Why Fast For 40 Days of Lent?
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday is the day on which the faithful have their foreheads signed with ashes in the form of a Cross. It is also a day of fast and abstinence. But Jesus said, "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they DISFIGURE their faces (with a cross), that they may APPEAR unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and WASH THY FACE; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." (Matt. 6:16-18).
The day before Ash Wednesday is popularly known as Mardi Gras (or "Fat Tuesday" or "Shrove Tuesday"). It has developed into a time of partying and carousing, exemplified by the extravagant celebration in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is better known than the following day, Ash Wednesday, and represents the custom of living it up to get our fill of all the enjoyment the world has to offer before setting off to “Church” in mock repentance on Ash Wednesday. Such celebrations are an indication of the hypocritical spirit behind the facade.
In the early 19th century, German explorer Alexander von Humboldt noted the practice among the pagans in Mexico, being held in the spring. His account states: "Three days after the vernal equinox…began a solemn FAST of FORTY DAYS in honour of the SUN." (Mexican Researches 1:404) A Lent of forty days was also commemorated in Egypt. According to by English scholar John Landseer, in his Sabean Researches (1823), an Egyptian LENT of FORTY DAYS was held in honor of ADONIS or OSIRIS (p.112).
WHY the Churches Observe Lent
"Howbeit you should know," wrote Johannes Cassianus (John Cassian) in the fifth century, "that as long as the primitive church retained its perfection unbroken, this observance of LENT DID NOT EXIST " (First Conference Abbot Theonas, chapter 30).
The Origin of Lent
In the early Catholic Church, Lent was always called tessarakoste, in Greek, or quadragesima, in Latin. These two words mean “count forty.” Lent --though sometimes celebrated for only one or two days, or for several weeks -- WAS ALWAYS CALLED THE CELEBRATION OF FORTY DAYS! Why?
Weeping For Tammuz Condemned in the Bible
Lent is nowhere commanded or mentioned in the New Testament. But it is mentioned in the Old Testament! “Lent,” remember, “seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz” -- the pagan Babylonian Messiah. The month of June was named in honor of the false Babylonian Messiah. Forty days preceding the feast of Tammuz (usually celebrated in June) the pagans held their Lenten season! Ezekiel describes it vividly in Ezek. 8:13-14: “He said also unto me, ‘Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations.”’Notice that God calls what Ezekiel is about to see an ABOMINATION. What does the prophet see? “And, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz!” They wept for Tammuz, the false Messiah of the pagans! That weeping preceded the pagan festival in honor of the supposed resurrection of Tammuz. Fasting was joined with weeping FOR A PERIOD OF FORTY DAYS before the festival in honor of Tammuz. The period of weeping and semi-fasting fell during springtime. That is why the word Lent means “spring!” Lent is a continuation of the pagan spring-time custom of abstaining from certain foods just prior to celebrating a fake resurrection! And God calls LENT an ABOMINATION! That is why Christ and the true New Testament Church never observed it! Paul forbad Christians to observe these pagan “times” or “seasons” (Gal. 4:10). "The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent" (Acts 17:30).
Jesus Christ Forbids Lenten Celebrations
“Is it a light thing ... that they commit the ABOMINATIONS which they commit here? ... Therefore will I deal IN FURY: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice yet will I not hear them!” (Ezek. 8:15-18). Here is what Jesus Christ said: “Take heed ... that thou inquire not after their gods, saying: ‘How used these nations to serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.’ THOU SHALT NOT do so UNTO THE ETERNAL THY GOD; FOR EVERY ABOMINATION TO THE ETERNAL, which He hateth, have they done unto their gods” (Deut. 12:30-31). Jeremiah was inspired to write: “Learn not the way of the heathen . . . for the customs of the people are vain?” (Jer. 10:2). Jesus Ieft us an example of what we ought to do -- and that example is not Easter or Lent!
What about Easter?
In the large five-volume Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, only six brief lines are given to the name "Easter," because it occurs only once in the Bible—and that only in the Authorized King James translation. Says Hastings: "Easter, used in Authorized Version as the translation of 'Pascha' in Acts 12:4, 'Intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.' Revised Standard Version has substituted correctly 'the Passover.'"
A Counterfeit Resurrection Of "Another Jesus"
Notice that Lent immediately precedes the celebration of a Sunday resurrection -- supposedly of Christ! But Christ was not resurrected on Sunday!
Here is the quick, brief history of "Easter", from the Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th edition, Vol. VIII, pp. 828-829):
"There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. . . . The first Christians continued to observe the Jewish festivals, though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed. Thus the Passover, with a new conception added to it, of Christ as the true Paschal Lamb and the first fruits from the dead, continued to be observed...
"Although the observance of Easter was at a very early period in the practice of the Christian Church, a serious difference as to the day for its observance soon arose between the Christians of Jewish and those of Gentile descent, which led to a long and bitter controversy. With the Jewish Christians . . . the fast ended . . . on the 14th day of the moon at evening . . . without regard to the day of the week. The Gentile Christians on the other hand, unfetteredby Jewish traditions, identified the first day of the week with the resurrection, and kept the preceding Friday as the commemoration of the crucifixion, irrespective of the day of the month.
"Generally speaking, the Western Churches [Catholic] kept Easter on the 1st day of the week, while the Eastern Churches [containing most of those who remained as part of the true Christian Church] followed the Jewish rule. [That is, observing Passover on the 14th of the first sacred month instead of the pagan Easter.]
"Polycarp, the disciple of John the Evangelist, and bishop of Smyrna, visited Rome in 159 to confer with Anicetus, the bishop of that see, on the subject, and urged the tradition which he had received from the apostles of observing the fourteenth day. Anicetus, however, declined. About forty years later (197), the question was discussed in a very different spirit between Victor, bishop of Rome, and Polycrates, metropolitan of proconsular Asia [the territory of the Churches at Ephesus, Galatia, Antioch, Philadelphia, and all those mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3—the Churches established through the Apostle Paul]. That province was the only portion of Christendom which still adhered to the Jewish usage. Victor demanded that all should adopt the usage prevailing at Rome. This Polycrates firmly refused to agree to, and urged many weighty reasons to the contrary, whereupon Victor proceeded to excommunicate Polycrates and the Christians who continued the Eastern usage [that is, who continued in God's way, as Jesus, Peter, Paul, and all the early true Church had done]. He was, however, restrained [by other bishops] from actually proceeding to enforce the decree of excommunication . . . and the Asiatic churches retained their usage unmolested. (Eusebius H.E. v.23-25) We find the Jewish [true Christian Passover] usage from time to time reasserting itself after this, but it never prevailed to any large extent.
"A final settlement of the dispute was one among the other reasons which led Constantine to summon the council at Nicaea in 325. At that time the Syrians and Antiochenes were the solitary champions of the observance of the 14th day. The decision of the council was unanimous that Easter was to be kept on Sunday, and on the same Sunday throughout the world, and that 'none hereafter should follow the blindness of the Jews.' (Socrates H.E. i.9) [The Roman Church now decreed that none should be allowed to follow the Scriptural method of celebrating Passover!]
"The few who afterwards separated themselves from the unity of the church, and continued to keep the 14th day, were named 'Quartodecimani,' and the dispute itself is known as the 'Quartodeciman controversy.'"
"This Do in Remembrance of Me" Annually
In I Corinthians 5:7-8, Paul tells the Corinthians: Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven . . . but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." And in the 11th chapter he gives the directions regarding this ordinance.
Some misunderstand verse 26 which says: "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup," by interpreting it "take it as often as you wish." But it does not say that!
It says "as often" as you observe it, "ye do show the Lord's death till he come." Even Jesus commanded, "This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me" (verse 25). We do it in remembrance of the Lord's death—a memorial of His death. As you know, memorials are celebrated annually, once a year, on the anniversary of the events commemorated. So we observe the memorial of Christ's death annually. And just as often as each year comes around, we are to "show the Lord's death till he come," by keeping this memorial.
Christ instituted this ordinance on the eve of His death. It was the 14th of Abib, by God's Sacred Calendar, in the very beginning of the day. God starts days at sunset, not midnight. So, later that same day, after Jesus had gone out to Gethsemane, Judas Iscariot led the crowd to seize Jesus. Then He was crucified later that same day, in the daylight part of this same 14th of the month Abib.
By following the example of Jesus in observing this sacred ordinance at the same time He did—the very same time the Passover was forever commanded to be observed—we continue to remember His death, annually, on the eve of the crucifixion.
Some always question the meaning of Paul in verses 27-29 in I Corinthians 11. The apostle is not speaking about a Christian being worthy or unworthy to take it. It is speaking of the manner in which it is done. We take it unworthily if we take it wrongly, in the wrong manner. Once we learn the truth about its observance, and yet take it at any other time than when God says, then we take it unworthily. We take it unworthily if we do not accept the body and blood of Christ. So let's not take this most sacred ordinance to our condemnation, but take it worthily instead!
True Christians Kept Passover
The New Testament reveals that Jesus, the apostles, and the New Testament Church, both Jewish- and Gentile-born, observed God's Sabbaths, and God's Festivals—weekly and annually! Take your Bible and carefully read Acts 2:1; 12:3-4 (remember the word "Easter" here is a mistranslation in the King James Version—originally inspired "Passover," and so corrected in the Revised Standard Version); Acts 18:21; 20:6, 16; I Corinthians 16:8.
Eusebius, historian of the early centuries of the Church, speaks of the true Christians observing Passover on the 14th of Nisan, first month of the Sacred Calendar.
"A question of no small importance arose at that time. For the parishes of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the Savior's passover . . . the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down to him:
"'We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles . . . and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord . . . and Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia . . . the bishop and martyr Sagaris . . . the blessed Papirius, or Melito. . . . All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith"' (Ecclesiastical History, book V, chapters XXIII and XXIV).
Jesus Christ kept the Passover. So did the Apostle John. And so did some Christians in Scotland even until the 7th century AD.
This information comes from no less an ecclesiastical authority than the church historian Bede. His Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation would astound many who have assumed that Christ and the early apostles all kept Easter.
He writes that "John, following the customs of the Law, used to begin the Feast of Easter [actually the Passover] on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month, whether it fell on the Sabbath or on any other day" (III, 25).
The Apostle John was the author of five books of the New Testament and the "disciple whom Jesus loved." Yet he kept the Passover on the 14th day of the first month (Nisan) just as God commanded in the time of Moses. That is the plain statement of this early Catholic theologian!
But where did John's custom come from? From the very example of Jesus Christ! "Nor did our Lord, the Author and Giver of the Gospel, eat the old Passover or institute the Sacrament of the New Testament to be celebrated by the Church in memory of His Passion on . . . [any other day], but on the fourteenth" (Eccl. History, III, 25).
Bede thus reiterates what the Bible itself plainly tells us—that Christ partook of the Jewish Passover and then attached new significance to the symbols of the matzos and wine on the 14th of the first month.
The custom of keeping the New Testament Passover, after the example of Christ and John, persisted among isolated groups for centuries. Bede tells us that some faithful were still keeping it in Scotland in the 7th century! (II, 19.)