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Lent

LENT

LENT. The word "Lent" is derived from Old English lencten, meaning 'spring', the lengthening of days after winter is over. This was a period of spring fasting known in Old English as Lencten-Fasten, or in its abbreviated form, as Lencten or Lent. The ecclesiastical name for this once mandatory period of fasting is the Quadragesimal Fast, or the fast of the Forty Days, in imitation of the forty days of fasting performed by Jesus in the wilderness.

Like other institutions of Christianity, Lent took time to evolve into its full medieval form. Fasting was practiced in the early Christian Church and was viewed as an aid to prayer. Credence was given to the practice by a statement of Jesus: "When the bridegroom shall be taken from them, then shall they fast" (Matthew 9:15). What was called "half-fasting" was practiced very early on Wednesdays and particularly on Fridays to commemorate the passion or crucifixion of Christ. The Friday fast, as well as the Lenten fast, is still practiced by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and some Protestants.

Historically, the forty-day fast reaches back to the second century c.e., although forty days were not always required. By the fourth and fifth centuries, the fasting took place on thirty-six days representing the six weeks prior to Easter, minus six Sundays since Sundays were not fast days. Later, four extra days were added to make forty: Ash Wednesday and the three days following it.

The medieval Catholic Church in general took a middle ground on fasting. Those who put too high a value on the merit of fasting were rebuked with the words of St. Paul: "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." Some extremist heretical groups, such as the Montanists in the second century, fasted frequently on bread, water, and salt.

Abstinence involves refraining from certain foods, meat in the case of Lent, and indeed, during the Middle Ages, all animal products, including butter, lard for cooking, and eggs. Many cookery books contained special recipes designed to make use of non-animal ingredients, such as olive oil, almond milk, and dried fruit. But fasting also refers to the number and fullness of the meals one partakes of on fast days. Both practices are subsumed under penance or penitence, which involves contrition and reparation for sin in human life. Since Vatican II, the rules of Lenten fasting for Roman Catholics have been modified, but earlier they were quite elaborate and even published in newspapers so that the guidelines would be clearly set forth. The following regulations were in force during the 1950s.

Everyone over the age of seven was to observe the Roman Catholic Lent with complete abstinence on all Fridays, Ash Wednesday, and Holy Saturday Morning. During these times, meat and soup, or gravy made from meat, could not be used. During days of partial abstinence, which included the Saturdays in Lent (except the last one), meat and soup, or gravy made from soup, could be taken only once a day during the main meal. For those over twenty-one and under fifty-nine, only one full meal per day was allowed during the weekdays of Lent. Other meatless meals were allowed only to maintain strength, but could not equal another full meal. Eating between meals was not permitted, except for liquids, but those people whose health or ability to work were seriously affected by fasting could be excused from the regimen. Acts of charity and of self-denial (such as abstaining from alcoholic drinks and amusements) and daily attendance at mass were encouraged.

In 1966, following Vatican II, Pope Paul VI issued his "Apostolic Constitution on Penance" (Poenitemini ), which gave present shape to the Roman Catholic Church's practice of abstinence. This papal clarification modified the elaborate rules for Lent. Still, all Roman Catholics between the ages of eighteen and fifty-nine were required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Everyone over the age of fourteen had to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays during Lent. Fasting was defined as taking only one meal per day, but with smaller meals permitted. Abstinence for Roman Catholics does not now include meat juices, broths, consommés, soups made or flavored with meat, meat-based gravies or sauces, margarine or lard. Even bacon drippings poured over salads and meat byproducts such as gelatin are now allowed. With the permission of the Episcopal Conference, many American Roman Catholics have substituted other forms of penance, such as works of charity or acts of piety, for the other meatless Fridays during the year.

By contrast, Orthodox Christians abstain from all meat products during most days of the Great Lent, and also from fish and animal productslard, milk, butter, cheese, and eggstogether with wine and oil during Holy Week. The rigor and austerity of Orthodox fasting remains unchanged and follows the proscriptions of the early Church and its ecumenical councils. For the Orthodox, there are four main periods of fasting during the year: the Great Fast (Lent), the Fast of the Apostles (starting eight days after Pentecost), the Assumption Fast (from 1 to 14 August), and the Christmas Fast (from 15 November to 24 December). There are also a number of lesser fasts that fall outside the Lenten period.

Protestant attitudes to Lent range from complete rejection by denominations of Puritan and Pietist origin, to a rather full acceptance by Anglicans and Lutherans, who retain many practices similar to those of Catholicism. Even the Church of the Brethren, which in its sectarian, separatist beginnings opposed any celebration of the liturgical year, in the late twentieth century began, in some of its congregations, to hold special services on Ash Wednesday and the Sundays of Lent. Such services highlight repentance and prayer, but there are no special Lenten restrictions on food. There has been a movement among most of the Protestant churches to find common ground during Lent with such community-wide observances as the World Day of Prayer on the first Friday of Lent, and the One Great Hour of Sharing on the fourth Sunday of Lent with offerings dedicated to relieving world hunger.

In order to relieve the dietary austerity of Lent, and to enrich the formerly meager and restricted meals, special Lenten dishes developed in nearly all branches of Christianity. In the United States, they often appear in ethnic markets or in supermarkets catering to certain ethnic groups. One common theme is desserts, with sweet foods taking the place of meat. Recipes for Lent were once commonly published in the spring issues of women's magazines as well as in the food columns of daily newspapers. Cookbooks such as Florence S. Berger's Cooking for Christ (1949) and William I. Kaufman's The Catholic Cookbook: Traditional Feast and Fast Day Recipes (1965) generally include sections on Lenten meals and recipes that have been found acceptable under the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church.

See also Christianity; Easter; Fasting and Abstinence: Christianity; Shrove Tuesday.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Apostolic Constitution on Penance (Poenitemini ). Issued by Pope Paul VI, 17 February 1966.

Berger, Florence S. Cooking for Christ: The Liturgical Year in the Kitchen. Des Moines, Iowa: National Catholic Rural Life Conference, 1949.

"Bishop Publishes Roman Catholic Lent Regulations." Altoona Mirror (Altoona, Pa.), 18 February 1955.

The Code of Canon Law. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1983. Book 4, Chapter 2, "Days of Penance."

Franke, Hermann. Lent and Easter: The Church's Spring. Westminster, Md.: Hermann, 1955.

Flicoteaux, Emmanuel. Le sense du carême. Paris: Cerf, 1956.

Gulevich, Tanya. Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2002.

Jacobs, Henry Eyster, and John A. W. Haas. The Lutheran Cyclopedia. New York: Scribners, 1899. Articles on fasting, Lent, and church year.

Kaufman, William I. The Catholic Cookbook: Traditional Feast and Fast Day Recipes. New York: Citadel, 1965.

"Lent." The Brethren Encyclopedia. Vol. 2, p. 737. Philadelphia, Pa., and Oak Brook, Ill.: The Brethren Encyclopedia, 1983.

"Lent." New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8, pp. 634636. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967.

Rifkin, Ira. Religious News Service. "Catholic Bishops to Study Return to Meatless Fridays." Mobile Register (Mobile, Ala.), 11 November 1997.

Ware, Timothy. The Orthodox Church. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, U.K.: Penguin, 1963.

Don Yoder

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Lent

Lent [Old Eng. lencten,=spring], Latin Quadragesima (meaning 40; thus the 40 days of Lent). In Christianity, Lent is a time of penance, prayer, preparation for or recollection of baptism, and preparation for the celebration of Easter. Observance of Lent is as old as the 4th cent. In Eastern churches it is reckoned as the six weeks before Palm Sunday. In the West the penitential season begins liturgically with Septuagesima, the ninth Sunday before Easter; the next Sundays are Sexagesima and Quinquagesima. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the 40th weekday before Easter. Of the Sundays in Lent the fifth is Passion Sunday and the last is Palm Sunday. The week preceding Easter is Holy Week. Lent ends at midnight Holy Saturday. See Shrove Tuesday. From the 5th to 9th cent. strict fasting was required; only one meal was allowed per day, and meat and fish (and sometimes eggs and dairy) were forbidden. During and since the 9th cent. fasting restrictions were gradually loosened. By the 20th cent. meat was allowed, except on Fridays. Pope Paul VI began (1966) a trend toward penitential works (such as acts of charity) in conjunction with Lent. The Christian observance of Lent may have a parallel in the fasting practiced in Greco-Roman mystery religions, in which it was considered an aid to enlightenment and often preceeded prophecy. Lent may also have a parallel in the Jewish Omer, the interval between Passover and Shavuot that has become a time of semimourning and sadness. During the weeks of the Omer period, Jews in some communities refrain from wearing new clothes and there are no marriages or other public festivities.

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Lent

Lent †spring; period from Ash Wednesday to Easter Eve. XIII. Shortened form of ME. lenten, OE. lencten = MDu. lentin, OHG. len(gi)zin :- WGmc. *laŋgitīna, either f. *laŋgita-, -tan- whence MDu. lenta, Du. lente, OHG. langiz, -uz, lenzo, G. lenz) with suffix -īna-, or f. Gmc. *laŋgaz long1 + *tīna- of Goth. sinteins daily, rel. to Skr. dina-, OSl. dǐnǐ, Lith. dienà day; the ult. deriv. from LONG1 is undoubted and may have ref. to the lengthening of the day in spring; the eccl. sense is peculiar to Eng. Lenten survives in attrib. use, apprehended as an adj. in -EN3.

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Lent

Lent the period preceding Easter which in the Christian Church is devoted to fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of Christ's fasting in the wilderness. In the Western Church it runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, and so includes forty weekdays. The name comes from a Middle English abbreviation of Lenten.
Lent lily the European wild daffodil, which typically has pale creamy-white outer petals.
Lent term in the UK, the university term in which Lent falls.

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Lent

Lent Period in the Christian liturgical year that precedes Easter. In the Western Churches it begins on Ash Wednesday and is 40 days long (Sundays are not included in the count of days); in the Eastern Church it lasts 80 days (neither Saturdays nor Sundays are counted). Lent is meant to be a time of fasting, abstinence and penitence in preparation for the remembrance of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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Lent

Lent (Old Eng., lencten; Germ., Lenz, ‘spring’). The forty-day fast before Easter. The length was presumably suggested by the forty days' fasts of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus himself. Lent is observed as a time of penance by abstaining from festivities, by almsgiving, and by devoting time to prayer and religious study.

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Lent

Lent / lent/ • n. the period preceding Easter that in the Christian Church is devoted to fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of Christ's fasting in the wilderness. In the Western Church it runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday and so includes forty weekdays.

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lent

lent (Fr.), lento (It.). Slow. So lentando; lentato (It.). slowing, slowed (same as rallentando); lentement (Fr.), lentamente (It.), slowly; lenteur (Fr.), lentezza (It.), slowness; lentissimo, very slow.

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lent

lent / lent/ • past and past participle of lend.

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lent

lentant, Brabant, Brandt, brant, cant, enceinte, extant, gallant, Kant, levant, pant, pointe, pointes, rant, scant •confidant • commandant • hierophant •Rembrandt • Amirante •gallivant •aren't, aslant, aunt, can't, chant, courante, détente, enchant, entente, grant, implant, Nantes, plant, shan't, slant, supplant, transplant, underplant •plainchant • ashplant • eggplant •house plant • restaurant •debutant, debutante •absent, accent, anent, ascent, assent, augment, bent, cement, cent, circumvent, consent, content, dent, event, extent, ferment, foment, forewent, forwent, frequent, gent, Ghent, Gwent, lament, leant, lent, meant, misrepresent, misspent, outwent, pent, percent, pigment, rent, scent, segment, sent, spent, stent, Stoke-on-Trent, Tashkent, tent, torment, Trent, underspent, underwent, vent, went •orient • comment • portent •malcontent

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