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Revisiting diverse values of lent

By Chris Irekamba
06 March 2022   |   2:58 am
Christians across the globe, last Wednesday, began this year’s Lenten Season after observing Ash Wednesday. The 40-day fasting and prayer, which will end on April 16, 2022

Bishop Badejo

Christians across the globe, last Wednesday, began this year’s Lenten Season after observing Ash Wednesday.

The 40-day fasting and prayer, which will end on April 16, 2022, will afford the faithful to reflect on what Jesus Christ went through before His resurrection and ascension to heaven. The period, which goes with earnest prayers is often not observed by all Christian denominations.

Since lent is a forerun of the Easter celebration, why is it that only select denominations embark on fasting at this period? Are there biblical reasons that make some denominations not observe it? What is the significance of embarking on this exercise at this time of the year? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.

‘For Us, Lent Is A Privilege
To Emulate Christ’
(His Lordship, Rt. Rev. S.T.V. Adegbite, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, Lagos State Chapter)

LENT is sometimes called the “Great Fast.” It is a period Christians are meant to give up some comfort or adopt a certain spiritual practice that leads to self-examination, repentance from sin, and ultimately, the renewal of the soul, all in anticipation of greater dedication to serving others and God. It is a sober religious observation in which Christians embark on fasting and other pious activities in commemoration of Jesus Christ’s journey into the wilderness where He fasted for 40 days and was tempted by Satan before the inception of His earthly ministry, as narrated in the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. The period also serves as a reminder to Christians about Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion and death on Calvary for the salvation of humanity.

Some of the highlights of the event include abstinence and fasting, abstaining from festivities, drinks, food and foregoing luxurious lifestyle and pleasures while imbibing the virtues of holiness, almsgiving and humility. Lent, which started on Ash Wednesday and ends on the eve of Easter Sunday, is observed by various Christian denominations, including the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Orthodox, Methodist and some African instituted churches such as Cherubim and Seraphim, Celestial Church of Christ, and Church of the Lord (Aladura), among others.

During the 40-day period, as a Methodist, we come together every Wednesday to have a Lenten service. However, it is important to realise that Lent goes beyond mere abstinence; it is an opportunity to imitate Christ Who has given Christians the privilege to be like Him in all things.

‘Lent Prepares Faithful
For Easter’
(Rev. Fr. George Adimike, a Priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha/Director, Social Communications of the Archdiocese)

LENT is designated by the Church to prepare her children for the yearly Easter and eternal Easter in heaven. It is a period Christians have the desert experience of Jesus Christ in his salvific project. These events in the life and ministry of Christ possess exemplary values. The Church proposes this 40-day of prayer, fasting and practical charity, so that, in reliving the experience of Christ, members will immerse in the mystery of salvation. By so doing, they learn the essentials in the journey of life and conform their lives as such.

Lent, therefore, is a school of holiness and pedagogy of Christian discipleship. Though there is an emphasis on sacrifices, penances and almsgiving, it is not aimed at laying new burdens of formal obligations on Christians. Instead, the Church hopes to dispose the faithful to more openness to the Spirit that helps them clarify and assign correct values to the created order.

In other words, it is a liturgical programme that seeks to help Christians become better attuned to the spiritual realities in order to quicken their drive towards communion with God. It offers an opportunity for spiritual stocktaking when all energies are focused internally to evaluate one’s life journey. Daily noise and situational hubris make concentrating on the essentials tough, considering human nature.

‘We Believe In Death Of Jesus Christ, His Burial And Resurrection, Not In Fasting During Lent’
(Rev. Igbafe Godwin, Foursquare Gospel Church, Lagos)

CONCERNING fasting and prayer, during the Lenten season; Foursquare Gospel Church does not observe the fasting and prayers, because, it is not part of our doctrine. Secondly, it is not scriptural and there is no place where it is stated that we should observe it. Jesus did not command us to do it. But, we believe in the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘Christians Who Are Truly Jesus’ Friends Must Desire To Share His Life’
(Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo, Catholic Diocese of Oyo)

THE 40-day period of Lent is preparatory to the celebration of Easter. In truth, the relationship between Jesus Christ and Christians should really be of friendship and love. Jesus, Himself said: “I shall no longer call you servants because a servant does not know the master’s business: I call you friends” (John 15:15). In life, friends and lovers desire to share each other’s lives, pains, sorrows, joy and victories. Jesus also said: “You are my friends if you keep my commandment (John 15:14). St. Paul admonished the Philippians to let all the characteristics seen in Jesus be seen in them (Phil 2:5ff). So, Christians who are truly friends of Jesus must desire to experience what He experienced, as well as share His life and live in His love. Our world is not yet perfect, so, the friends of Jesus need to constantly make themselves better and partake in making the world a better place through fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

Anyhow, Lent is a period of renewal, retreat and spiritual rehabilitation, which everybody needs. Such a period is always helpful as the New Year begins. Permanent pleasure and fun corrode the soul and spirit. It is also a period of reconciliation since, wherever we live and relate with others, we are bound to offend or hurt each other. That is the call of Prophet Isaiah: “Come let us talk together. Though your sins are as scarlet they shall be white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:18). Such practices are necessary to make the world more peaceful and harmonious. Nigeria needs much of that today and so many of us must do a self-examination, repent and change our ways for the better and be made ready for our salvation. That is the purpose of Lent.

‘Orthodox Churches Observe This Period As Part Of Our Tradition’
(Oluwayimika Adeyinka Oni Orebo, former PCC Secretary, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Mushin, Lagos)

LENT is that solemn and sacrificial period of penitence. Orthodox Churches fast and keep the faith, as they look forward to commemorating the glorious resurrection of their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ at Easter. It is a period of absolute deference to God, His statutes and commandments. It is a period of profound appreciation of the work of Christ Jesus, which commenced with 40-day fasting that will end by celebrating His victorious awakening from the grave after three days, as He prophesied.

The Orthodox Churches such as Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, among others, observe this period as part of their tradition and dictates of their Church calendar.

The 40-day fasting observed by Orthodox Churches is predicated on Jesus’ fasting, which culminated in the wilderness, according to Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:13 and Luke 4:1-13. It is a period in which Jesus Christ, head of the Church, must be revered and worshippers uphold the admonition of Paul in Ephesians 4:4-6 – “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

‘To Mourn Every Year For Risen And Glorified Jesus Is Unnecessary, Unscriptural’
(Brother Felix Ekundayo Adedokun, President, God’s Kingdom Society (GKS) – The Church of The Living God, Salem City, Delta State)

IF the day of Christ’s passion and disgraceful death is a good day, why do churchgoers indulge in fasting, wearing black robes and other ceremonies suggestive of mourning on “Good Friday?” Why do they not go about merrymaking? And do you know that Easter is derived from paganism and that it has no connection whatsoever with Christianity? “Good Friday” is the Friday before Easter Sunday, which was observed in Christendom to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ. It is a day of fasting, abstinence and penitence, and there is the religious view that “it is the only day of the year upon which Mass may not be said.”

On this occasion, observers are to hold a protracted three-hour service with ceremonies expressive of intense feelings of the agonies suffered by Jesus Christ. The altars are stripped of decorations, candles are unlit and priests are dressed in black robes. Yet, this is said to be a good day. The only reason, which has been given for identifying this “bloody day” with the grand appellation of “Good” is that the death of Christ has brought redemption to humanity. This sounds quite plausible but viewed against the background of the Scriptures it is unjustifiable.

And so to continue to mourn every year for the risen and glorified Jesus is most unnecessary and very unscriptural.

The celebration of Easter is not authorised scripturally. Neither is the Passover feast nor Easter. They have nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The mere fact that professed Christians associate Easter with the resurrection of Christ without the authority of the Scriptures does not in any way alter its paganish image or make it receive the blessing of the Lord.

‘Fasting During Lent Is Not A Biblical Doctrine’
(Pastor Mike Chuks Nwanegbo, Assistant Regional Pastor, Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Europe Region 6)

WHY are the new generation churches and denominations not practicing lent or taking it seriously? The truth is that Lent is not a biblical doctrine, but a doctrine that originated within the Catholic Church to help the faithful understand what Jesus went through for the salvation of mankind. This means that anything in a traditional church dogma that has nothing to do with eternal salvation is done away with or not really given attention. The new generation churches are more focused on soul winning and salvation of souls. They do not see Lent as a salvation issue, rather a personal spiritual development exercise to help a believer. One could say that the new generation churches have not done anything wrong in not observing Lent, but are losing great opportunity to build up the spiritual lives of their members in such areas as self-discipline, which evidently is lacking in their churches, especially with this present generation of believers.

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