Thursday, February 14, 2008

Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving -- Doing Lent! Part 1

The ancient and traditional practices of Christians during Lent are prayer, fasting and almsigiving. Why do we "give up" things in Lent?

Way back in the early Church there emerged practices for Christians to accompany those who were preparing for the Sacraments of Christian Initiation (what has been restored in the Catholic Church since the Vatican Council II -- RCIA [Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults]).

The text called The Didache was a very early Christian treatise (late 1st century -- early 2nd century). Curiously, this parchment was only rather recently discovered in Constantinople (now Istanbul), at the Phanar (the headquarters of the Patriarch of Constantinople) by a Greek Orthodox scholar in the late 19th century!

It apparently was originally a Jewish booklet for righteous living that Christians borrowed and made additions. Among the Christian additions are how to do baptism and how to do eucharist! In one sentence for the baptismal instruction it indicates that the Christian community is to prayerfully accompany the catechumen (one to be baptized) with fasting.

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