Lent is the forty-day liturgical season of fasting, special prayer and almsgiving in preparation for Easter. The name “Lent” is from the Middle English “Lencten,” meaning spring; its more primitive ecclesiastical name was the “forty days,” “quadragesima” in Latin or “tessaracoste” in Greek. The number “forty” is first noted in the Canons of Nicaea (A.D. 325), likely in imitation of Jesus’ fast in the desert before His public ministry (with Old Testament precedent in Moses and Elijah). By the fourth century, in most of the West, it referred to six days’ fast per week of six weeks (Sundays were excluded).
“Lent is ordered to preparing for the celebration of Easter, since the Lenten liturgy prepares for celebration of the Paschal Mystery both catechumens, by the various stages of Christian Initiation, and the faithful, who recall their own Baptism and do penance. The forty days of Lent run from Ash Wednesday up to but excluding the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive. From the beginning of Lent until the Paschal Vigil, the Alleluia is not said or sung.
On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which is observed everywhere as a fast day, ashes are distributed.” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, nos. 27-29)
All Catholics who have reached their 14th birthday are bound to abstain totally from meat on the following days: Ash Wednesday, all Fridays of Lent and Good Friday. All Catholics between their 18th and 59th birthdays are also bound to observe the Law of Fast on the following days: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This practice involves limiting oneself to a single full meal and avoiding food between meals. Light sustenance may be taken on two other occasions in the course of the day.
Most Reverend Michael Fisher, Bishop of Buffalo, has granted a commutation of the discipline of abstaining from meat on March 17th, St. Patrick's Day. A commutation of this discipline means that those Catholics who choose to eat meat on Friday, March 17th are obliged to choose another day before March 24th, 2023 to abstain from eating meat.
After they have been initiated into the Most Holy Eucharist, all the faithful are bound by the obligation of receiving Communion at least once a year. This precept must be fulfilled during the Easter season, unless for a good reason it is fulfilled at another time during the year. This obligation may be fulfilled between February 26, 2023 (First Sunday of Lent) and June 4, 2023 (Trinity Sunday).
Continue to watch our blog throughout Lent for daily Gospel reflections as well as other parish opportunities to enjoy the spiritual fruits of Lent.