Pope on Paul and Lent

Pope Benedict XVI Sitting & Wearing White

Pope Benedictus XVI


The Pope made some rather odd, and biblically-improper,  connections between the Apostle Paul and Lent this week:

Pontiff Highlight’s St. Paul’s Lenten Example

Says Grace Was Leaven of Spiritual and Geographical Journey

“May the Apostle Paul accompany us, may Mary, attentive Virgin of listening and humble handmaid of the Lord, guide us. Thus, renewed in the spirit, we will be able to celebrate Easter with joy.”

ROME, FEB. 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging Catholics to live this Lent practicing prayer, almsgiving and fasting following the example of St. Paul.

The Pope affirmed this today in Mass before receiving and distributing ashes at the Basilica of St. Sabina. He began the Ash Wednesday events by presiding over a prayer assembly. A penitential procession of cardinals, bishops and laypeople traveled from St. Anselm to St. Sabina for the Eucharistic Celebration…

God’s ambassador

Referring to this year dedicated to the Apostle to the Gentiles, the Pope pointed out: “Paul experienced in an extraordinary way the power of the grace of God, the grace of the Paschal mystery which Lent itself lives…

The Pontiff explained, “It is a consciousness that emerges in all his writings that functioned as an interior ‘leaven’ on which God was able to act to push him forward, toward ever farther frontiers, not only geographical but also spiritual.

“St. Paul acknowledges that everything in him is the work of divine grace, but he does not forget that one must freely add the gift of new life received in baptism.”

St. Paul shows us, he said, how to live Lent: “The disciple must make the victory of Christ his own, and this occurs first of all with baptism, through which, united to Christ, we have become living beings, returned from the dead…

He emphasized Paul’s example of prayer of perseverance and thanksgiving, almsgiving that puts priority on loving others, and fasting in watchful expectation of the Lord.

God’s word

Benedict XVI underlined the Apostle’s devotion to the Word of God. He said that Paul “lived from the Word of God: thought, action, prayer, theology, preaching, exhortation, all in him was fruit of the Word, received since his youth in the Jewish faith, fully revealed to his eyes in his encounter with Christ dead and risen, preached for the rest of his life during his missionary run.”

The Pope said to his listeners: “While we dispose ourselves to receive the ashes on our head in sign of conversion and penance, let us open our hearts to the vivifying action of the Word of God…

Since the pontiff mentioned the Word of God, let’s notice what the Apostle Paul actually wrote in it:

7…For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Contrary to the Pope’s claims, Paul did NOT tell people how to observe Lent, he told people how to keep Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (in the above and other writings).  Neither Jesus nor Paul kept Lent.  They both kept Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Lent was NOT observed for centuries.  It was not a Christian activity.

The Catholic Saint Abbot John Cassian (also known as Cassianus, monk of Marseilles) in the fifth century admitted:

Howbeit you should know that as long as the primitive church retained its perfection unbroken, this observance of Lent did not exist (Cassian John. Conference 21, THE FIRST CONFERENCE OF ABBOT THEONAS. ON THE RELAXATION DURING THE FIFTY DAYS. Chapter 30).

Since the “primitive church” did not observe Lent, neither did the Apostle Paul.  Lent, as now known, did not get finalized until the 8th/9th century, though some version occurred earlier than that:

Still, this principle was differently understood in different localities, and great divergences of practice were the result. In Rome, in the fifth century, Lent lasted six weeks, but according to the historian Socrates there were only three weeks of actual fasting, exclusive even then of the Saturday and Sunday and if Duchesne’s view may be trusted, these weeks were not continuous, but were the first, the fourth, and sixth of the series, being connected with the ordinations…But the number forty, having once established itself, produced other modifications. It seemed to many necessary that there should not only be fasting during the forty days but forty actual fasting days. Thus we find Ætheria in her “Peregrinatio” speaking of a Lent of eight weeks in all observed at Jerusalem, which, remembering that both the Saturday and Sunday of ordinary weeks were exempt, gives five times eight, i.e., forty days for fasting. On the other hand, in many localities people were content to observe no more than a six weeks’ period, sometimes, as at Milan, fasting only five days in the week after the oriental fashion (Ambrose, “De Elia et Jejunio”, 10). In the time of Gregory the Great (590-604) there were apparently at Rome six weeks of six days each, making thirty-six fast days in all, which St. Gregory, who is followed therein by many medieval writers, describes as the spiritual tithing of the year, thirty-six days being approximately the tenth part of three hundred and sixty-five. At a later date the wish to realize the exact number of forty days led to the practice of beginning Lent upon our present Ash Wednesday, but the Church of Milan, even to this day adheres to the more primitive arrangement (Christian Worship, 243) (Lent. The Catholic Encyclopedia).

The length of time for observing Lent varied through the ages. For many years, it was considered a 36-day period of fast. By the reign of Charlemagne, about A.D. 800, four days were added making it 40 (Ramm B. Lent. World Book Encyclopedia, 50th ed., Volume 12. Chicago, p. 175).

Thus, the practice of a 40 day lenten (which simply signifies “Springtime”) fast did not become standard practice before 800 A.D. since, even according to Catholic sources, the Apostle Paul is believed to have died in the 60s A.D., he was not keeping Lent.

Now the Pope also mentioned Easter in closing.  Did you know that Easter is supposed to be Passover?  Well the Pope knows that as he approved the following:

1170 At the Council of Nicea in 325,…Churches agreed that Easter, the Christian Passover, should be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon (14 Nisan) after the vernal equinox (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 332).

But why Easter?   According to historians and a least one “venerated” Catholic source (Bede), Easter is the name of a pagan fertility goddess.  According to The Catholic Encyclopedia many of the practices associated with it have pagan origins a (see Did Early Christians Celebrate Easter?).  And neither Jesus nor the Apostle Paul actually observed them.  Instead Jesus and Apostle Paul actually observed Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Remember that Jesus Himself also stated:

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matthew 4:4)

Do you intend to live by every word of God?

Will you then imitate Jesus and the Apostle Paul by observing the same days (Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread) that they did?

Will you listen to what the Apostles Peter and John taught:

Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men…” (Acts 5:29).

Or do you prefer false traditions of men such as Lent?

Contrary to the implications and claims by the pontiff, the Apostle Paul did not observe Lent.  No one professing Christ observed Lent (as currently defined) for centuries.  The Apostle Paul not only observed Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, he was inspired by God to record in the Bible that Christians were to do that and follow his example, as well as the example of Jesus Christ.

Will you truly follow the practices of the Apostle Paul yourself this year?

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Living Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions. Português: Qual é fiel: A igreja católica romana ou a igreja viva do deus? Tambien Español: Cuál es fiel: ¿La iglesia católica romana o La Iglesia del Dios Viviente? Auch: Deutsch: Welches zuverlässig ist: Die Römisch-katholische Kirche oder die lebende Kirche von Gott?
Is Lent a Christian Holiday?
When did it originate? What about Ash Wednesday? If you observe them, do you know why?
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
Passover and the Early Church Did the early Christians observe Passover? What did Jesus and Paul teach? Why did Jesus die for our sins?
Melito’s Homily on the Passover This is one of the earliest Christian writings about the Passover. This also includes what Apollinaris wrote on the Passover as well.
Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread? Do they have any use or meaning now? What is leaven? This article supplies some biblical answers.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church.
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Should Christians be Nazarenes today? What were the practices of the Nazarenes.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Apostolic Succession What really happened? Did structure and beliefs change? Are many of the widely-held current understandings of this even possible? Did you know that Catholic scholars really do not believe that several of the claimed “apostolic sees” of the Orthodox have apostolic succession–despite the fact that the current pontiff himself seems to wish to ignore this view?  Is there actually a true church that has ties to any of the apostles that is not part of the Catholic or Orthodox churches?  Read this article if you truly are interested in the truth on this matter!
Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? Did you know that many in the second and third centuries felt that there were two major, and separate, professing Christian groups in the second century, but that those in the majority churches tend to now blend the groups together and claim “saints” from both? “Saints” that condemn some of their current beliefs.

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