The Christian lent begins on February 22 with the traditional Ash Wednesday. The day marks the beginning of the 40-day fast usually observed among Catholics, Anglicans, and other protestant churches. The fast will end on April 8.
Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Lagos West, Rt Rev Olusola Odedeji has said the period will be used for intensive prayers and Bible study. The announcement is contained on the Twitter handle of the diocese of Lagos of the Anglican Communion. It is indicated that there will be physical meetings from 6 pm to 7 pm at every parish of the church every day excluding Sunday.
Odedeji who is also the supervising bishop of the Lagos Diocese will oversee the 40-day event in both the diocese of Lagos and the Diocese of Lagos West of the Church.
Each day will be marked by prayers and Bible exposition. The sessions will be broadcast on social media handles, radio, and television stations. The Diocese of Lagos West Media Centre and www.LagoonRadio.ng are major outlets where the lenten talks and prayers will be relayed.
Many other orthodox churches will follow in that direction. Most Pentecostals do not participate in the 40-day event. But in the last 20 years or so, many Pentecostal churches in Nigeria have devised their own ritualistic fasting.
The major Pentecostal denominations in Nigeria come up with different days of fasting ranging from three to 100 days at the beginning of the year.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God for instance is currently observing a 50-day fast while the Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel) observed a 21-day fast at the beginning of the year. The church also holds periodic fasting throughout the year as it is being led.
The Mountain of Fire and Miracles also observes long days of fasting along with several other denominations within the Pentecostal milieu. Such periods of fasting are often dedicated to making requests and supplications before God.
Fasting does not change God
Though fasting does not change God, many church Christians have come to agree that it helps to put man in a form that makes him receive God’s mercy and benevolence.
In the language of the Church, the 40-day period of lent has historically been known by the Latin term Quadragesima—literally, 40. Lent is derived from an Old English word that means “lengthen.”.
The tradition started about 300 years AD and has since spread among many Christian denominations. The choice of 40 days is linked to the number of days Jesus spent fasting before he was tempted by the devil as recorded in the Bible.
The 40-day ritualistic fast precedes the Resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday which is also celebrated annually.
Read also: Odedeji gives insight on acceptable service:https://churchtimesnigeria.net/bishop-odedeji-guild-stewards/
Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday before Easter. The fasting holds Monday to Saturday excluding Sunday which makes it 40 days before Easter. It is believed that every Sunday is a little Easter. It is interesting that in Yoruba parlance, Sunday is regarded as ojo Aiku (the resurrection day) That day is meant to be a day of joy. Traditionally fasting is not encouraged on Sunday.
Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us.
As the ash is being applied to the forehead, the priest speaks the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.” Some may say repent and believe the gospel.
The ashes are a sign of repentance to God. From historical accounts, the ashes are made by burning palm fronds that were distributed the previous year on Palm Sunday. But in modern times, they are generated from other sources as it is seen more as symbolic sign.