|SEASON OF LENT
Dearest brothers and sisters in Christ,
TODAY, 9th March 2011 marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. The 40 days of preparation for the Easter season when Christians are called to renew their commitment to spiritual practices like prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Lent is an annual opportunity to grow in our faith, which means it’s about much more than giving up unhealthy foods or treats, as we may have done as children. It is about abstaining from whatever is unhealthy in our lives – gossip, laziness, lack of social conscience – and, most importantly, taking concrete steps to do something more. Challenge yourself this year, and go beyond the clichés of “giving up” something. Now is a great time to take stock of our spiritual life, and to grow in it.
The number 40 has always had a special significance to the Church with regards to preparation:
Moses remained on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights without food and water while preparing to receive the 10 Commandments. (Ex 34:28)
Elijah walked 40 days and nights before arriving at Mount Horeb (another name for Mount Sinai). (1 Kg 19:8)
Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days and nights in the desert before He began His public ministry. (Mt 4:2)
In Genesis, God sent rain upon the world for 40 days and nights while Noah remained in his ark.
The Hebrew people wandered for 40 years before arriving at the Promised Land.
The people of Nineveh repented for 40 days when they heard Jonah’s prophecy of doom upon them.
There is a traditional belief in the Church that Jesus lay in his tomb for 40 hours before His resurrection.
Traditional pillars of Lent – Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving
Prayer – More time spent in prayer should draw us closer to God. The faithful are encouraged to pray for the grace to live out our baptismal promises more fully.
Fasting – It is often an aid to prayer as hunger pangs are meant to remind us of our hunger for God. Fasting should also serve as a reminder of those without food because of poverty, those who are suffering injustices because of economic or political structures, or who are in need in any way. This is linked to our baptismal promises because, by our baptism, we are charged with a responsibility to show Christ’s love to the world especially to those in need. Fasting helps us to realise others’ sufferings and to lead us to greater efforts to alleviate them.
Almsgiving – A sign of our care and concern for those in need and an expression of our gratitude for all that God has given us. Works of charity and the promotion of justice are integral to the Christian life we are baptised into.
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OBSERVANCE OF FAST & ABSTINENCE DURING LENT
Rules for Lent follow in (a), (b), and (c).
Abstinence from meat, and fasting, are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On all other Fridays of the year the law of the common practice of penance is fulfilled by performing any one of the following:
a) prayer – for example, Mass attendance; family prayer; a visit to a church or chapel; reading the bible;
making the Stations of the Cross; praying the rosary.
b) self-denial – for example, not eating meat; not eating sweets or dessert; giving up entertainment to spend time with the family; limiting food and drink so as to give to the poor of one’s own country.
c) helping others – for example, special attention to someone who is poor, sick, elderly, lonely or overburdened.
All who have completed their 18th year and have not yet begun their 60th year are bound to fast. All who have completed their 14th year are bound to abstain.
LENT LASTS FROM ASH WEDNESDAY (9 MARCH) TO THE MASS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER EXCLUSIVE (21ST APRIL). ON GOOD FRIDAY AND, IF POSSIBLE, ALSO ON HOLY SATURDAY UNTIL THE EASTER VIGIL, THE EASTER FAST IS OBSERVED.
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