Dear Parish Family,
We talk about the 40 Days of the Great Fast of Lent, but from Ash Wednesday to the Easter Vigil, there are 46 Days. What gives? Well, in the colorful history of this penitential season, there are three points that help us resolve the question:
1) 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.
2) 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. Each Sunday, even during Lent, is a celebration of the victory of the paschal mystery, which is our Lord’s passion, death, and Resurrection. So that meant only 34 actual days of fasting.
3) Many people 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. The fast has become very lenient these days. Many of you remember back in the day when we abstained from meat all 40 days. So whether or not you keep your Lenten sacrifice up on Sundays is up to you, but it should not detract from your celebration of the Lord’s paschal mystery on Sundays!
“What Would Happen If We Turned to the Bible As We Do Our Cell Phone?”
Now here’s a thought for Lent: what if, each time we thought to check our phone for messages, we would take out our pocket Bible and read a passage from the Gospel? Pope Francis suggested the idea this past Sunday during his Angelus address:
What would happen if we treated the Bible as we treat our mobile phone? If we always carried it with us, or at least a small pocket Bible, what would happen? If we went back when we forgot it: you forgot your mobile phone – ‘O, I don’t have it, I’ll go back to find it’; if we opened it several times a day; what would happen if we read God’s messages contained in the Bible, as we read our phone messages?
The Holy Father then ventured to answer those questions:
If we had the Word of God always in the heart, no temptation would be able to estrange us from God and no obstacle would be able to make us deviate from the path of goodness; we would be able to overcome the daily suggestions of evil that are in us and outside of us; we would be more capable of living a resurrected life according to the Spirit, receiving and loving our brothers, especially the weakest and neediest, and also our enemies.
You can’t beat peace in our hearts and in the world! So give the Pope’s idea a whirl, and order one of the “Pocket Gospels” published by either Our Sunday Visitor or the USCCB or download the “Catholic Study Bible” from Ignatius.
Yours in Christ,