A Review of Lenten Regulations for Latin Catholics: 1. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of abstinence from meat and also days of fast, that is, only one full meal is allowed. Two other meatless meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. 2. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence from meat. 3. The obligation to abstain from meat commences at 14 years old. 4. The obligation to fast commences at 18 years of age and ends at 59 years of age.
The Holy Season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on February 22nd. There will be two Masses: 12 Noon at St. Elizabeth and 6 pm here at St. Emeric. We are asked to turn to the Lord with our hearts and repentance all the time, but during Lent this call is highlighted more. To keep this on our minds, some of the Masses will be celebrated facing God as was done in Advent. Also, we will pray the Stations of the Cross at 10:45am before Sunday Mass.
We talk about the 40 Days of the Great Fast of Lent, but from Ash Wednesday to the Easter Sunday, there are 46 Days. How do we resolve it? The season of Lent used to begin on the First Sunday of Lent. As early as the Council of Nicea in 325, the bishops were already speaking of the Quadragesima, or “The 40 Days,” before the Easter Triduum began on the night of Holy Thursday. Multiply 7 days times 6 weeks, you get 42 days until Easter Sunday. Then subtract the two days of the Easter Triduum, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and you get the original 40 Days of Lenten season.
In the sixth century, Pope St. Gregory the Great had mentioned in a homily that “we do not fast on the six Sundays” of Lent. While in the Eastern Church Sunday continued to be counted in the fast, in the West Sundays were more and more highlighted as days when we remember Jesus’ resurrection. So that meant only 34 actual days of fasting. However, the Church wanted to continue 40 days of actual fasting, since that is how many days Jesus fasted in the desert. This meant finding six more days. Two days were taken care of already, since people still fast on Good Friday and Holy Saturday of the Easter Triduum. That meant four more days on the front end were needed to account for 40 days of total fasting. Thus, already by the ninth century, what came to be known as Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of the 40 Days called the Great Fast of Lent.
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