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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Meaning of Lent

Author Chopanito 2010 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Holy_Week_procession_in_Granada,_Nicaragua.jpg 


Lent celebrants carrying out a street procession during Holy Week. The violet color is often associated with penance and detachment. Similar Christian penitential practice is seen in other Catholic countries, sometimes associated with mortification of the flesh. Granada, Nicaragua.
 
The English word Lent is a shortened form of Old English len(c)ten, which meant 'spring', as its cognates in the Germanic languages still do today: German Lenz and Dutch lente.) 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 might simply be a suffix, or lencten might originally have been a compound of *laŋgo- 'long' and an otherwise little attested word *-tino, meaning 'day'.[10]
In languages spoken where Christianity was earlier established, Greek and Latin, the term used refers to its dating from the fortieth day before Easter. In modern Greek the term is Σαρακοστή, derived from earlier Τεσσαρακοστή, 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, Spanish cuaresma, Portuguese quaresma, French carême, Italian quaresima, Romanian păresimi, Croatian korizma, Irish Carghas, and Welsh C(a)rawys).
In other languages the name used refers to the activity associated with the season. Thus it is called "fasting period" in German (Fastenzeit), Norwegian (fasten/fastetid), and Czech (postní doba); and it is called "great fast" in Russian (великий пост – vyeliki post) and Polish (wielki post).


Duration[edit]

Various Christian denominations calculate the forty days of Lent differently.

Catholic Church[edit]

In the Roman Rite, the definition of Lent varies according to different documents. While the official document on the Lenten season, Paschales Solemnitatis, says that "the first Sunday of Lent marks the beginning of the annual Lenten observance",[11] the Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar says, "The forty days of Lent run from Ash Wednesday up to but excluding the Mass of the Lord's Supper exclusive." [12] The first source represents a period of 40 days and the second a period of 44 days, because both sources agree that the end of Lent comes the evening of Holy Thursday, before the Mass of the Lord's Supper.[13] Though some sources try to reconcile this with the phrase "forty days" by excluding Sundays and extending Lent through Holy Saturday[14][15] no official documents support this interpretation.
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".[16][17][18]
The period of Lent observed in the Eastern Catholic Churches corresponds to that in other churches of Eastern Christianity that have similar traditions.

Orthodox Christianity[edit]

In those churches which follow the Rite of Constantinople, i.e., the Eastern Orthodox and the Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholics (not all Eastern Catholics), the forty days of Lent and of fasting, which include Sundays, begin not on Ash Wednesday, but on Clean Monday. Lent then ends on the fortieth day from that date, which is the Friday before Palm Sunday. The days of Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday and Holy Week are considered a distinct period of fasting. For more detailed information about this practice of Lent, see the article Great Lent.
In addition, determination of the date of Easter in the East is not based on the Gregorian calculations (see Computus). In most years this results in a difference of some weeks, which can be as many as five.
Among the Oriental Orthodox, there are various local traditions regarding Lent. The Coptic, Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Churches observe eight weeks of Lent, which, with both Saturdays and Sunday mornings exempt, has forty days of fasting.[17] Fast generally implies one meal a day to be taken either in the evening or after 2.45 p.m. with total abstention from meat, fats, eggs and dairy products. Instead they use cereals, vegetables and other type of food devoid of fats. Smoking is a breach of the fast, which runs for a total of 56 days.[19]
Others attribute these seven days to the fast of Holofernes who asked the Syrian Christians to fast for him after they requested his assistance to repel the invading pagan Persians. Joyous Saturday and the week preceding it are counted separately from the forty-day fast in accordance with the Apostolic Constitutions giving an extra eight days.

Protestants[edit]

One calculation has been that the season of Lent last from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday.[20][21] This calculation makes Lent last 46 days, if the 6 Sundays are included, but only 40, if they are excluded,[22] because there is no obligation to fast on the six Sundays in Lent.[20][21] This definition is still that of the Anglican Church,[23] Lutheran Church,[24] Methodist Church,[25] and Western Rite Orthodox Church.[26]

Other related fasting periods[edit]

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, most notably by the public imposition of ashes. A Christian clergyman imposes ashes on a member of the United States Navy.
The number forty has many Biblical references: the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 24:18); the forty days and nights Elijah spent walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8); the forty days and nights God sent rain in the great flood of Noah (Genesis 7:4); the forty years the Hebrew people wandered in the desert while traveling to the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33); the forty days Jonah gave in his prophecy of judgment to the city of Nineveh in which to repent or be destroyed (Jonah 3:4).
Jesus retreated into the wilderness, where He fasted for forty days, and was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1–2, Mark 1:12–13, Luke 4:1–2). He overcame all three of Satan's temptations by citing scripture to the devil, at which point the devil left him, angels ministered to Jesus, and He began His ministry. Jesus further said that His disciples should fast "when the bridegroom shall be taken from them" (Matthew 9:15), a reference to his Passion. Since, presumably, the Apostles fasted as they mourned the death of Jesus, Christians have traditionally fasted during the annual commemoration of his burial.
It is the traditional belief that Jesus lay for forty hours in the tomb[17] which led to the forty hours of total fast that preceded the Easter celebration in the early Church[27] (the biblical reference to 'three days in the tomb' is understood by them as spanning three days, from Friday afternoon to early Sunday morning, rather than three 24-hour periods of time). Some Christian denominations, such as The Way International and Logos Apostolic Church of God,[28] as well as Anglican scholar E. W. Bullinger in The Companion Bible, believe Christ was in the grave for a total of 72 hours, reflecting the type of Jonah in the belly of the whale.[29]
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.
Converts to Catholicism followed a strict catechumenate or period of instruction and discipline prior to baptism. 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.

Associated customs

Statues and icons veiled in violet shrouds for Passiontide in St Pancras Church, Ipswich, United Kingdom.
There are traditionally forty days in Lent which 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 neighbour).
However, in modern times, observers give up an action of theirs considered to be a vice, add something that is considered to be able to bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations.[30]
In addition, some believers add a regular spiritual discipline, such as reading a Lenten daily devotional.[6] Another practice commonly added is the singing of 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.
In many liturgical Christian denominations, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday form the Easter Triduum.[31] Lent is a season of grief that necessarily ends with a great celebration of Easter. 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.

 Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lent