Pillars of Lent

The holy season of Lent was born from a kind of spiritual circumincessio (reciprocal penetration) between baptism and penance. The practice of baptism began with John in the river Jordan, where he preached “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John taught that in order to prepare the way of the Lord his hearers must repent – acknowledge their sins and turn away from them. As they were baptized in water they confessed their sins, and they heard the promise of a mightier one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.
In a probing passage, St. Paul located the act of repentance and the rebirth wrought by baptism in the paschal mystery. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.” (Rom 6:3-4)
In Paul’s analysis, baptism is our direct link with Easter. Christ called us to repentance and baptism before he willingly sacrificed himself on the Cross for our salvation. He declared to the sons of Zebedee that this sacrifice would be his baptism, and through it he descended into the depths of sin and emerged victorious over death. In baptism, our sinful selves are plunged into the waters sanctified by Christ’s death so that we die with him. But by manifesting God’s glory through his resurrection, Christ revealed the new life promised to those who believe as they emerge purified from the baptismal waters with a “new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:24)
Before we can begin the new life promised in baptism, then, we first must reject sin. The primitive Church urged those seeking baptism to manifest their internal repentance through fasting, Christianity’s most widespread form of exterior penance. The Didache exhorted a fast before baptism for both the baptizer and the one to be baptized, with the latter to sustain the fast for one or two days. St. Justin Martyr described a common fast both for those seeking baptism and for the Christians who would receive them into the Church. Tertullian likewise urged preparation for baptism with prayers and fasts.
Baptism and penance are thus the pillars upon which Lent stands. 

from Catholic Thing

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