemn observance of the event. Throughout Christendom, some adherents mark the season with the traditional abstention from the consumption of meat, most notably among Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Anglicans. [12] [13] [14]

Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast or dry fasting is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period. Water fasting refers to abstinence from all food and drink except water, but black coffee and tea may be consumed. Other fasts may be partially restrictive, limiting only particular foods or substances, or be intermittent.

Luxury goods type of desirable good

In economics, a luxury good is a good for which demand increases more than proportionally as income rises, so that expenditures on the good become a greater proportion of overall spending.

Life of Jesus in the New Testament life of Jesus as told in the New Testament

The four canonical gospels of the New Testament are the primary sources of information for the narrative of the life of Jesus. However, other parts of the New Testament, such as the Pauline epistles which were likely written within 20–30 years of each other, also include references to key episodes in his life such as the Last Supper. And the Acts of the Apostles (1:1–11) says more about the Ascension episode than the canonical gospels.

Lent is traditionally described as lasting for 40 days, in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, before beginning his public ministry, during which he endured temptation by Satan. [15] [16] Depending on the Christian denomination and local custom, Lent ends on the evening of Maundy Thursday [17] with Easter Vigil at sundown on Holy Saturday, on the morning of Easter Sunday, or at the midnight between them.

Gospel of Matthew Books of the New Testament

The Gospel According to Matthew is the first book of the New Testament and one of the three synoptic gospels. It tells how the promised Messiah, Jesus, rejected by Israel, finally sends the disciples to preach the gospel to the whole world. Most scholars believe it was composed between AD 80 and 90, with a range of possibility between AD 70 to 110. The anonymous author was probably a male Jew, standing on the margin between traditional and non-traditional Jewish values, and familiar with technical legal aspects of scripture being debated in his time. Writing in a polished Semitic "synagogue Greek", he drew on three main sources: the Gospel of Mark, the hypothetical collection of sayings known as the Q source, and material unique to his own community, called the M source or "Special Matthew".

Gospel of Mark Books of the New Testament

The Gospel According to Mark is one of the four canonical gospels and one of the three synoptic gospels. It tells of the ministry of Jesus from his baptism by John the Baptist to his death and burial and the discovery of the empty tomb – there is no genealogy of Jesus or birth narrative, nor, in the original ending at chapter 16, any post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. It portrays Jesus as a heroic man of action, an exorcist, a healer, and a miracle worker. Jesus is also the Son of God, but he keeps his identity secret, concealing it in parables so that even most of the disciples fail to understand. All this is in keeping with prophecy, which foretold the fate of the messiah as suffering servant. The gospel ends, in its original version, with the discovery of the empty tomb, a promise to meet again in Galilee, and an unheeded instruction to spread the good news of the resurrection.

Gospel of Luke Books of the New Testament

The Gospel According to Luke, also called the Gospel of Luke, or simply Luke, is the third of the four canonical Gospels. It tells of the origins, birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Etymology

Lent celebrants carrying out a street procession during Holy Week, in Granada, Nicaragua. The violet color is often associated with penance and detachment. Similar Christian penitential practice is seen in other Christian countries, sometimes associated with fasting. Holy Week procession in Granada, Nicaragua.jpg
Lent celebrants carrying out a street procession during Holy Week, in Granada, Nicaragua. The violet color is often associated with penance and detachment. Similar Christian penitential practice is seen in other Christian countries, sometimes associated with fasting.

The English word Lent is a shortened form of the Old English word lencten, meaning "spring season", as its Dutch language cognate lente (Old Dutch lentin) [19] still does today. A dated term in German, Lenz (Old High German lenzo), is also related. According to the Oxford English Dictionary , 'the shorter form (? Old Germanic type *laŋgito- , *laŋgiton-) seems to be a derivative of *laŋgo- long ... and may possibly have reference to the lengthening of the days as characterizing the season of spring'. The origin of the -en element is less clear: it may simply be a suffix, or lencten may originally have been a compound of *laŋgo- 'long' and an otherwise little-attested word *-tino, meaning 'day'. [20]

Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest historical form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers probably in the mid-5th century, and the first Old English literary works date from the mid-7th century. After the Norman conquest of 1066, English was replaced, for a time, as the language of the upper classes by Anglo-Norman, a relative of French. This is regarded as marking the end of the Old English era, as during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English.

Spring (season) one of the Earths four temperate seasons, occurring between winter and summer

Spring is one of the four conventional temperate seasons, following winter and preceding summer. There are various technical definitions of spring, but local usage of the term varies according to local climate, cultures and customs. When it is spring in the Northern Hemisphere, it is autumn in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa. At the spring equinox, days and nights are approximately twelve hours long, with day length increasing and night length decreasing as the season progresses.

Dutch language West Germanic language

Dutch(Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 23 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting the majority of people in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.

In languages spoken where Christianity was earlier established, such as Greek and Latin, the term signifies the period dating from the 40th day before Easter. In modern Greek the term is Σαρακοστή (Sarakostí), derived from the earlier Τεσσαρακοστή (Tessarakostí), meaning "fortieth". The corresponding word in Latin, quadragesima ("fortieth"), is the origin of the term used in Latin-derived languages and in some others: for example, Croatian korizma, French carême, Irish carghas, Italian quaresima, Portuguese quaresma, Albanian kreshma, Romanian păresimi, Spanish cuaresma, Basque garizuma and Welsh c(a)rawys.

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Croatian language South Slavic language

Croatian is the standardized variety of the Serbo-Croatian language used by Croats, principally in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian province of Vojvodina and other neighboring countries. It is the official and literary standard of Croatia and one of the official languages of the European Union. Croatian is also one of the official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina and a recognized minority language in Serbia and neighboring countries.

Irish language Goidelic (Gaelic) language spoken in Ireland and by Irish people

Irish is a Goidelic (Gaelic) language originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is spoken as a first language in substantial areas of counties Galway, Kerry, Cork and Donegal, smaller areas of Waterford, Mayo and Meath, and a few other locations, and as a second language by a larger group of non-habitual speakers across the country.

In other languages, the name used refers to the activity associated with the season. Thus it is called "fasting period" in Czech (postní doba), German (Fastenzeit), and Norwegian (fasten/fastetid), and it is called "great fast" in Polish (wielki post) and Russian (великий постveliki post).

The terms used in Filipino are kuwaresma (from the Spanish) and Mahál na Araw ("precious/great days"); the latter term is also used specifically for Holy Week.[ citation needed ]

History

Duration and traditions

Some named days and day ranges around Lent and Easter in Western Christianity, with the fasting days of Lent numbered Lent calendar.svg
Some named days and day ranges around Lent and Easter in Western Christianity, with the fasting days of Lent numbered

Various Christian denominations calculate the 40 days of Lent differently. The way they observe Lent also differs.

Roman Catholicism

In the Roman Rite since 1970, Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and finishes on Holy Thursday Evening (Before the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper). This comprises a period of 44 days. The Lenten fast excludes Sundays and continues through Good Friday and Holy Saturday, totaling 40 days. [21] [22]

In the Ambrosian Rite, Lent begins on the Sunday that follows what is celebrated as Ash Wednesday in the rest of the Latin Catholic Church, and ends as in the Roman Rite, thus being of 40 days, counting the Sundays but not Holy Thursday. The day for beginning the Lenten fast is the following Monday, the first weekday in Lent. The special Ash Wednesday fast is transferred to the first Friday of the Ambrosian Lent. Until this rite was revised by Saint Charles Borromeo the liturgy of the First Sunday of Lent was festive, celebrated in white vestments with chanting of the Gloria in Excelsis and Alleluia, in line with the recommendation in Matthew 6:16, "When you fast, do not look gloomy". [23] [24] [25]

The period of Lent observed in the Eastern Catholic Churches corresponds to that in other churches of Eastern Christianity that have similar traditions.

Protestantism and Western Orthodoxy

In Protestant and Western Orthodox Churches, the season of Lent lasts from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. [26] [27] This calculation makes Lent last 46 days if the 6 Sundays are included, but only 40 days if they are excluded. [28] This definition is still that of the Anglican Church, [29] Lutheran Church, [30] Methodist Church, [31] and Western Rite Orthodox Church. [32]

Eastern Orthodoxy and Byzantine Rite

In the Byzantine Rite, i.e., the Eastern Orthodox Great Lent (Greek: Μεγάλη Τεσσαρακοστή or Μεγάλη Νηστεία, meaning "Great 40 Days" and "Great Fast" respectively) is the most important fasting season in the church year. [33]

The 40 days of Great Lent includes Sundays, and begins on Clean Monday and are immediately followed by what are considered distinct periods of fasting, Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday, which in turn are followed straightway by Holy Week. Great Lent is broken only after the Paschal (Easter) Divine Liturgy.

The Eastern Orthodox Church maintains the traditional Church's teaching on fasting. The rules for lenten fasting are the monastic rules. Fasting in the Orthodox Church is more than simply abstaining from certain foods. During the Great Lent Orthodox Faithful intensify their prayers and spiritual exercises, go to church services more often, study the Scriptures and the works of the Church Fathers in depth, limit their entertainment and spendings and focus on charity and good works.

Oriental Orthodoxy

Among the Oriental Orthodox, there are various local traditions regarding Lent. Those using the Alexandrian Rite, i.e., the Coptic Orthodox, Coptic Catholic, Ethiopian Orthodox, Ethiopian Catholic, Eritrean Orthodox, and Eritrean Catholic Churches, observe eight weeks of Lent.

In Ethiopian Orthodoxy, fasting (tsome) lasts for 55 continuous days before Easter ( Fasika ), although the fast is divided into three separate periods: Tsome Hirkal, eight days commemorating an early Christian figure; Tsome Arba, 40 days of Lent; and Tsome Himamat, seven days commemorating Holy Week. [34] [35] [36] Fasting involves abstention from animal products (meat, dairy, and eggs), and refraining from eating or drinking before 3:00 pm. [34] Ethiopian devotees may also abstain from sexual activity and the consumption of alcohol. [34]

As in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the date of Easter is reckoned according to the Julian Calendar, and usually occurs later than Easter according to Gregorian Calendar used by Catholic and Protestant Churches.

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, most notably by the public imposition of ashes. In this photograph, a woman receives a cross of ashes on Ash Wednesday outside an Anglican church. Ashes to Go at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church.jpg
The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, most notably by the public imposition of ashes. In this photograph, a woman receives a cross of ashes on Ash Wednesday outside an Anglican church.
A Lutheran pastor distributes ashes during the Divine Service on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday Mass at Nazareth Evangelical Lutheran Church.jpg
A Lutheran pastor distributes ashes during the Divine Service on Ash Wednesday.

The number 40 has many Biblical references:

One of the most important ceremonies at Easter is the baptism of the initiates on Easter Eve. The fast was initially undertaken by the catechumens to prepare them for the reception of this sacrament. Later, the period of fasting from Good Friday until Easter Day was extended to six days, to correspond with the six weeks of training necessary to give the final instruction to those converts who were to be baptized.[ citation needed ]

Converts to Christianity followed a strict catechumenate or period of instruction and discipline prior to receiving the sacrament of baptism, sometimes lasting up to three years. [40] In Jerusalem near the close of the fourth century, classes were held throughout Lent for three hours each day. With the legalization of Christianity (by the Edict of Milan) and its later imposition as the state religion of the Roman Empire, its character was endangered by the great influx of new members. In response, the Lenten fast and practices of self-renunciation were required annually of all Christians, both to show solidarity with the catechumens, and for their own spiritual benefit.[ citation needed ]

Associated customs

Statues and icons veiled in violet shrouds for Passiontide in St Pancras Church, Ipswich, England Lenten shrouds.jpeg
Statues and icons veiled in violet shrouds for Passiontide in St Pancras Church, Ipswich, England

There are traditionally 40 days in Lent; these are marked by fasting, both from foods and festivities, and by other acts of penance. The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigour during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbours).

However, in modern times, observers give up partaking in vices and often invest the time or money saved in charitable purposes or organizations. [41]

In addition, some believers add a regular spiritual discipline, to bring them closer to God, such as reading a Lenten daily devotional. [10] Another practice commonly added is the singing of the Stabat Mater hymn in designated groups. Among Filipino Catholics, the recitation of Jesus Christ' passion, called Pasiong Mahal, is also observed. In some Christian countries, grand religious processions and cultural customs are observed, and the faithful attempt to visit seven churches during Holy Week in honor of Jesus Christ heading to Mount Calvary.[ citation needed ]

In many liturgical Christian denominations, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday form the Easter Triduum. [42] Lent is a season of grief that necessarily ends with a great celebration of Easter. Thus, it is known in Eastern Orthodox circles as the season of "Bright Sadness". It is a season of sorrowful reflection which is punctuated by breaks in the fast on Sundays.[ citation needed ]

Omission of Gloria and Alleluia

The Gloria in excelsis Deo , which is usually said or sung on Sundays at Mass (or Communion) of the Roman and Anglican rites, is omitted on the Sundays of Lent, but continues in use on solemnities and feasts and on special celebrations of a more solemn kind. [43] Some mass compositions were written especially for Lent, such as Michael Haydn's Missa tempore Quadragesimae , without Gloria, in D minor, and for modest forces, only choir and organ. The Gloria is used on Maundy Thursday, to the accompaniment of bells, which then fall silent until the Gloria in excelsis of the Easter Vigil. [44]

The Lutheran Divine Service, the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the Anglican Churches, and the Presbyterian service of worship associate the Alleluia with joy and omit it entirely throughout Lent, [45] [46] not only at Mass but also in the canonical hours and outside the liturgy. The word "Alleluia" at the beginning and end of the Acclamation Before the Gospel at Mass is replaced by another phrase.

Before 1970, the omission began with Septuagesima, and the whole Acclamation was omitted and was replaced by a Tract; and in the Liturgy of the Hours the word "Alleluia", normally added to the Gloria Patri at the beginning of each Hour – now simply omitted during Lent – was replaced by the phrase Laus tibi, Domine, rex aeternae gloriae (Praise to you, O Lord, king of eternal glory).

Until the Ambrosian Rite was revised by Saint Charles Borromeo the liturgy of the First Sunday of Lent was festive, celebrated with chanting of the Gloria and Alleluia, in line with the recommendation in Matthew 6:16, "When you fast, do not look gloomy". [23] [24] [25]

In the Byzantine Rite, the Gloria (Great Doxology) continues to be used in its normal place in the Matins service, and the Alleluia appears all the more frequently, replacing "God is the Lord" at Matins.

Veiling of religious images

A United Methodist minister prostrates at the start of the Good Friday liturgy at Holy Family Church, in accordance with the rubrics in the Book of Worship. The processional cross is veiled in black, the liturgical colour associated with Good Friday in Methodist Churches. Minister prostrates at the start of United Methodist Good Friday liturgy.jpg
A United Methodist minister prostrates at the start of the Good Friday liturgy at Holy Family Church, in accordance with the rubrics in the Book of Worship. The processional cross is veiled in black, the liturgical colour associated with Good Friday in Methodist Churches.
A crucifix on the high altar is veiled for Lent. Saint Martin's parish, Wurttemberg, Germany StMartin43-53.JPG
A crucifix on the high altar is veiled for Lent. Saint Martin's parish, Württemberg, Germany

In certain pious Christian states, in which liturgical forms of Christianity predominate, religious objects were traditionally veiled for the entire 40 days of Lent. Though perhaps uncommon in the United States of America, this pious practice is consistently observed in Goa, Malta, Peru, the Philippines (the latter only for the entire duration of Holy Week, with the exception of processional images), and in the Spanish cities: Barcelona, Málaga, and Seville. In Ireland, before Vatican II, when impoverished rural Catholic convents and parishes could not afford purple fabrics, they resorted to either removing the statues altogether or, if too heavy or bothersome, turned the statues to face the wall. As is popular custom, the 14 Stations of the Cross plaques on the walls are not veiled.

Crosses were often adorned with jewels and gemstones, the form referred to as Crux Gemmata. To keep the faithful from adoring the crucifixes elaborated with ornamentation, veiling it in royal purple fabrics came into place. The violet colour later evolved as a color of penance and mourning.

Further liturgical changes in modernity reduced such observances to the last week of Passiontide. In parishes that could afford only small quantities of violet fabrics, only the heads of the statues were veiled. If no violet fabrics could be afforded at all, then the religious statues and images were turned around facing the wall. Flowers were always removed as a sign of solemn mourning.

In the pre-1992 Methodist liturgy and pre-1970 forms of the Roman Rite, the last two weeks of Lent are known as Passiontide, a period beginning on the Fifth Sunday in Lent, which in the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal is called the First Sunday in Passiontide and in earlier editions Passion Sunday. All statues (and in England paintings as well) in the church were traditionally veiled in violet. This was seen as in keeping with the Gospel of that Sunday (John 8:46–59), in which Jesus "hid himself" from the people.

Within many churches in the United States of America, after the Second Vatican Council, the need to veil statues or crosses became increasingly irrelevant and was deemed unnecessary by some diocesan bishops. As a result, the veils were removed at the singing of the Gloria in Excelsis Deo during the Easter Vigil. In 1970, the name "Passiontide" was dropped, although the last two weeks are markedly different from the rest of the season, and continuance of the tradition of veiling images is left to the discretion of a country's conference of bishops or even to individual parishes as pastors may wish.

On Good Friday, the Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist churches traditionally veiled "all pictures, statutes, and the cross are covered in mourning black", while "the chancel and altar coverings are replaced with black, and altar candles are extinguished". The fabrics are then "replaced with white on sunrise on Easter Sunday". [47]

Pre-Lenten festivals

The carnival celebrations which in many cultures traditionally precede Lent are seen as a last opportunity for excess before Lent begins. Some of the most famous are the Carnival of Barranquilla, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the Carnival of Venice, Cologne Carnival, the New Orleans Mardi Gras, the Rio de Janeiro carnival, and the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.

The day immediately preceding Lent is variously called Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday"), Pancake Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday. Sometimes, it is the peak of the pre-Lenten festival, while sometimes it is largely occupied with preparations for Lent. The observances vary from culture to culture, and even from town to town.

Originally, in Lebanon and Syria, the last Thursday preceding Lent was called "Khamis el zakara". For Catholics, it was meant to be a day of remembrance of the dead ones. However, zakara (which means "remembrance", in Arabic) was gradually replaced by sakara (meaning "getting drunk" in Arabic), and so the occasion came to be known as Khamis el sakara , wherein celebrants indulge themselves with alcoholic beverages.

Fasting and abstinence

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness (Jesus tente dans le desert), James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum Brooklyn Museum - Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness (Jesus tente dans le desert) - James Tissot - overall.jpg
Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness (Jésus tenté dans le désert), James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

Fasting during Lent was more prominent in ancient times than today. Socrates Scholasticus reports that in some places, all animal products were strictly forbidden, while various others permitted fish, or fish and fowl, others prohibited fruit and eggs, and still others permitted only bread. In many places, the observant abstained from food for a whole day until the evening, and at sunset, Western Christians traditionally broke the Lenten fast, which was often known as the Black Fast. [48] [49] In India and Pakistan, many Christians continue this practice of fasting until sunset on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with some fasting in this manner throughout the whole season of Lent. [50]

For Catholics before 1966, the theoretical obligation of the penitential fast throughout Lent except on Sundays was to take only one full meal a day. In addition, a smaller meal, called a collation, was allowed in the evening, and a cup of some beverage, accompanied by a little bread, in the morning. In practice, this obligation, which was a matter of custom rather than of written law, was not observed strictly. [51] The 1917 Code of Canon Law allowed the full meal on a fasting day to be taken at any hour and to be supplemented by two collations, with the quantity and the quality of the food to be determined by local custom. Abstinence from meat was to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays and Saturdays in Lent. The Lenten fast ended on Holy Saturday at noon. Only those aged 21 to 59 were obliged to fast. As with all ecclesiastical laws, particular difficulties, such as strenuous work or illness, excused one from observance, and a dispensation from the law could be granted by a bishop or parish priest. [52] A rule of thumb is that the two collations should not add up to the equivalent of another full meal. Rather portions were to be: "sufficient to sustain strength, but not sufficient to satisfy hunger". [53]

In 1966, Pope Paul VI reduced the obligatory fasting days to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, abstinence days to Fridays and Ash Wednesday, and allowed episcopal conferences to replace abstinence and fasting with other forms of penitence such charity and piety, as declared and established in his apostolic constitution Paenitemini . This was done so that those in countries where the standard of living is lower can replace fasting with prayer, but "...where economic well-being is greater, so much more will the witness of asceticism have to be given..." [54] This was made part of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which made obligatory fasting for those aged between 18 and 59, and abstinence for those aged 14 and upward. [55] The Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference decided to allow other forms of Friday penance to replace that of abstinence from meat, whether in Lent or outside Lent, suggesting alternatives such as abstaining from some other food, or from alcohol or smoking; making a special effort at participating in family prayer or in Mass; making the Stations of the Cross; or helping the poor, sick, old, or lonely. [56] The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales made a similar ruling in 1985 [57] but decided in 2011 to restore the traditional year-round Friday abstinence from meat. [58] The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has maintained the rule of abstention from meat on Friday only during Lent. [59]

Many Lutheran Churches advocate fasting during designated times such as Lent, [8] [60] especially on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. [61] [8] [62] [63] A Handbook for the Discipline of Lent delineates the following Lutheran fasting guidelines: [12]

  1. Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with only one simple meal during the day, usually without meat.
  2. Refrain from eating meat (bloody foods) on all Fridays in Lent, substituting fish for example.
  3. Eliminate a food or food group for the entire season. Especially consider saving rich and fatty foods for Easter.
  4. Consider not eating before receiving Communion in Lent.
  5. Abstain from or limit a favorite activity (television, movies, etc.) for the entire season, and spend more time in prayer, Bible study, and reading devotional material. [12]

The historic Methodist homilies regarding the Sermon on the Mount stress the importance of the Lenten fast, which begins on Ash Wednesday. [64] The United Methodist Church therefore states that:

There is a strong biblical base for fasting, particularly during the 40 days of Lent leading to the celebration of Easter. Jesus, as part of his spiritual preparation, went into the wilderness and fasted 40 days and 40 nights, according to the Gospels. [65]

Good Friday, which is towards the end of the Lenten season, is traditionally an important day of communal fasting for Methodists. [66] Rev. Jacqui King, the minister of Nu Faith Community United Methodist Church in Houston explained the philosophy of fasting during Lent as "I'm not skipping a meal because in place of that meal I'm actually dining with God". [67]

Many of the Churches in the Reformed tradition retained the Lenten fast in its entirety. [7] The Reformed Church in America describes the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, as a day "focused on prayer, fasting, and repentance" and considers fasting a focus of the whole Lenten season, [68] as demonstrated in the "Invitation to Observe a Lenten Discipline", found in the Reformed liturgy for the Ash Wednesday service, which is read by the presider: [69]

We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance and our need for the love and forgiveness shown to us in Jesus Christ. I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ, to observe a Holy Lent, by self-examination and penitence, by prayer and fasting, by practicing works of love, and by reading and reflecting on God's Holy Word. [69]

Good Friday, which is towards the end of the Lenten season, is traditionally an important day of communal fasting for adherents of the Reformed faith. [66]

During the early Middle Ages, eggs, dairy products, and meat were generally forbidden. In favour of the traditional practice, observed both in East and West, Thomas Aquinas argued that "they afford greater pleasure as food [than fish], and greater nourishment to the human body, so that from their consumption there results a greater surplus available for seminal matter, which when abundant becomes a great incentive to lust." [70] Aquinas also authorized the consumption of candy during Lent, because "sugared spices" (such as comfits) were, in his opinion, digestive aids on par with medicine rather than food. [71]

Jousting against Carnival is represented by a fat man on a beer barrel who wears a huge meat pie as headdress; Lent is represented by a thin gaunt woman on a cart (shown here) bearing Lenten fare: mussels, pretzels, and waffles. Oil painting The Fight Between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (circa 1558-1559). Bruegel Lent.jpg
Jousting against Carnival is represented by a fat man on a beer barrel who wears a huge meat pie as headdress; Lent is represented by a thin gaunt woman on a cart (shown here) bearing Lenten fare: mussels, pretzels, and waffles. Oil painting The Fight Between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (circa 1558–1559).

In Spain, the bull of the Holy Crusade (renewed periodically after 1492) allowed the consumption of dairy products [72] and eggs during Lent in exchange for a contribution to the cause of the crusade.

Giraldus Cambrensis, in his Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales, reports that "in Germany and the arctic regions", "great and religious persons" eat the tail of beavers as "fish" because of its superficial resemblance to "both the taste and colour of fish". The animal was very abundant in Wales at the time. [73]

In current Western societies the practice is considerably relaxed, though in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches, abstinence from all animal products including eggs, fish, fowl, and milk sourced from animals (e.g., cows and goats, as opposed to the milk of coconuts and soy beans) is still commonly practiced, so that, where this is observed, only vegetarian (or vegan) meals are consumed for the whole of Lent, 45 days in the Byzantine Rite.

In the tradition of the Western Catholic Church, abstinence from eating some form of food (generally meat, but not dairy or fish products) is distinguished from fasting. In principle, abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on every Friday of the year that is not a solemnity (a liturgical feast day of the highest rank); but in each country the episcopal conference can determine the form it is to take, perhaps replacing abstinence with other forms of penance. [55] [74] [75]

Even during Lent, the rule about solemnities holds, so that the obligation of Friday abstinence does not apply on 19 and 25 March when, as usually happens, the solemnities of Saint Joseph and the Annunciation are celebrated on those dates. The same applies to Saint Patrick's Day, which is a solemnity in the whole of Ireland as well as in dioceses that have Saint Patrick as principal patron saint. In some other places, too, where there are strong Irish traditions within the Catholic community, a dispensation is granted for that day. [76] In Hong Kong, where Ash Wednesday often coincides with Chinese New Year celebrations, a dispensation is then granted from the laws of fast and abstinence, and the faithful are exhorted to use some other form of penance. [77]

After the Protestant Reformation, in the Lutheran Church, "Church orders of the 16th century retained the observation of the Lenten fast, and Lutherans have observed this season with a serene, earnest attitude." [2] In the Anglican Churches, the Traditional Saint Augustine's Prayer Book: A Book of Devotion for Members of the Anglican Communion, a companion to the Book of Common Prayer, states that fasting is "usually meaning not more than a light breakfast, one full meal, and one half meal, on the forty days of Lent". [13] It further states that "the major Fast Days of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, as the American Prayer-Book indicates, are stricter in obligation, though not in observance, than the other Fast Days, and therefore should not be neglected except in cases of serious illness or other necessity of an absolute character." [78]

In many Christian countries, religious processions during the season of Lent are often accompanied by a military escort both for security and parade. Ceuta, Spain Legionarios en la procesion de El Encuentro (Semana Santa en Ceuta, 2012).jpg
In many Christian countries, religious processions during the season of Lent are often accompanied by a military escort both for security and parade. Ceuta, Spain

Traditionally, on Sunday, and during the hours before sunrise and after sunset, some Churches, such as Episcopalians, allow "breaks" in their Lent promises. For Roman Catholics, the Lenten penitential season ends after the Easter Vigil Mass. Orthodox Christians also break their fast after the Paschal Vigil, a service which starts around 11:00 pm on Holy Saturday, and which includes the Paschal celebration of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. At the end of the service, the priest blesses cheese, eggs, flesh meats, and other items that the faithful have been abstaining from for the duration of Great Lent.

Lenten traditions and liturgical practices are less common, less binding, and sometimes non-existent among some liberal and progressive Christians. [79] A greater emphasis on anticipation of Easter Sunday is often encouraged more than the penitence of Lent or Holy Week. [80]

Some Christians as well as secular groups also interpret the Lenten fast in a positive tone, not as renunciation but as contributing to causes such as environmental stewardship and improvement of health. [81] [82] [83] Even some atheists find value in the Christian tradition and observe Lent. [84]

Media coverage

During Lent, BBC's Radio Four normally broadcasts a series of programmes called the Lent Talks . [85] These 15-minute programmes are normally broadcast on a Wednesday and have featured various speakers, such as John Lennox. [86]

Holy days within the season of Lent

A Methodist minister distributing ashes to confirmands kneeling at the chancel rails on Ash Wednesday Ash Wednesday at Keystone United Methodist Church.jpg
A Methodist minister distributing ashes to confirmands kneeling at the chancel rails on Ash Wednesday
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Old Jerusalem on Golgotha, Mount Calvary, where tradition claims Jesus was crucified and died 5208-20080122-1255UTC--jerusalem-calvary.jpg
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Old Jerusalem on Golgotha, Mount Calvary, where tradition claims Jesus was crucified and died

There are several holy days within the season of Lent:

Easter Triduum

In the Anglican, Lutheran, Old Catholic, Roman Catholic, and many other churches, the Easter Triduum is a three-day event that begins Maundy Thursday evening, with the entrance hymn of the Mass of the Lord's Supper. After this celebration, the consecrated Hosts are taken solemnly from the altar to a place of reposition, where the faithful are invited to meditate in the presence of the consecrated Hosts.This is the Church's response to Jesus' question to the disciples sleeping in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Could you not watch with me one hour?" On the next day, the liturgical commemoration of the Passion of Jesus Christ is celebrated at 3 pm, unless a later time is chosen due to work schedules.

This service consists of readings from the Scriptures, especially John the Evangelist's account of the Passion of Jesus, followed by prayers, veneration of the cross of Jesus, and a communion service at which the hosts consecrated at the evening Mass of the day before are distributed. The Easter Vigil during the night between Holy Saturday afternoon and Easter Sunday morning starts with the blessing of a fire and a special candle, and with readings from Scripture associated with baptism. Then, the Gloria in Excelsis Deo is sung, water is blessed, baptism and confirmation of adults may take place, the people are invited to renew the promises of their own baptism, and finally, Mass is celebrated in the usual way from the Preparation of the Gifts onwards.

Holy Week and the season of Lent, depending on denomination and local custom, end with Easter Vigil at sundown on Holy Saturday or on the morning of Easter Sunday. It is custom for some churches to hold sunrise services which include open air celebrations in some places.

Vestments

The chancel of a Lutheran church decorated with red paraments, the liturgical colour of the last week of Lent, Holy Week, in the Lutheran and Anglican Churches Chancel on Maundy Thursday.jpg
The chancel of a Lutheran church decorated with red paraments, the liturgical colour of the last week of Lent, Holy Week, in the Lutheran and Anglican Churches

In the Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed, Roman Catholic, and many Anglican churches, the pastor's vestments are violet during the season of Lent. On the fourth Sunday in Lent, rose-coloured (pink) vestments may be worn in lieu of violet. Historically, black had also been used: Pope Innocent III declared black to be the proper color for Lent, though Durandus of Saint-Pourçain claims violet has preference over black. [91]

In some Anglican churches, a type of unbleached linen or muslin known as "Lenten array" is worn during the first three weeks of Lent, crimson is worn during Passiontide, and on holy days, the colour proper to the day is worn. [92] In certain other Anglican churches, as an alternative to violet for all of Lent except Holy Week and red beginning on Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday, Lenten array, typically made of sackcloth such as burlap and trimmed with crimson cloth, often velvet, is worn, even during Holy Week—since the sackcloth represents penance and the crimson edges represent the Passion of Christ. Even the veils that cover the altar crosses or crucifixes and statuary (if any) are made of the same sackcloth with the crimson trim.

See also

Christianity:

Islam:

Judaism:

Modern interpretations

General:

Related Research Articles

Quinquagesima is one of the names used in the Western Church for the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. It is also called Quinquagesima Sunday, Quinquagesimae, Estomihi, Shrove Sunday, or the Sunday next before Lent.

Great Lent observance in Eastern Christianity

Great Lent, or the Great Fast, is the most important fasting season in the church year in the Byzantine Rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Byzantine Rite Lutheran Churches and the Eastern Catholic Churches, which prepares Christians for the greatest feast of the church year, Pascha (Easter).

Liturgical year annually recurring fixed sequence of Christian parties and festive seasons

The liturgical year, also known as the church year or Christian year, as well as the kalendar, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read either in an annual cycle or in a cycle of several years.

Good Friday Christian religious holiday, the Friday before Easter

Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. It is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover. It is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, and Black Friday.

Ordinary Time comprises two periods of time in the Christian liturgical year that are found in the calendar of the ordinary form of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, as well as some other churches of Western Christianity, including those that use the Revised Common Lectionary: the Anglican Communion, Methodist churches, Lutheran churches, Old Catholic churches and Reformed churches. In Latin, the name of this time is tempus per annum translated as time during the year.

Septuagesima is the name for the ninth Sunday before Easter, the third before Ash Wednesday. The term is sometimes applied to the seventy days starting on Septuagesima Sunday and ending on the Saturday after Easter. Alternatively, the term is sometimes applied also to the period commonly called Shrovetide or Gesimatide that begins on this day and ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins.

Ember days 3 days set aside for fasting and prayer in each season

In the liturgical calendar of the Western Christian churches, ember days are four separate sets of three days within the same week — specifically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday — roughly equidistant in the circuit of the year, that are set aside for fasting and prayer. These days set apart for special prayer and fasting were considered especially suitable for the ordination of clergy. The Ember Days are known in Latin as the quatuor anni tempora, or formerly as the jejunia quatuor temporum.

Paschal Triduum Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday

Easter Triduum , Holy Triduum, or Paschal Triduum, or The Three Days, is the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. It recalls the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, as portrayed in the canonical Gospels.

Byzantine Rite Whole of the worship life of the Eastern Catholic Churches

The Byzantine Rite, also known as the Greek Rite or Constantinopolitan Rite, is the liturgical rite used by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Greek/Byzantine Catholic churches, and in a modified form, Byzantine Rite Lutheranism. Its development began during the fourth century in Constantinople and it is now the second most-used ecclesiastical rite in Christendom after the Roman Rite.

Feast of the Transfiguration

The Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated by various Christian communities in honor of the transfiguration of Jesus. The origins of the feast are less than certain and may have derived from the dedication of three basilicas on Mount Tabor. The feast was present in various forms by the 9th century, and in the Western Church was made a universal feast on 6 August by Pope Callixtus III to commemorate the raising of the Siege of Belgrade (1456).

Shrovetide, also known as the Pre-Lenten Season, is the Christian period of preparation before the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent. Shrovetide starts on Septuagesima Sunday, includes Sexagesima Sunday, Quinquagesima Sunday, as well as Shrove Monday, and culminates on Shrove Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras. One hallmark of Shrovetide is the merrymaking associated with Carnival. On the final day of the season, Shrove Tuesday, many traditional Christians, such as Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Roman Catholics, "make a special point of self-examination, of considering what wrongs they need to repent, and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth they especially need to ask God's help in dealing with."

The Friday Fast is a Christian practice of abstaining from animal meat on Fridays, or holding a fast on Fridays, that is found most frequently in the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican and Methodist traditions. According to Pope Peter of Alexandria, the Friday fast is done in commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. Abstinence is colloquially referred to as "fasting" although it does not necessarily involve a reduction in the quantity of food.

The Catholic Church historically observes the disciplines of fasting and abstinence at various times each year. For Catholics, fasting is the reduction of one's intake of food, while abstinence refers to refraining from meat. The Catholic Church teaches that all people are obliged by God to perform some penance for their sins, and that these acts of penance are both personal and corporeal. The purpose of fasting is spiritual focus, self-discipline, imitation of Christ, and performing penance. Bodily fasting is meaningless unless it is joined with a spiritual fast from sin. St. Basil gives the following exhortation regarding fasting:

Fasting and abstinence of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria

The Copts, who belong mostly to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, observe fasting periods according to the Coptic calendar. These fasting periods are exceeded by no other Christian community except the Orthodox Tewahedo. Out of the 365 days of the year, Copts often fast between 180 to 210 days.

Black Fast

A Black Fast is a severe form of Christian fasting. It is the most rigorous in the history of Church legislation and is marked by austerity regarding the quantity and quality of food permitted on fasting days as well as the time when such food is legitimately taken.

Meat-free days are declared to discourage or prohibit the consumption of meat on certain days of the week. Mondays and Fridays are the most popular days. There are also movements encouraging people giving up meat on a weekly, monthly, or permanent basis.

Lenten sacrifice

The Lenten sacrifice refers to a pleasure or luxury that Christians give up for the liturgical season of Lent, which starts on Ash Wednesday annually. The tradition of the Lenten sacrifice has its roots in Jesus fasting for forty days in the Judæn desert. When Lent is over and Easter Sunday arrives, the faithful are able to indulge in what they sacrificed during the Lenten season.

References

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  87. "spy, n.", OED Online, Oxford University Press, December 2013, Spy Wednesday n. in Irish use, the Wednesday before Easter.
  88. Packer, George Nichols (1893). "Our Calendar: The Julian Calendar and Its Errors, how Corrected by the Gregorian". Corning, NY: [The author]. p. 112. Retrieved 15 December 2013. Spy Wednesday, so called in allusion to the betrayal of Christ by Judas, or the day on which he made the bargain to deliver Him into the hands of His enemies for 30 pieces of silver.
  89. McNichol, Hugh (2014). "Spy Wednesday conversion to Holy Wednesday". Catholic Online. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  90. Gally, Howard E. (25 January 1989). Ceremonies of the Eucharist. Cowley Publications. p. 45. ISBN   9781461660521. In recent decades there has been a revival of the ancient use of red (crimson or scarlet) for Holy Week among both Episcopalians and Lutherans. The Roman rite has restored the use of red only on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.
  91. Kellner, K. A. H. (1908). Heortology: A History of the Christian Festivals from Their Origin to the Present Day Kegan Paul Trench Trubner & Co Limited. p. 430.
  92. The Church of England rubric states: "The colour for a particular service should reflect the predominant theme. If the Collect, Readings, etc. on a Lesser Festival are those of the saint, then either red (for a martyr) or white is used; otherwise, the colour of the season is retained." See page 532 here.