Fasting during Lent was a ‘development’ in the early centuries of the Church. The initial pre-Easter/Passover (Pascha) fast was at minimum from Good Friday to Easter Sunday and in other places the entire week before Easter. The extension to the 40 day fast that has become known as Lent was a later development – most likely a “one-upmanship” where different regions tried to outdo one another in the rigor and length of their fasting.
Another ‘development’ is that Lent ceased to be real fasting and became something of a modified diet (giving up meat or sweets) and usually not carrying over into the following day – in other words, people would break whatever fast they were doing in the late afternoon/evening.
But this is NOT what the pre-Easter/Passover fast was in the beginning and I believe we need to recover its initial rigor, intent as a real fast. As a genuine Apostolic tradition that was modeled and given by the Apostles themselves.
Jesus said that…”The time will come when the bridegroom [Jesus] will be taken from them; then they [His disciples] will fast” (Matt 9:15)
It was the universal belief and practice of the early Church that fasting BEFORE Easter/Passover [Pascha – Gk] was part of the fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Matthew. They WILL fast.
As we are now in Holy Week, let us “fast and pray” – let us finish the race well.
…for such a time as this!