The History Of Lent part 7.

From “The Liturgical Year” By Dom Gueranger

This leads us to mention some further details, which will assist the Catholic reader to understand what Lent was in the ages of faith. It was a season during which, not only all amusements and theatrical entertainments were forbidden by the civil authority, but even the law courts were closed; and this in order to secure that peace and calm of heart, which is so indispensable for the soul's self-examination, and reconciliation with her offended Maker. As early as the year 380, Gratian and Theodosius enacted that judges should suspend all lawsuits and proceedings, during the forty days preceding Easter. The Theodosian Code contains several regulations of this nature; and we find Councils, held in the ninth century, urging the kings of that period to enforce the one we have mentioned, seeing that it had been sanctioned by the canons, and approved of by the fathers of the Church. These admirable Christian traditions have long since fallen into disuse in the countries of Europe; but they are still kept among the Turks, who, during the days of their , forbid all law proceedings. What a humiliation for us Christians! Hunting, too, was for many ages considered as forbidden during Lent: the spirit of the holy season was too sacred to admit such exciting and noisy sport. Pope St. Nicholas I., in the ninth century, forbade it the Bulgarians, who had been recently converted to the Christian faith. Even so late as the thirteenth century, we find St. Raymund of Pennafort teaching that those who, during Lent, take part in the chase, if it be accompanied by certain circumstances which he specifies, cannot be excused from sin. This prohibition has long since been a dead letter; but St. Charles Borromeo, in one of his Synods, re-established it in his province of Milan. But we cannot be surprised that hunting should be forbidden during Lent, when we remember that, in those Christian times, war itself, which is sometimes so necessary for the welfare of a nation, was suspended during this holy season. In the fourth century, we have the emperor Constantine the Great enacting that no military exercises should be allowed on Sundays and Fridays, out of respect to our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered and rose again on these two days, as also in order not to disturb the peace and repose needed for the due celebration of such sublime mysteries. The discipline of the Latin Church, in the ninth century, enforced everywhere the suspension of war during the whole of Lent, except in cases of necessity. The instructions of Pope St. Nicholas I. to the Bulgarians recommend the same observance;  and we learn, from a letter of St. Gregory VII. 

To Desiderius, abbot of Monte Cassino, that it was kept up in the eleventh century. We have an instance of its being practiced in our own country, in the twelfth century, when, as William of Malmesbury relates, the empress Matilda, Countess of Anjou, and daughter of king Henry, was contesting the right of succession to the throne against Stephen, count of Boulogne. The two armies were in sight of each other; but an armistice was demanded and observed, for it was the Lent of 1143. Our readers have heard, no doubt, of the admirable institution called 'God's truce,' whereby the Church in the eleventh century succeeded in preventing much bloodshed. This law, which forbade the carrying of arms from Wednesday evening till Monday morning throughout the year, was sanctioned by the authority of Popes and Councils, and enforced by all Christian princes. It was an extension of the Lenten discipline of the suspension of war. Our saintly king Edward the Confessor carried its influence still further by passing a law (which was confirmed by his successor, William the Conqueror), that God's truce should be observed without cessation from the beginning of Advent to the octave of Easter; from the Ascension to the Whitsuntide octave; on all the Ember days; on the vigils of all feasts; and lastly, every week, from None on Wednesday till Monday morning, which had already been prescribed.