Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
A solemn time of fasting in the Christian church, observed as a time of humiliation before Easter. The Romish church, and some of the Protestant communion, maintain, that it was always a fast of forty days, and, as such, of apostolical institution. Others think that it was of ecclesiastical institution, and that it was variously observed in different churches, and grew by degrees from a fast of forty hours to a fast of forty days. This is the sentiment of Morton, bishop Taylor, Du Moulin, Daille, and others. Anciently the manner of observing Lent among those who were piously disposed, was to abstain from food till evening: their only refreshment was a supper, and it was indifferent whether it was flesh or any other food, provided it was used with sobriety and moderation. Lent was thought the proper time for exercising more abundantly every species of charity: thus what they spared of their own bodies by abridging them of a meal, was usually given to the poor: they employed their vacant hours in visiting the sick and those that were in prison; in entertaining strangers, and reconciling differences.
The Imperial laws forbade all prosecution of men in criminal actions that might bring them to corporal punishment and torture during the whole season. This was a time of more than ordinary strictness and devotion, and therefore, in many of the great churches, they had religious assemblies for prayer and preaching every day. All public games and stage plays were prohibited at this season, and also the celebration of all festivals, birthdays, and marriages. The Christians of the Greek church observe four Lents; the first commences on the fifteenth of November: the second is the same with our Lent: the third begins the week after Whitsuntide, and continues till the festival of St. Peter and St. Paul; and the fourth commences on the first of August, and lasts no longer than till the fifteenth. These Lents are observed with great strictness and austerity, but on Saturdays and Sundays, they indulge themselves in drinking wine and using oil, which are prohibited on other days.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Lent'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/l/lent.html. 1802.