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Friday, 1 January 2016


Lent, the period of abstinence in preparation for Easter, was not observed by the very early church. Lent has been on the church calendar since the first or second century, but has not always occupied the same dates. According to Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200), cited by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History, the lenten fast originally lasted only two or three days.

From the fourth century a time of fasting in the time preceding Easter was maintained.  The extent of fasting varied, for instance Pope Gregory the Great wrote to St Augustine of Canterbury "We abstain from flesh meat, and from all things that come from flesh, such as milk, cheese, and eggs."

Lent marriages were forbidden by the Church at the Council of Laodicea, in 366.

The duration of Lent remained variable until the 1091 Synod of Benevento, when the observance of Ash Wednesday as the first day of Lent, became universal.

It was probably adopted to parallel the 40-day fasts of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, though it may also have reflected the 40 hours Jesus spent in the tomb.

In 1658 Paris police raided a monastery and sent twelve monks to jail for eating meat and drinking wine during Lent.

Catholics observing Lent choose to eat fish, not meat, on Fridays during Lent. In 2014 the National Bishops' Conference approved of the consumption of alligator on Friday as the beast "is considered in the fish family."


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