Why doesn’t Central observe Lent?

Question: : I was wondering how come we at Central do not celebrate Lent and Ash Wednesday? I know a lot of people associate this with the Catholic Church, but many other non Catholics celebrate Lent. I have attached a good write-up on Lent.

Answer: The article you attached was very instructive and the question is a good one. In the article it mentions that “Lent is a forty-day period before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on the day before Easter Day.” This period is marked by fasting. It also says, “By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days,” and “All churches that have a continuous history extending before AD 1500 observe Lent.”

In 1500 the Protestant Reformation began to question all things related to the church and sought to measure all proscribed activities by the Bible. In the article it says, “The ancient church that wrote, collected, canonized, and propagated the New Testament also observed Lent, believing it to be a commandment from the apostles.” But in point of fact, there is no authoritative record of the apostles commanding this observance, since the only authoritative record the Protestant church would accept is the New Testament.

One of the best known reformers, John Calvin, writing in his Institutes of the Christian Religion about fasting, spoke of the “superstitious observance of Lent” in which “the common people thought that in it they were doing some exceptional service to God, and the pastors commended it as a holy imitation of Christ.” But he argues that Christ did not fast to set an example for us to follow but to demonstrate that he received the Law from God’s hand as did Moses. He mentions also that various parts of the church observed different numbers of days of fasting, some three weeks excluding Saturdays and Sundays, some six, some seven, and differed in what could be eaten, some eating only bread and water, others allowing vegetables, some excluding fish and fowl only, and others making no distinction in foods. In other words, there has never been a uniform rule in the church.

There is nothing wrong with preparing ourselves for Easter by using fasts and observing historical events (holy week commemorates Christ’s last week in Jerusalem, Good Friday the day of his crucifixion, etc.). It is wrong, however, to make it a required observance or to suggest that those who observe it are more spiritual than others. For this reason it has become in our tradition something that is up to the individual believer to determine for him or herself.

Randall Johnson

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