Beyond Abstinence – Finding Deeper Meaning in Fasting During Lent

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  • Post last modified:February 20, 2024
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What Is Fasting During Lent?

Fasting during Lent is a Roman Catholic, (RC), construct. It’s not Christian because it does not occur in the Holy Bible.

This practice by the Roman Catholic Church, (RCC), involves a period of spiritual preparation and repentance. This leads up to Easter, the traditional celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Traditionally, Lent spans 40 days, mirroring the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before starting his public ministry.

This period starts on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Saturday. This is the day before Easter Sunday.

However, Sundays during Lent are not counted in the 40 days because they are considered mini-Easters celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.

This is what I mean when I tell you that this is not biblical. The RCC invented all of this! They make the rules!

What Is The Purpose of Fasting During Lent?

According to the RCC, the primary purposes of fasting during Lent are to:

  • Repentance: Reflecting on and turning away from sins, seeking to live according to God’s will.
  • Self-Discipline: Practicing self-control through the denial of physical comforts and focusing on spiritual goals.
  • Solidarity with the Poor: Experiencing hunger or want, thus developing empathy for those who live in poverty.
  • Preparation for Easter: Purifying one’s heart and mind to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ with joy and sincerity.

As a Believer in Jesus Christ, all these features should characterize your life and you shouldn’t need Lent to invoke any of them.

Daily we should repent, demonstrate self-discipline, and give to the poor. Daily we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ when we explain, to others, how the awesome power of God brought him back from the dead!

So, why do we need Lent!?

How It’s Practiced

The specifics of fasting can vary widely among different Christian denominations, but common practices include:

  • Fasting: Traditionally, fasting involves eating less than usual. Many Christians will have one main meal a day and possibly two smaller meals that together are not more than the main meal, with no food between meals on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
  • Abstinence: Refraining from eating meat on Fridays during Lent is a common form of abstinence. Some may also give up other specific foods, drinks, or luxuries.
  • Spiritual Disciplines: Beyond food, many Christians undertake additional spiritual disciplines during Lent, such as prayer, reading the Bible, attending services, giving to charity, and performing acts of kindness.

Could someone tell me, when is fasting eating? Christian Fasting is a mutually exclusive event. This means that you are either fasting or not.

You cannot be fasting and eating simultaneously! That’s devilish and worldly! That’s not Christian!

Additionally, abstinence is not a byproduct of fasting. It is the nature of it. We can never fast and not refrain from eating and drinking. If not, we are not fasting!

Fasting During Lent!

What Are The Two Mandatory Fasting Times During Lent?

During Lent, there are two specific days when fasting is mandatory for the Roman Catholic Church, (RCC).

I did a Bible Study on Lent. Click this link to read more, then return to this page to continue exploring fasting during Lent.

These are:

  1. Ash Wednesday: The first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of this penitential season. Fasting on this day involves eating less than usual. Specifically, it usually means having one main meal and two smaller meals that together are not more than the main meal, with no food consumed between meals.
  2. Good Friday: This day commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. It is observed during Holy Week on the Friday before Easter Sunday. The fasting guidelines for Good Friday are the same as for Ash Wednesday.

The Exceptions To Fasting During Lent

Fasting during Lent is a deeply personal practice within the RCC. They say the traditions and rules can provide a structure.

Additionally, they say that the focus is on the individual’s relationship with God.

Fasting (age and health permitting) is generally required of adults ages 18 to 59.

Nevertheless, children, the elderly, and those with certain health conditions are exempt from these fasting rules.

They also admit that the intentions behind the fasting and sacrifices made during this holy season are important.

But what they have not said is far more important. All this is to divert worship and praise from Jesus Christ. Beware!

Is Fasting During Lent Biblical?

No! It is a religious tradition. It’s not even Christian because it does not appear in the Holy Bible. Fasting during Lent is an RCC invention.

However, there is no biblical connection between the two. Furthermore, Lent is also an RCC brainchild. It does not appear in the Bible. They made it up!

They haphazardly use forty days because a few well-known Bible Characters went fasting for that duration.

These include Moses, Jeremiah, and Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, their method of “fasting” does not qualify as a fast by the Holy Bible. They have watered down the spiritual discipline of Christian Fasting.

Both the Old and New Testaments present fasting for Believers to learn from and grow in the knowledge of God and Christ.

  1. Old Testament References: Fasting is often associated with repentance and mourning. For instance, in the Book of Jonah, the people of Nineveh believed the Word of God that Jonah preached; repented, and then fasted to demonstrate their repentance (Jonah 3:5-10). But this has nothing to do with fasting during Lent! There are no connections!
  2. New Testament References: Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, which the Lenten period mirrors (Matthew 4:1-2). While Jesus did not command fasting specifically for Lent—since Lent as a period did not exist at the time—He did teach about fasting. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus provides instructions on how to fast in a manner pleasing to God. The Lenten fast demonstrates none of these features!

Where Did The Tradition of Fasting During Lent Originate?

The tradition of fasting, during Lent, has its roots in the early Roman Catholic Church. The practice developed as part of their preparations for Easter.

They say Easter is the most significant Christian celebration because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Bible, and specifically the New Testament, does not document the origins of Lenten fasting. It evolved from the early RCC community’s customs and teachings.

  1. Early Roman Catholic Practice: The earliest reference to a period of preparation before Easter comes from the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. It mentions a forty-day Lenten season of fasting. However, the practice likely began earlier as a period of preparation for baptismal candidates and a time of penance for sinners. In the early days, the duration and nature of the fast were diversely different across Christian communities.
  2. Biblical Symbolism: The choice of 40 days is symbolic, reflecting several significant periods of trial, preparation, and fasting in the Bible. Notably, Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights in the wilderness before beginning His public ministry (Matthew 4:2), Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 24:18), and the prophet Elijah traveled 40 days and nights to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8). The number 40 is thus associated with preparation, purification, and transformation in a spiritual context.
  3. Establishment of Lent: Over time, the Church formalized the duration and practices of Lent. By the fourth century, most Christian churches had adopted a 40-day Lenten period leading up to Easter, starting on Ash Wednesday and concluding on Holy Saturday, excluding Sundays (which are celebrated as the day of Christ’s resurrection and thus not days of fasting). The purpose of Lent expanded to include not only preparation for baptism and penance but also a time for all Christians to practice self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and self-denial, reflecting on the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus.
  4. Evolution of the Practice: The nature of the Lenten fast has evolved over the centuries, influenced by local customs, theological interpretations, and ecclesiastical rulings. Initially, the fast was very strict, with believers often eating only one meal a day towards evening, and meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products were generally forbidden. Over time, the rules relaxed in various places, leading to the current practices that vary among different Christian denominations.


The tradition of fasting during Lent, therefore, originated as an early RCC practice. It has been shaped by biblical symbolism, ecclesiastical tradition, and the spiritual desires of the RCC community to prepare for the celebration of Easter. Yet, it is not biblical!