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CHAPTER XXIV.

A question on the different ways of keeping Lent.

GERMANUS: What is the reason why Lent is kept for six weeks, while in some countries a possibly more earnest care for religion seems to have added a seventh week as well, though neither number when you subtract Sunday and Saturday, gives the total of forty days? For only six and thirty days are included in these weeks.11241124    On the different uses in regard to the Lenten fast Socrates (H. E. V. xxii.) writes as follows: "Those at Rome fast three successive weeks before Easter, excepting Saturdays and Sundays. The Illyrians, Achaians, and Alexandrians observe a fast of six weeks, which they call the forty days' fast. Others commencing their fast from the seventh week before Easter, and fasting for fifteen days by intervals, yet call that time the forty days' fast." There are difficulties in the way of accepting the statement about the custom at Rome (see below), but the great variety of customs is fully confirmed by Sozomen (H. E. VII. xix.): "In some churches the time before Easter, which is called Quadragesima, and is devoted by the people to fasting, is made to consist of six weeks: and this is the case in Illyria, and the western regions, in Libya, throughout Egypt, and in Palestine: whereas it is made to comprise seven weeks at Constantinople, and in the neighbouring provinces as far as Phoenicia. In some churches the people fast three alternate weeks during the space of six or seven weeks; whereas in others they fast continuously during the three weeks immediately preceding the festival." The statement here made with regard to the West is true except as regards Milan, where Saturday was kept (as in the East) as a festival: while for the Constantinopolitan practice Chrysostom (Hom. xi. in Gen. § 2) confirms what Sozomen says: while Cassian's language in the text bears witness to the fact that both Egypt and Palestine agreed with the Roman practice. In either case, whether the fast began seven or six weeks before Easter, the number of days observed in the fast was the same; Saturdays (with the exception of Easter Eve which was always regarded as a fast) being excluded in the former case, while they were all included in the latter. Cf. below, c. xxvi.


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