3032A brief history of Lent
- Jan 27, 2005Written by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. for the Marian Catechist in 1989
It seems certain that a Lenten season preceding Easter goes back to
the time of the Apostles. The length of time varied. But by the
Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), which was the first general council of
the Church, Lent is to be observed for forty days.
The number forty has a long biblical history: The forty days' fasts
of Moses, Elijah and especially Our Lord in the desert.
During the early days of the Church, the observance of fast was very
strict. One meal was allowed per day and, even in that meal, meat
and fish were forbidden. By the fifteenth century, the one meal was
taken at noon.
Gradually an extra collation was allowed in the evening.
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