Outline • Facts about Lent • The Church’s Authority to prescribe days of fasting and abstinence • Practical ways to approach Lent
What is Lent? â€˘ Lent is the forty day period before Easter, excluding Sundays, it begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with evening Mass on Holy Thursday
Why are the forty days called Lent? â€˘
They are called Lent because that is the Old English word for spring, the season of the year during which they fall. This is something unique to English. In almost all other languages its name is a derivative of the Latin term Quadragesima, or "the forty days."
When did Lent first begin? â€˘ St. Athanasius in 331 enjoined upon his flock a period of forty days of fasting preliminary to, but not inclusive of, the stricter fast of Holy Week â€˘ In 339 he wrote to urge this observance upon the people of Alexandria as one that was universally practiced, "to the end that while all the world is fasting, we who are in Egypt should not become a laughingstock as the only people who do not fast but take our pleasure in those days".
Why is Lent forty days long? •
Because forty days is a traditional number of discipline, devotion, and preparation in the Bible. – Moses stayed on the Mountain of God forty days (Exodus 24:18 and 34:28), – the spies were in the land for forty days (Numbers 13:25) – Elijah traveled forty days before he reached the cave where he had his vision (1 Kings 19:8), – Nineveh was given forty days to repent (Jonah 3:4) – prior to undertaking his ministry, Jesus spent forty days in wilderness praying and fasting (Matthew 4:2).
Since Lent is a period of prayer and fasting, it is fitting for Christians to imitate their Lord with a forty day period.
What is a day of fast and abstinence? •
A day of fast is one on which Catholics who are eighteen to sixty years old are required to keep a limited fast. In this country, one may eat a single, normal meal and have two snacks, so long as these snacks do not add up to a second meal. A day of abstinence is a day on which Catholics fourteen years or older are required to abstain from eating meat
Is there a biblical basis for abstaining from meat as a sign of repentance? •
"In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . 'I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.'" (Daniel 10:1-3)
What days during Lent are days of fast or abstinence? â€˘
All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence. Also, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the day on which Christ was crucified, are days of both fast and abstinence.
Why are Fridays during Lent days of abstinence? â€˘
Because Jesus died for our sins on Friday, making it an especially appropriate day of mourning our sins by denying ourselves something we enjoy. During the rest of the year Catholics in this country are permitted to use a different act of penance on Friday in place of abstinence, though all Fridays are days of penance on which we are required to do something expressing sorrow for our sins
Is the custom of giving up something for Lent mandatory? â€˘ No. However, it is a salutary custom
Why is giving up something for Lent such a salutary custom? â€˘
By denying ourselves something we enjoy, we discipline our wills so that we are not slaves to our pleasures. By disciplining the will to refuse pleasures when they are not sinful, a habit is developed which allows the will to refuse pleasures when they are sinful. There are few better ways to keep one's priorities straight than by periodically denying ourselves things of lesser priority to show us that they are not necessary and focus our attention on what is necessary.
Biblical basis for “Disciplining the body” •
Rom 8:13 13 for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. 1 Timothy 4:6-16 7 Have nothing to do with godless and silly myths. Train yourself in godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; 27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Fasting in the Old Testament • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Ez 8:21-23 Neh 1:4 Neh 9:1 Tobit 12:8 Judith 4:9-13 Esther 4:3,16 Psalm 35:13 Jer 36:9 Baruch 1:5 Dan 9:3 Dan 10:2-3 Joel 1:14 Joel 2:12,15 Jonah 3:5 Jonah 3:10 1 Macc 3:47 2 Macc 13:12
Fasting in the New Testament •
Matt 9:14-15 14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" 15 And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. Mark 2:20 Luke 5:35
Matthew 6:16-18 16 "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
• • •
Luke 2:37 Acts 13:2-3 Acts 14:23
The Churchâ€™s Authority to establish days of fast and abstinence.
“Binding and Loosing” • •
"Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19, 18:18). The language of binding and loosing (in part) was a rabbinic way of referring to the ability to establish binding halakah or rules of conduct for the faith community. "BINDING AND LOOSING” (Hebrew, asar ve-hittir); Rabbinical term for 'forbidding and permitting.' Under Queen Alexandra the Pharisees, says Josephus (Wars of the Jews 1:5:2), 'became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind.' The various schools had the power 'to bind and to loose'; that is, to forbid and to permit (Talmud: Chagigah 3b); and they could also bind any day by declaring it a fastday ( . . . Talmud: Ta'anit 12a . . . ). This power and authority, vested in the rabbinical body of each age of the Sanhedrin, received its ratification and final sanction from the celestial court of justice (Sifra, Emor, 9; Talmud: Makkot 23b).
“Binding and Loosing” •
The second epistle of Clement to James II ('Clementine Homilies,' Introduction [A.D. 221]), Peter is represented as having appointed Clement as his successor, saying: 'I communicate to him the power of binding and loosing so that, with respect to everything which he shall ordain in the earth, it shall be decreed in the heavens; for he shall bind what ought to be bound and loose what ought to be loosed as knowing the rule of the Church.'" (Jewish Encyclopedia 3:215).
Every family has the authority to establish particular family devotions for its members. Thus if the parents decide that the family will engage in a particular devotion at a particular time (say, Bible reading after supper), it is a sin for the children to disobey and skip the devotion for no good reason. In the same way, the Church as the family of God has the authority to establish its own family devotion, and it is a sin for the members of the Church to disobey and skip the devotions for no good reason
Practical ways to approach Lent
What can (should) I do for Lent? • Give up something that is meaningful to you (i.e. make a sacrifice) – – – –
Your time to spend with others Specific foods you enjoy eating Turn the TV off an hour early each night Tithe more than normal
• Add in something – – – –
Daily bible reading Frequent confession Attend mass during the week Get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning to pray
Redemptive Suffering • •
Offer your sacrifices during Lent for someone else Share in Jesus' cross for yourself and others – Col 1:24 24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church – Gal 6:2 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ – Phil 2:17 17 Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.