I don’t generally observe ‘Lent’, the fast in the month of March (which in Anglo-Saxon is Lenctentid, meaning the month in which the days start to get longer, that is, Spring). I have never done so before. It isn’t part of the traditions that I have been a part of. In fact, I had been taught that it was wholly pagan in origin and shouldn’t be observed at all. I am beginning to question these notions with caution, and wonder whether this is a practice that might be acceptable, beneficial, even desirable?
I am convinced that we, as the Body, do not fast enough.
Certainly, some of the traditions around lent seem to have rather dubious connections. The marking of foreheads with a cross seems to directly go against what Jesus said about fasting – “when you fast, wash your face and anoint your head.” Additionally the practice of Mothering Sunday during lent does seem to have very ancient, pagan connections. More on that another time perhaps.
But for lent itself, I haven’t been able to find any evidence of pagan connections. The claim that it is connected to the ancient Babylonian ‘Weeping for Tammuz’ seems to be unfounded. I’m open to be proved wrong of course, but I think it is important to make a distinction between pagan practices that are specifically in opposition to Torah and those that are actually acceptable within Torah. I think that we can tend to be in danger of condemning pagans simply for being pagan, which does nothing to help them move away from unacceptable practices at all.
If you strip Lent down of any practice that might be pagan, is there any reason not to fast?
The Catholic Church doesn’t claim to have instituted the Lenten fast – it seems to have been already commonly practiced by at least the year 200 AD, well before Constantine and the Council of Nicea.
The question, ultimately, as for all traditions, is does the church have the authority to mark days that are not Biblical Moedim (‘appointments’), and to declare days of their choosing to be ‘holidays’ (in the sense of ‘holy’ days and in the sense of rest days or shabbat)?
What did it mean when Jesus said to Peter “I give you the keys to the Kingdom, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound on heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed on heaven”?
Pentecostals have taken this to mean something completely different (though perhaps connected?) to the Jewish understanding of binding and loosing, that is the allow or disallow – to determine halakha (a Hebrew work for ‘walking’ that is to say, the Way we are to Walk as believers).
The claim is often made that Jesus was referring to Peter when he said ‘You are Peter (Petros), and upon this Rock (Petra) I will build my church’ (upon which Rome’s claim to authority rests) and went on to give him the authority to build the church by determining halakha, but Petra, the Rock, is God himself, repeated over and over in the Old Testament. It was a play on words which emphasises that halakha must be based on the Rock, our only true foundation.
Surely legitimate halakha can only ever be that which agrees with and confirms Torah.
As for who ‘holds the keys to the Kingdom’ now, and the question of Apostolic authority, I am at a loss to see how or to whom this has been passed on down through the years. I cannot believe that the Roman Catholic church can legitimately make that claim since so many of their practices have been mixed and arguably some are in actual opposition to Torah.
I realise this subject is contentious, and my purpose is certainly not to provoke or cause offence. I would genuinely be interested to know your thoughts and your traditions. Please answer respectfully as I won’t approve responses that aren’t respectful. Shalom.