5 Things You Need to Know About Lent
by: Christina Ibrahim
It’s that time of the year again! We find ourselves at the beginning of another Lenten season, and every year it’s the same drill; frantically trying to finish all the meat and cheese in the fridge so we can replace it with tameya and Minicol. But every year as we go through the motions, have we ever really stopped to think about why the Church in its wisdom has put in place the traditions and rites during this blessed time?
So here are 5 things you need to know about the lent, on this journey.
- Why is the lent 55 days?
Simply put, we have 7 days for Preparation Week + 40 days when Jesus fasted in the wilderness + 7 days for Passion Week + 1 day for Lazarus Saturday.
- Origin of the Lent
The period of Lent, was first observed by the apostles themselves or in the immediate post – apostolic period in preparation for Easter baptism. It was said that the fast lasted for approximately 2 days, commemorating the time the Lord spent in the tomb. It was only following the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D that the Lent became the fixed 40 days we know today.
Source: The Paschal or Lent Fast: Apostolic and Perpetual (Oxford, UK: John Henry Parker, 1845)
- What does “fasting” actually mean?
The Old Testament Hebrew word for fasting is ts-oom, which means to cover your mouth. However in the New Testament the Greek translation for fasting was nace-ty-oo, which means to abstain from food.
- So is abstinence necessary in fasting?
“There can be no knowledge of the mysteries of God on a full stomach.” St Isaac the Syrian (Orthodox Prayer Life: The Interior Way) When we abstain from food for a period of time, the Lord grants us a poor and contrite spirit, allowing us to come to Him begging for His forgiveness and mercy, pleading with Him to reveal to us our sins, knowing that through a broken spirit He will hear and “give heed to the voice of my cry.”(Psalm 5)
- Is it just about the food?
No. It’s about so much more than that, Isaiah 58 reads:
“Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? “
Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’” (Isaiah 58:5 – 7)
God does not require burdensome fasting rituals and ascetic practices, but that we show love and mercy in every aspect of our lives, through good works. By putting away our sin, we allow Christ the opportunity to renew our hearts and He promises that, “Your healing shall spring forth speedily.” What more can we really want than healing and revival during this time of Lent?