The death of Christ provided a "Passover" into the Kingdom of God. In the New Testament, the Jewish Passover found its fulfillment in Christ. St. Paul says, "Christ our Paschal Lamb has been sacrificed" (I Cor. 5:7)
|As winter looks forward to spring, "The Forty Days," the
"Great Fast," or "Lent" (Lenten, Lecten, Lenz, means
"spring" in Germanic languages or "lengthen" in Anglo-Saxon review) is
a period which looks to the Passion and Death of Jesus, but more importantly, to His
The historical development of the Lenten Season is clear from the writings of the early church fathers. By 150 AD the Church knew a short fast before the celebration of Pasha. The fast was observed differently depending upon the local traditions but was usually one to two days in duration. By 247 AD the fast extended to six days in some places and with the First Ecumenical Council in 325 AD Canon 5 mentions a forty-day period of fasting prior to Easter. By 400 - 500 AD a forty day fast is universally instituted and by 1,000 AD the Lenten season reached a form similar to that which we practice today.
Originally the forty days of penance were counted from the eve of the first Sunday of Lent to the hour of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. Then began the Paschal mystery, to which the forty days were a preparation. Lent now consists of two parts, the first, the four days from Ash Wednesday to the First Sunday of Lent, and the thirty-six days between then and Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday). the second part of Lent is the time of the Passiontide.
Human beings are physical and spiritual. The primary goals of fasting and abstinence are to make us more God-dependant and to restore the body to equilibrium, enabling us to pray. "The fast should be kept not only by the mouth alone but also by the eye, the ear, the feet, the hands and all members of the body. The eye must abstain from impure sights, the ear from malicious gossip, the hands from acts of injustice. We should be more concerned with what comes out of our mouths than what we are putting in them" (St. John Chrisostom). During Lent, we should "live as children of the light, performing actions good, just and true" (see Ep 5: 1-9).
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