Skip to comments.Why I Donít Observe Lent; The practice of self-denial is to be the daily experience of the believer.
Posted on 03/03/2014 6:03:58 AM PST by Gamecock
Several years ago I was encouraged to consider the practice of observing Lent as a preparation for the Easter celebration of the resurrection. Honestly, I did not give it much serious thought, one way or the other. I had other things occupying my mind and it seemed harmless enough. However, sometime later I had the opportunity to study with Dr. Hughes Old. His writings as well as his lectures, compelled me to think more carefully about the observance of Lent. As a result of my study I have come to the settled conviction not to observe Lent or to promote its observance in the church. However, since Lent is a period of sober-minded fasting and spiritual discipline leading up to the celebration of the resurrection, I must state at the outset that I am not opposed to fasting, sober- mindedness, or the celebration of the resurrection.
Rather, it is the observance of a formal season of holy days called “Lent” that I have decided not to incorporate in my private and public devotions. In order to explain why I have come to this position I must first offer some clarifying thoughts and then give some consideration to the meaning and origins of the practice of Lent. As I have already stated I am not opposed to fasting, or to sober-minded reflection on the suffering of Jesus. However, the observance of Lent in the life of the church of the Middle Ages was a required fast, not voluntary or optional as it is in many churches today. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) has made the observance of Lent obligatory for all its members. This is well established in the Canon Law of the RCC.
Canon 1249 — All members of the Christian faithful in their own way are bound to do penance in virtue of divine law; in order that all may be joined in a common observance of penance, penitential days are prescribed in which the Christian faithful in a special way pray, exercise works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their responsibilities more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence according to the norm of the following canons.
Canon 1250 — All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the universal Church. This canon is taken from Poenitemini, part III,
Canon 1251 — Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.1
The following quote also serves to make the point that the observance of Lent is not optional for members of the RCC.
In 1966 Pope Paul VI reorganized the Church’s practice of public penance in his “Apostolic Constitution on Penance” (Poenitemini). The 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law incorporated the changes made by Pope Paul. Not long after that, the U.S. bishops applied the canonical requirements to the practice of public penance in our country. To sum up those requirements, Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In addition, all Catholics 14 years old and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent.”2
Therefore, according to the RCC, to fail to observe Lent and its required fasts is a violation of established church law and sinful. While it is certainly appropriate for Christians to observe times of fasting and sober reflections as an expression of their devotion to their Lord, it is quite a different matter for the church to bind the consciences of believers with observances which are not mandated in Scripture. In part, the Reformation of the 16th century was about the way in which God is properly worshiped and the power of the Church to mandate extra- biblical observances. Regarding Liberty of Conscience, The Westminster Confession of Faith, a Confession which arose out of the Reformation struggle in England states,
God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience, and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also. 3
Regarding extra-bilblical worship requirements, the Westminster Confession of Faith states,
The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture. 4
When I state that I have decided not to observe Lent or recommend it, I have this in mind in particular, that is, the mandated observance of Lent as was established in the church prior to the Reformation. It is also worth considering whether it would be wise for the leadership of a church to adopt this practice, even though it is not mandated that the congregation participate in the observance. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, not to participate in the observance of Lent when the whole congregational life is being structured by it for six weeks out of the year.
It is also important to state that even though many today observe Lent solely as an expression of devotion to their Lord, in the Middle Ages Lent was understood as a part of that way of salvation in which works were viewed, in some sense, as meritorious. Hughes Old remarks in his work, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, that often, the practice of Lent was understood as having merit for the pursuit of salvation. In referencing a sermon from the Middle Ages, which was preached by a man named Rabanus, he remarks,
This sermon is fundamental to understanding the spirituality of Rabanus. Very carefully our preacher unfolds the mystery of Lent. He speaks of the foreshadowings of this spiritual discipline in the Old Testament: both Moses and Elijah fasted forty days in the wilderness as preparation for their spiritual. This is followed by a long explanation of the mystical mathematics behind the forty-day fast. It is one-tenth of the year, a sort of tithing of our time. If we fast more than the tithe or at other times of the year, we gain extra favor, but if we fail to fast for the forty days of Lent, it is counted as sin. But not only should we fast during the forty days of Lent, we should remain chaste as well. Rabanus, as his most serious contemporaries, firmly believed that one should avoid any kind of sexual relations during Lent. One should go to church frequently, attending both morning and evening prayer services as well as Mass; one should be often at prayers and generous in alms and good works; and one should live at peace with all. Thus it is that we prepare for Easter. It was through asceticism that one earned the blessings of God, and since the blessings of Easter were the greatest blessings of God, one must be especially vigilant in denying the flesh during Lent. 5
Dr. Old concludes that fasting and the Lenten observance had taken on a soteriological significance in the life of the church. He states,
Through the Christian calendar fasting has become a sacrament. We notice this statement in the sermon for the beginning of Lent. By means of fasting we unite ourselves to Christ in his suffering and thereby become worthy of rising with Christ in glory. The graciousness of Christ’s vicarious sacrifice completely escapes Rabanus. There is no sermon on the crucifixion of Christ, but rather all through Lent we are instructed on how we are to mortify our own flesh. Lent, the forty-day fast, has become the central sacrament of the Christian faith. 6
Of course, today many churches do not assign any saving power to the Lenten acts of self-denial as some were inclined to do in the Middle Ages. However, it has been observed by many that the observance of Lent prior to Vatican II was much more rigorous than it is now.
What has been understood by the observance of Lent? In the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (1984) we find this definition for Lent,
The fast of forty days before Easter. In the first three centuries the period of fasting in preparation for Easter did not, as a rule, exceed two or three days, as is evident from a statement of Irenaeus recorded by Eusebius. The first mention of a period of forty days, probably of Lent, occurs in the Canons of Nicaea (A.D. 325; can. 5). 7
The derivation of the word “lent” is most likely from the Middle English “lente” or the German “lenzin” which has reference to the springtime when the days are growing longer. Of course, it is in the spring of the year when Lent is observed and when Easter is celebrated.8
The full-blown practice of Lent did not come about until well into the 4th century and even then not as it is practiced today. The Oxford Dictionary goes on to state, “The number forty was not made up in the Latin Church until the 7th century…”9 As the observance of Lent began to take shape it was a time of strict fasting from a number of things including, but not restricted to, food. The Oxford Dictionary states, “During the early centuries the observance of the fast was very strict. Only one meal a day, taken towards evening, was allowed, and flesh-meat and fish, and in most places eggs and lacticinia, were absolutely forbidden.”10 Since the Reformation the observance of Lent has become much more relaxed and it is “…generally observed as a time of penance by abstaining from festivities, by alsmsgiving, and by devoting more than the usual time to religious exercises.”11
In Dr. Hughes Old’s work The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Volume II-The Patristic Age we read, “Another auxiliary observance surrounding the Christian celebration of Passover is the forty-day fast, which we call Lent. Lent was then only beginning in the fourth century to take on the prominence it would later have.”12
At this time, even though Lent was observed, it did not dominate the preaching texts chosen for sermons. Old continues,
In Etheria’s (a fourth century pilgrim to Jerusalem) day the liturgical observance of Lent was still quite modest. Its main concern, we gather, was the keeping of the fast; only after that was the preparation for candidates for baptism of interest. Special catechetical sermons were still preached, as they had been in Cyril’s day, and these, according to Etheria, consisted of two parts: a series of sermons going through the whole Bible, giving first the literal and then the spiritual meaning, and an explanation of the creed phrase by phrase. Etheria makes special note of the fact that although Lent lasts eight weeks in Jerusalem, it does not include Saturdays and Sundays, and no special Lenten sermons were preached on Sunday. 13
Originally then, the practice of Lent was very modest. It was not until Gregory the Great (540-604 A.D.) that the practice of Lent began to take on the shape of an extended period of a more rigorous ascetic nature. Dr. Old states,
In Gregory’s Lenten sermons one misses a solid preaching of the cross. While Gregory guards against the extremes of Pelagianism, there is certainly a Pelagian drift to his message. This, too, was part of the age in which he lived. The Christianity of late antiquity was still influenced by a strong current of Neoplantonism, which tended to encourage the denial of the material world, and in the development of Lent both Neoplatonism and Pelagianism came to full expression. The message of Lent, even today, is Pelagian through and through. In fact, Pelagius is somewhat symptomatic of the way much of Christian spirituality developed when the barbarian invasions began to threaten the Roman world. Pelagius was a British Christian who left the British Isles for Rome when the Romans withdrew and the Anglo-Saxons began their invasion, and when the barbarians threatened Rome he moved on to North Africa. His asceticism was a way of fleeing a world doomed to destruction. 14
Dr. Old contends that the two influences of Neoplatonism and Asceticism combined to shape the Medieval observance of Lent. He states,
It is this gospel of asceticism which is the whole basis of the celebration of Lent. As Leo understands it, the grace of God in Christ is the giving of an example of how we, too, may obtain salvation. As Christ was saved through suffering, so we can be saved through suffering. If we follow the example of Christ and resist the temptation of the devil, if we deny the appetites of the flesh as Christ did, then we, too, will be worthy of making the passover from this life to life eternal. 15
Further he observes that,
The age that produced the lectionaries was characterized not only by the dimming of learning but also by the changing character of piety, particularly among the general population. The learned piety associated with the ancient synagogue and with the flourishing of the patristic age had little appeal. This kind of piety had retreated almost entirely to the monastery, and even there it had dwindled markedly. A new kind of piety had taken its place. This piety was characterized by an emphasis on penance, by an interest in the cult of the martyrs, and by an almost desperate concern to hold on to the vestiges of a glory that had all but passed away. More and more the Church reacted to the problems of the age by advocating an ascetic approach to life. Christians tightened their belts and lamented their sins before God. They hoped that by disciplining their lives God would have mercy on them. This is what Advent was all about. Advent, like Lent, was a perfect expression of medieval piety. 16
The Reformation of the 16th century with its emphasis on the principle of sola scriptura reacted to the practice of Lent and other observances like it which were mandated by the church but not by Scripture. Commenting on a Lenten sermon by Peter Pazmany (1570-1637), a Hugarian Jesuit priest, Dr. Old remarks,
Finally, we notice that this sermon is concerned to emphasize a position at odds with Protestantism. Protestants, and especially Calvinists, have always opposed the asceticism of both Lent and Advent. Asceticism drives a sharp division between the physical and the spiritual. Much pagan philosophy, especially Manichaeism and Neoplatonism, sees our physical existence as the source of sin and corruption. It is pagan philosophy, not biblical Christianity, which teaches that the physical body is a prison that enslaves the human spirit. This has always been a major point of controversy between Catholicism and Protestantism…as the seventeenth century advanced, Catholic preaching deteriorated considerably. In both Bohemia and Hungary it tended to pound in the Catholic doctrines which Protestants had challenged. The preaching of the Marian devotions, pilgrimages, Lenten observances, and saints’ days became increasingly important 17
Neoplatonism is defined in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church as,
the philosophical system of Plotinus (c. 205-70) and his successors…The more ardent and thorough-going Neoplatonists were necessarily hostile to Christianity, especially its doctrine of an incarnation in history and its rejection of the ancient philosophies. On the other hand, Neoplatonist influences gradually made themselves felt on Christian theology. They came in partly from their diffusive impact on the whole of the later Roman world…Instances of more specifically Neoplatonist influences in Christianity may be seen in the writings of…the Pseudo Dionysius… 18
Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite (c. 500) is the name give to a body of writings which combined Neo-platonism with Christianity. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states,
The Pseudo-Dionysian writings aim at achieving a synthesis between Christian dogma and Neoplatonist thought.
The supposed apostolic authority of these writings, added to their intrinsic value, caused the ‘Pseudo-Dionysius’ to exercise a profound influence on medieval theology both in the East and the West.
In the West the approval of St. Gregory the Great and Martin I, and especially that of the Lateran Council of 649 which quoted them…established the Pseudo-Dionysian writings as an uncontested doctrinal authority.
A great change in the earlier estimate of them took place in the 16th century when not only the Reformers but a few Catholic scholars…contested their authenticity… 19
In the “Story of Christianity,” Justo Gonzalez writes about “Dionysius the Areopagite,
In the fifth century, someone had written these works, which were purported to be by the same Dionysius who had heard Paul at the Areopagus. When they were introduced into Western Europe during the reign of Charles the Bald, no one doubted their authenticity. Erigena’s translation was read as the word of one whose authority was almost apostolic. Since these works expounded a form of Neoplatonic mysticism, soon this was confused with Paul’s theology, and the Apostle was read as if he too had been a Neoplatonist. 20
Partly through the influence of the Neoplatonism promoted in these writings the Lent of the Middle Ages developed into a lengthy season of rigorous fasting. The Lenten season came into being under the guise of a Neoplatonic aversion to the physical as over against the spiritual. Neoplatonism downplayed physical existence in much the same way as did Greek dualist who preferred the soul as over against the body. In some extreme forms of this thought, matter was deemed to be evil and thus the body evil as well. Salvation then was construed in a more metaphysical sense than ethical. Salvation was viewed as an escape from the body, from the physical realm into the realm of the spirit.
The Apostle Paul addresses this “asceticism” in 1 Timothy 4:1-5:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. (NASB)
His opposition is based on the doctrine of the goodness of the created material world. Modern protestant observances of Lent are far from the rigor of the Middle Ages. First, they are more often than not voluntary in nature; i.e. not mandated by the Church. Second, the modern observances are often a faint reflection of the more exacting practice of the past. The spiritual discipline of a rigorous fasting is now replaced by such things as giving up chocolate. Some modern observers of Lent decry the slack manner in which it is presently observed. One advocate of a stricter Lent states on his blog,
As we prepare for Lent in this Septuagesmima season, it is good to review the nature and requirements of the traditional Lenten Fast. The Current Code of Canon Law requires that Ash Wednesday and Good Friday be days of abstinence and fast, and all Fridays of Lent (like all other Fridays of the year) are days of abstinence. However, this modern Lenten observance is laughable in its laxity, and only goes to show how far removed the modern, novus ordo establishment has removed itself from all things authentically Catholic. One might as well not even observe the season Lent at all! However, the observance of fasting on all weekdays of Lent is the traditional method of observing the Lenten fast, and is strongly recommended for all traditional Catholics. It is also our hope the more ancient and spiritually efficacious traditional Lenten Fast will be soon restored to universal practice, for the good of the Church, and the greater glory of God. 21
What started out with a full-blown deprecation of things which are lawful, food, sex, marriage, etc., has degenerated into rather trivial acts of denial, such as giving up chocolate or coffee. Of course, fasting is good as an expression of self-denial, but for the Church to decree such seasons for fasting as Lent, and thereby bind the consciences of believers, is contrary to the instructions given by the Apostle Paul. In addition it can be asked why would one voluntarily place himself under such rigorous regulations concerning food when Christ has set His people free from such regulations. Lent became a season of penance; forty days of sorrowful penance while waiting for Easter and the celebration of the resurrection. Nowhere in scripture is there any prescription for such an observance. The forty years that Moses worked for Jethro were preparatory for his mission to rescue the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt. His forty days of fasting on Mount Sinai were preparatory for the reception of the convenantal law of God. The forty days of fasting by Jesus were preparatory for spiritual battle in the wilderness. There is no pattern set forth in scripture for forty days of mourning over sin, especially when Christ has offered immediate forgiveness to everyone who repents.
However, as Dr. Old observes, the rigorous fasting of the Lenten observance developed into one of the central aspects of Christian devotion.
As Neoplatonism came to have greater and greater influence on Christianity, asceticism began to gain an ever stronger grip on Christianity. This was particularly evident in the maters of fasting and celibacy. Fasting had come to be the touchstone of a serious devotional life. It was at the heart of the liturgical calendar. There were two long fasting seasons of the year, Advent and Lent; then there were Friday fasts. Celibacy had come to have such great importance that it was considered a prerequisite for any kind of ministerial vocation. 22
The Reformation of the 16th century brought about many changes in the church and the Protestant church that arose took a different approach to observances like that of Lent. Hughes Old states the following with respect to the approach of Ulrich Zwingli,
As Zwingli saw it, asceticism was foreign to the Christian gospel, and he forthrightly preached against it. Dispensing with the traditional liturgical calendar was, of course, only consistent when one dispensed with asceticism. One can hardly be said to observe either Advent or Lent if one does not fast during these seasons. Two sermons have come down to us in which Zwingli broke into his lectio continua to preach against Lenten fasting. There was consideration of the matter throughout the town, and Zwingli took to the pulpit to assure his congregation that Christians living under grace were not bound by laws regarding which foods were permitted and which were not permitted. That had been characteristic of the Law of Moses, not the gospel of Christ. 23
They were persuaded that the Apostle Paul had instructed the early church not to allow their consciences to be bound by mandates to observe special days which had been fulfilled by the redemptive work of Christ, or not ordained by God in His Word.
In Galatians 4:9-11 the Apostle wrote,
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.”(NASB)
And in Colossians 2:16-23 he writes,
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things belongs to Christ. Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch! (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) – in accordance with the commandments
and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. (NASB)
In Olds’ work The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship he comments with respect to The Confessio Tetrapolitana, established at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530,
Prayer and fasting are worthy exercises of Christian piety which Reformed pastors are in the custom of encouraging. Fasting is a discipline of desire in which we turn away from this world, while prayer is turning of our hearts toward God. Fasting is a practice of piety having particularly to do with hope. Paul teaches us that since love is more important than either faith or hope we should not let fasting interfere with those practices of piety which have to do with love and the aid of our neighbor such as preaching and the care of the poor. The Reformers particularly objected to set periods of fasting such as Advent and Lent. Fasting should be an inner discipline rather than the outward and legalistic form which the Reformers found the practice of their day to be. A passage of Irenaeus is quoted to show that the Ante-Nicene Church had not yet established a uniform system of forty days of Lenten fasting. 24
Another early act adopted by the reformers in Germany was “The Ulm Reformation Act of 1531.” Olds remarks concerning their perspective on the liturgical calendar,
Church Calendar. The Lord’s Day is to be the only holiday observed. It is to be celebrated by the hearing of the Word of God, and other Christian observances…The Seasons of fasting such as Advent and Lent are no longer to be observed. 25
The Reformers decidedly discontinued the practice of “holy days” that were established by the church throughout the Middle Ages. They considered, as they went about the “reformation” of the church, whether to continue the practice of “saint’s days,” etc., in the worship of the church. Dr. Old observes,
There was no observance of Advent, any more than there was of Lent. Discontinuing the penitential seasons of preparation for Christmas and Easter was one of the first reforms of Reformed Protestantism. This may seem radical to some, but it is at the heart of the Reformed approach to worship. The whole history of these seasons of fasting had been marked by a legalistic asceticism which is far removed from Christian piety as taught in the New Testament. While specifically Reformed churches have been characterized by their avoidance of Lent and Advent, few Protestants find the kind of asceticism implied by these observances consistent with the teaching of Jesus. Most Protestants have found the old observances of Lent and Advent terribly reminiscent of the piety of the Pharisees which Jesus so explicitly condemned. The objection to Lent and Advent is that they overemphasize the penitential dimension of Christian devotion.”26
As the Reformers followed the “regulative principle of worship,” they decided to observe the one “holy” day prescribed by God in the Fourth Commandment. Thus they promoted the Christian Sabbath/the Lord’s Day as the one Holy Day ordained by God. On this day Christians would “fast” from their own pleasures. They would practice a weekly “self-denial” on the Lord’s Day. By way of contrast the church of the Middle Ages had replaced the weekly observance of the Sabbath with festivals, seasons of special observance, and holy days. The season of “Lent” was one such season, a period of fasting and preparation for the observance of Easter. It began with Ash Wednesday when the penitents would pledge themselves to a season of self-denial until the observance of Easter/the Resurrection.
This has produced the unfortunate day of consummate indulgence of every vice called “Fat Tuesday,” the day before Ash Wednesday. If one is being required to fast from certain foods, etc. for the forty days of Lent, why not indulge himself on the day before? The Reformers discontinued these man-made observances in favor of the God-ordained weekly observance of the Sabbath.
Dr. Old comments that one of the consequences of the emphasis on special required days of fasting as are observed in Lent is that the Christian Lord’s Day was, in a sense, squeezed out of the life of the church.
Explain it as you will, for the next thousand years asceticism would become the essence of being religious and the church calendar would become a fasting schedule. Advent and Lent would become the religious seasons of the year and weekly celebrations of the Lord’s Day would no longer set the tone of Christian worship. 27
The Reformers viewed the Christian Sabbath as both a weekly celebration of the victory of the resurrection and a weekly practice of self-denial; that is, fasting from the pursuit of labor and entertainment. This weekly observance puts a curb on self-seeking pleasure and works against the self-indulgence of “Fat Tuesday.” Self-denial then becomes a way of life, the normal practice of piety, and not a seasonal event. The observance of fasting, praying, self-denial, and sober-minded reflection in the life of a believer is to be commended. I suppose someone may wish to do so as a matter of habit and regular observance by keeping some form of “Lent.”
However, the mandated observance of Lent along with its extra-biblical requirements of abstinence from things that are not withheld from us by God in His word is another matter altogether. What merit or benefit is there in abstaining from something which God Himself has given us to enjoy and to bless our lives? If something is sinful, we ought to abstain from it, fast from it, every hour of the day, every day of the week, and every week of the year. If something is not sinful and not forbidden to us by God in His Word, then we are free to partake of it or not partake of it as our conscience is our guide. Given the faulty foundations upon which the practice of Lent was established, one wonders why such a practice is perpetuated. It is both ill-conceived and wrongly focused and as such not truly beneficial for the life of the church. The practice of self-denial is to be the daily experience of the believer. The Protestant and Reformed church, for the most part, has treated fasting as an individual and personal matter. Therefore, on special occasions, times of fasting and prayer have been called for and have been deemed appropriate. For these reasons I have decided not to observe the practice of Lent and not to recommend it to others. Dr. Old wisely puts this question before us concerning the observance of the liturgical calendar with its seasonal lenten penance:
The question we need to ask is whether in our day the canonizing of the liturgy and the reintroduction of the liturgical calendar would be a true reform of the worship of American Protestantism. 28
Roland S. Barnes is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and since 1981 he has served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA), Statesboro, GA.
1 http://www.trosch.org/for/the/abs-clws.htm This entire section of the 1917 Code had been reformed by Paul VI on February 17, 1966 with the apostolic constitution Poenitemini (see bibliography following c. 1253). The five canons in this chapter of the Code are a summary of part of this document and must not be understood apart from it, especially the very rich discursive section of the document treating the history of penance and its role in the life of every Christian.
2 http://www.americancatholic.org/features/lent/lentrules.aspx Fasting as explained by the U.S. bishops means partaking of only one full meal. Some food (not equaling another full meal) is permitted at breakfast and around midday or in the eveningdepending on when a person chooses to eat the main or full meal. Abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, milk products or condiments made of animal fat.
3 The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XX, paragraph 2.
4 The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXI, paragraph 1.
5 Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Volume 3, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), p. 208.
6 Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Volume 3, page 213
7 F.L. Cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 810.
8 Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, (Chicago: Lakeside Press, 1967), p. 483.
9 The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 810.
10 The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 810.
11 The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 811.
12 Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Volume II, p. 99.
13 Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Volume II, p. 138.
14 Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Volume II, p. 435.
15 Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Volume II, p. 415.
16 Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Volume III, p. 184.
17 Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Volume V, p. 323.
18 The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 960.
19 The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 406.
20 Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Volume I, (Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 1985), p. 270.
22 Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Volume IV, p. 51.
23 Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Volume IV, p. 51.
24 Hughes Oliphant Old, The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship, (Black Mountain, NC: Worship Press, 2004), p. 58.
25 Old, The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship, p. 66.
26 Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Volume V, pp. 60-61.
27 Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Vol. II, p. 437.
28 Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures, Volume II, p. 416.
A nice intellectual discourse, however in our gluttonous materialistic self obsessed society if the church can encourage discipline and self sacrifice for 40 days that it is a good thing.
Me thinks thou dost protest too much.
Wouldn’t the “Agony in the Garden” be reason enough to observe Lent?
Agreed. blah blah blah Catholics bad blah blah blah.
Against civil discourse, are we?
I don’t know. As the author says in the title, our whole life should be that way.
Lent is no more Scriptural than Xmas is. Both are traditions of men that have their roots outside of Scripture.
The Bible: "Upon this rock I shall build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not withstand it. Whatever you declare to be loosed on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven. Whatever you declare bound on Earth shall be bound in Heaven."
And that is why sola scriptura is self-contradicting.
Jesus fasted for 40 days and beat the devil and the devil’s shallow temptations.
Many Christian denominations show their appreciation for Christ’s suffering by sharing in His sacrafice during Lent.
But because the RCC has codified the practice, others have lightened the sacrafice, and the non-religious have turned the beginning of Lent into a pagan holiday, you elect not to participate?
Your lengthy treatise is heavy on criticism, but doesn’t suggest a remedy or how you intend to commemorate Christ. Sounds like you simply surrendered.
The Protestant and Reformed church, for the most part, has treated fasting as an individual and personal matter. Therefore, on special occasions, times of fasting and prayer have been called for and have been deemed appropriate. For these reasons I have decided not to observe the practice of Lent and not to recommend it to others.
If you are a member of a Protestant or Reformed church, then, by all means, follow the practices of your church and, if you wish, observe those special occasions during which your church deems fasting and prayer to be appropriate. No one is forcing you to follow the practices of another church.
The Catholic Church considers Lent to be a special occasion during which time fasting and prayer is deemed appropriate.
As a practicing Catholic, I observe this special occasion.
As a fellow Christian, I respect your right to follow Christ in the way you deem to be appropriate.
The history in this article is so bad as to make me think that the author — or his sources — is just making stuff up.
“Lent” is an English word from Latin via France origin meaning, “slow.” Any musician will tell you that. It’s because the we’re supposed to take more time out from business to pray.
Lent is practiced by communities which split from Rome long before Pope Gregory or even Nicaea.
Abstaining from fasts on Fridays is prescribed in “The Teachings of the Twelve,” a first-century document.
Huh? >> In Etherias (a fourth century pilgrim to Jerusalem) day the liturgical observance of Lent was still quite modest. Its main concern, we gather, was the keeping of the fast;... It was not until Gregory the Great (540-604 A.D.) that the practice of Lent began to take on the shape of an extended period of a more rigorous ascetic nature. << My only guess on this is that after the Donatists were allowed back into the church, the penance for reunion with the Church (and for forgiveness of any mortal sin) was a more severe asceticism leading up to reconciliation, which happened on Easter.
I look forward to observing Lent. The sacrifices I make are nothing compared to the suffering Jesus endured for me. I find that observing Lent refocuses my attention, grounds me spiritually and reminds me to plan my days around God and not something or someone else. Maybe it’s not for everyone and maybe I sound simplistic; it is a personal choice but for me, I find it rewarding.
A nice intellectual discourse, however in our gluttonous materialistic self obsessed society if the church can encourage discipline and self sacrifice for 40 days that it is a good thing. -longfellowsmuse
Agreed. blah blah blah Catholics bad blah blah blah. -MercatHahahahaha! Great commentary! :)
**The practice of self-denial is to be the daily experience of the believer.**
And I thought that Protestants and other non-Catholics didn’t believe in works.
Wondering what they add to their routines during Lent to help the homeless, those without adequate clothing, the hungry and the thirsty.
So are the Reformers saying that they don’t want to imitate Christ?
Remember......Christ spent 40 days in the desert denying himself and praying.
Too bad these people don’t want to imitate him.
They need prayers.
I think the title refutes what you are saying.
40 days and 40 nights with no food...
I don’t know if (I) we can imitate that... and if I did, I don’t think I would crow that I did it...
Lent appears to be a lot of ‘all about me’, ‘all about here’ and ‘all about now’.
What ‘I’ am doing or ‘willing to ‘give up’...
I am reminded of the word’s ‘It is finished’..
Who the Son sets free, should be free indeed....
Free to live for Him.. Imitate His love..daily..no longer ‘me, here, now’..
But churchianity has its grips on folks...
I understand where you are coming from on the self-denial year around.
Catholics deny themselves year around too.
Catholics do it even MORE during Lent.
So what is wrong with that?
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