Lent – Part 2

Fasting and Abstinence

Fasting during Lent was more prominent in ancient times than today. Socrates Scholastic reports that in some places, all animal products were strictly forbidden, while various others permitted fish, or fish and fowl, others prohibited fruit and eggs, and still others permitted only bread. In many places, the observant abstained from food for a whole day until the evening, and at sunset, Western Christians traditionally broke the Lenten fast, which was often known as the Black Fast.[ In India and Pakistan, many Christians continue this practice of fasting until sunset on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with some fasting in this manner throughout the whole season of Lent.[

For Catholics before 1966, the theoretical obligation of the penitential fast throughout Lent except on Sundays was to take only one full meal a day. In addition, a smaller meal, called a collation, was allowed in the evening, and a cup of some beverage, accompanied by a little bread, in the morning. In practice, this obligation, which was a matter of custom rather than of written law, was not observed strictly.[ The 1917 Code of Canon Law allowed the full meal on a fasting day to be taken at any hour and to be supplemented by two collations, with the quantity and the quality of the food to be determined by local custom. Abstinence from meat was to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays and Saturdays in Lent. The Lenten fast ended on Holy Saturday at noon. Only those aged 21 to 59 were obliged to fast. As with all ecclesiastical laws, particular difficulties, such as strenuous work or illness, excused one from observance, and a dispensation from the law could be granted by a bishop or parish priest. A rule of thumb is that the two collations should not add up to the equivalent of another full meal. Rather portions were to be: “sufficient to sustain strength, but not sufficient to satisfy hunger”.[

In 1966, Pope Paul VI reduced the obligatory fasting days to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, abstinence days to Fridays and Ash Wednesday, and allowed episcopal conferences to replace abstinence and fasting with other forms of penitence such charity and piety, as declared and established in his apostolic constitution Paenitemini. This was done so that those in countries where the standard of living is lower can replace fasting with prayer, but “…where economic well-being is greater, so much more will the witness of asceticism have to be given…” This was made part of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which made obligatory fasting for those aged between 18 and 59, and abstinence for those aged 14 and upward. The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference decided to allow other forms of Friday penance to replace that of abstinence from meat, whether in Lent or outside Lent, suggesting alternatives such as abstaining from some other food, or from alcohol or smoking; making a special effort at participating in family prayer or in Mass; making the Stations of the Cross; or helping the poor, sick, old, or lonely.[ The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales made a similar ruling in 1985[ but decided in 2011 to restore the traditional year-round Friday abstinence from meat. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has maintained the rule of abstention from meat on Friday only during Lent.

Many Lutheran Churches advocate fasting during designated times such as Lent, especially on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

The historic Methodist homilies regarding the Sermon on the Mount stress the importance of the Lenten fast, which begins on Ash Wednesday.

(Information from
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

ASH WEDNESDAY

Ash Wednesday is marked 46 days before Easter Sunday. Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent – which is the period of self-restraint and abstention for Christians prior to Easter. It marks the first day of fasting, repentance, prayer and self-control.

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayerfasting, and repentance. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and falls on the first day of Lent, the six weeks of penitence before Easter. Ash Wednesday is observed by many Christians, including Anglicans, EpiscopaliansLutheransOld CatholicsMethodistsPresbyteriansRoman Catholics, and some Baptists.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants to either the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or the dictum “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. “The ashes may be prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.

Because it is the first day of Lent, many Christians, on Ash Wednesday, often begin marking a Lenten calendar, praying a Lenten daily devotional, and abstaining from a luxury that they will not partake of until Easter arrives.

Fasting and Abstinence

J

Many Christian denominations emphasize fasting, as well as abstinence during the season of Lent and in particular, on its first day, Ash Wednesday. The First Council of Nicæa spoke of Lent as a period of fasting for forty days, in preparation for Eastertide. In many places, Christians historically abstained from food for a whole day until the evening, and at sunset, Western Christians traditionally broke the Lenten fast, which is often known as the Black Fast.  In India and Pakistan, many Christians continue this practice of fasting until sunset on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with some fasting in this manner throughout the whole season of Lent.

In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fastingabstinence from meat, and repentance – a day of contemplating one’s transgressions. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Roman Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 (whose health enables them to do so) are permitted to consume one full meal, along with two smaller meals, which together should not equal the full meal. Some Catholics will go beyond the minimum obligations put forth by the Church and undertake a complete fast or a bread and water fast until sunset. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of abstinence from meat (mammals and fowl), as are all Fridays during Lent.

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)