A few words about Lent

Daily Reading for February 16 • Charles Todd Quintard, Bishop of Tennessee, 1898

There are many, very many mistakes about Lent. People generally speak of it as a time of fasting, a season of self-denial, and so it is; but this is not all. There are many persons in the Church who have no definite idea about this holy season, whose notions fall as far short of the truth as those of persons out of the Church. To think or speak of Lent merely as a season of abstinence from food, or as a time in which we are required to eat courser food than we usually do, is very wrong—very much short of the truth. . . . It is a very precious legacy of the primitive Church, and if we make a proper use of it, we shall find it a means of grace full of blessing to our souls.

The Lenten season is especially a season of prayer.

It is a season during which the Church demands more than ordinary devotion from her children. Her services are increased—are of a more solemn character—are such as are best adapted to lead our thoughts away from the things of this world, to contemplate the mysteries of Redemption. Every day she would have her children prostrate themselves in God’s house, and pray that He would “create and make within them new and contrite hearts.” The services of the Church keep two facts prominently before our minds: our sinfulness, Christ’s holiness; our need, Christ’s sufficiency.

The Lenten season is a season of fasting.

Many good people seem to think that religion has been so greatly improved in these latter days that they can get along very well without fasting. But they are mistaken. . . . On the subject of fasting, our Lord has not left us in any doubt; he refers to it often as an undoubted duty, and gives us rules for the proper observance of it. . . . The Church wisely leaves her members each one to determine for himself how much self-denial he can put upon himself. She gives us no rules. She bids us fast, each one of us according to our ability, but she does not tell us how to do so. . . . Each one must judge for himself the measure of his ability; only let us all be sure that we do “gladly,” after our power.

The Lenten season is a season of withdrawal from worldly pleasures and amusements.

It is the part and duty of every person who, by baptism, has put on Christ, at all times “to walk answerably to their Christian calling, and as becometh the children of light.” All baptized Christians have renounced the world, the flesh, and the devil, and how far, under ordinary circumstances, they may mingle in the amusements of the world, is a question which each individual must determine for himself. To his own Master he must stand or fall. Yet there are times and seasons when there can be no mistake on this subject, and “when the Church has decided that her children must retire, in a peculiar manner, from this world, to think of that which is to come.” Lent is such a season.. . .

I have thus told you plainly how you must act, what you must do if you would in deed and in truth enjoy the rich blessings which the Lenten season affords to all who properly improve it. Be constant in your attendance on the services of the Church—regular in your private devotions—give gladly of your goods. Judge yourselves—afflict yourselves—bring your bodies into subjection, and keep aloof from the world. Take up your cross daily. . . . Exercise your hearts in a loving sympathy with sorrow in every form; soothe it, minister to it, succor it, revere it. It is a relic of Christ in the world, an image of the great Sufferer, a shadow of the cross. It is a holy and a venerable thing.

From Charles Todd Quintard’s introduction to A Few Words about Lent, With Penitential Psalms, Sentences from Scripture, and Other Devotions Suitable for that Holy Season. Selected by a Layman (Charleston: Steam-Power Press of Evans & Cogswell, 1861). Found at http://docsouth.unc.edu/imls/quintlent/quintard.html

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