27. THE QUESTION WAS: When did the practice of pre-Easter fasting start?
a. Before the 4th century
b. After the 4th century
THE ANSWER IS .A before the 4th century.
Even the earliest Christians prepared for Easter by fasting and penance. Self-denial, especially by eating less, has always been a vital way for Christians to repent of their sins.
Jesus told us,Unless you do penance, you shall perish. (Lk 13:3) Other verses commanding repentance include Mt 4:17; Act 17:30; Rev. 2:5,16; and Rev 3:3,19)
Within a few centuries after Christ, we see many Christians fasting for 40 days.
But initially, the length and type of pre-Easter fasting varied from region to region.
In 190 A.D., St. Irenaeus wrote "some think they ought to fast for one day, others for two days, and others even for several, while others reckon forty hours both of day and night to their fast"
In the end, a period of 40 days was established for Lent because Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert. Forty is also the number of days that Moses traveled in the desert with the Israelites, and the number of days of rain in the story of Noahs ark.
A 40-day Lenten season was established by the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.
Jesus said .but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast." - Matthew 9:15
In the first few centuries after Christ, some regions emphasized refraining from favorite foods, while other regions emphasized refraining from all food intake for periods of time.
In 339 A.D., St. Athanasius urged a 40-day fasting period prior to Easter to the people of Alexandria, tell the people that the rest of Christiandom was already doing it. According to Catholic Encyclopedia, St. Irenaeus, after having traveled to Rome and over the greater part of Europe, wrote in the strongest terms to urge this observance upon the people of Alexandria as one that was universally practiced, "to the end that while all the world is fasting, we who are in Egypt should not become a laughing-stock as the only people who do not fast but take our pleasure in those days".
LENT & FASTING LINKS
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09152a.htm (Catholic Encyclopedia)
http://www.catholic.org/clife/lent/ (Popes Message on Lent)
http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=180 (Lent & Fasting)
http://www.ewtn.com/library/LITURGY/HISTLENT.TXT (History of Lent)
http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/holycom/histlent.htm (Brief History of Lent)
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