Practice Penitence, Moderation and Simplicity During Lent
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 18. Lent is the season of 40 days when we Catholics prepare to celebrate the Triduum, the 3 days, of the dying and rising of Christ, and to renew our baptism on Easter Sunday,
The word ‘Lent’ comes from the Old English word lengthen, which was a synonym for springtime. Shortly after apostolic times, Lent was celebrated as a one or two-day period of fasting before the paschal (Easter) festival. The earliest reference to a 40-day Lent appeared at the time of the great Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. Constantine will forever be known for legalizing Christianity, and building the first St. Peter’s Basilica, and the basilicas in Bethlehem and Jerusalem over the places of Christ’s birth and death.
These 40 days remind us of biblical journeys of faith. Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert, where he rejected all the temptations of the devil. The Jews spent 40 years wandering in the Sinai Desert. Elijah spent 40 lonely days journeying to Mount Sinai. Moses spent 40 days on Sinai in the presence of the living God. It rained on Noah and the ark 40 days and 40 nights. The people of Nineveh fasted 40 days after Jonah preached to them. David was king of Israel for 40 years. So in biblical language, 40 symbolizes a generation, a long period of time, the coming of a great event.
And what do the 40 days lead up to? The Easter, or Paschal, Triduum (pronounced TREE-do-um). The Triduum is one 3-day celebration of Jesus’ saving death and resurrection, his ‘passover’ from life to death to life. It is the greatest Mass of the year. Lent ends on Holy Thursday afternoon before the Easter Triduum begins.
The mood of Lent is one of penitence, moderation, and simplicity. We focus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We should confront our weaknesses and vices, do penance, and walk the way of the cross. All Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat. Since meat is so plentiful and enjoyable in our culture, it becomes the perfect object for penance.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting and abstinence. Fasting means one full meal, two smaller meals, and nothing in between meals. Abstinence means no meat.
And it all begins Ash Wednesday. Join us for Mass and the distribution of ashes at 7:00 a.m., 4:30 p.m., and 7:00 p.m. You will hear the gospel of Jesus telling us to fast, give alms, and pray.
As Catholics, we are encouraged to read Scripture,
especially focusing on the readings included in our liturgies.
An easy way to find these and other Scripture texts is to link
to the site for the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops: Today’s