According to Encyclopedia Britannica 2000, “Since apostolic times a period of preparation and fasting has been observed before the Easter festival. It was a time of preparation of candidates for baptism and a time of penance for sinners. In the early centuries fasting rules were strict, as they still are in Eastern churches. One meal a day was allowed in the evening, and meat, fish, eggs, and butter were forbidden. The Eastern church also restricts the use of wine, oil, and dairy products. In the West these fasting rules have gradually been relaxed. The strict law of fasting among Roman Catholics was dispensed during World War II, …. However, the emphasis on penitential practice remains.”
*The 40 days of Lenten Fast is a time the Church devotes to penitent Prayer and Fasting in fervent Sanctity and Charity.*
To be sure, usage of the words EASTER and LENT did not originate from Rome or Constantinople, as many peddle and hype today out of recent endemic susceptibility to historical misrepresentations, scrupulous conjectures and unfounded superstitions. The Latin (Roman) and Greek (Byzantine) Churches have always used and still use “Pascha” (derived from the Jewish Passover Season) to refer to the Great Fast and the Resurrection Feast. The word “PASSOVER” is PESAH in Hebrew and PASHA in Aramaic is also translated as PASCHA in Greek and Latin.
“The season of the year during which the Death and Resurrection of Christ occurred was the Pasach/Passover season or Unleavened Bread season for the Jews, the Azumos season for Greeks, the Pascha season for Romans and Greeks, and the Easter season for the ancient English (Anglo-Saxons). Because of this seasonal coincidence or correspondence, the Church’s Feasts celebrating the Death and Resurrection of Christ have come to be popularly called the Pascha Festivities (or simply Pascha) in the European Continent or the Easter Feasts (or simply Easter) in the British Isle. These have spread to the rest of the world today. It is important however, to note that the Church is neither doing Jewish Passover/Pascha nor English Easter season, but celebrating the Death and Resurrection of Christ which occurred during the Passover or Easter (March-April) season of the year (Act 12:4 KJV).”
Therefore, “EASTER” and “LENT” are neither Latin words from Rome nor Greek words from Constantinople, but old English words used by the old English people and old English Church. The English word EASTER originated from ancient word “OESTER” (i.e. Anglo-Saxon word derived from Paschal season of *Easterly wind*). It was also known to be used in referring to a goddess of East wind. The English word LENT originated from ancient word “LENTIN” or “LENCTEN” (i.e. old English derived from Paschal season of *lengthening days* which begins from the Winter Solstice toward the Vernal Epuinox). Both words referred to the same Paschal season which began since 14th century to be called SPRING (i.e. new English derived from *springing up* of leaves and flowers after Winter). As from 8th century, the time of Saint Bede in the British Isles, “EASTER” was tagged to the *day of the Paschal Feast* of Christ’s Resurrection. But from the 13th century, “LENT” was tagged to the *period of the Paschal Fast* for the Church’s penitence which lasted 40 DAYS and is therefore called QUARESIMA in Latin and Italian till today (not the English LENT).
Even the customs of decorating Easter Eggs which originated recently in the 18th century, hunting of Easter rabbits and Easter hares and slaughtering of Easter lambs had nothing to do with any earlier pagan practice as often speculated but are only associated with providing meat for the Pasqua Feast after these delicacies had been forbidden during the Lenten Fast or Quaresima Fast.
Therefore the lamb, egg, rabbit, or hare have no pagan but only serve the purpose of restoration of their use in the kitchen as source of protein after the abstinence of the Lenten fast. It is true that pagans used everything they had for daily life as well as for worship rituals, but that does not make all things to belong to pagan idols or demons. Although the Easter lamb may be connected to the Passover Lamb or Christ as the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36; 1Cor 5:7), yet it could only be meant for meat during the feast since the Church has no slaughtering rituals.
(7) Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
(8) Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
In any case, if putting on clothes, feasting with meat, eggs and good food, or sharing joy and gifts are all idolatrous rites, then even fasting and all things would also be idolatrous! These unfounded conjectures are simply ridiculous scruples to which many easily and childishly succumb. *But what matters is that we RETREAT to be provoked to REPENT of our sins, RECEIVE Christ into our lives and live the life of Christ’s RESURRECTION power always.*
Below is a typical graphic illustration of various themes and practices associated with Lent and Easter in some Churches from ancient times through the ages..
Grace to you.
I. U. Ibeme.