Easter Sunday can fall any time from March 22 to April 25. This year Easter comes early (April 5), so Lent, which always begins 47 days before Easter Sunday, begins on February 18. The period of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, during which many churches mark believers with ashes from the previous year’s palms.
FASTING AND ABSTINENCE IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.
Ash Wednesday, a day of strict fasting and abstinence, is the first day of Lent. Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In addition, all Catholics 14 years old and above must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent. Sundays are typically excluded from fasting, since these are celebrations of the Risen Christ. Fasting is an appropriate means of spiritual identification with Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. Many fast from something during Lent. Some give up coffee or chocolate; others restrict their travel or use of gadgets, etc. There are various forms of sacrifices, such as controlling one’s outbursts of angry words, etc. Ash Wednesday is the day many Catholics focus their attention on three practices: fasting, praying and alms giving.
Lent is one of the most important seasons of the Christian faith. The joy of the Risen Lord Jesus at Easter time depends on how well we live out the holy season of Lent.
Why 40 days? Because Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert, and laid 40 hours in the tomb; the Hebrews wandered for 40 years in the wilderness; the world was flooded for 40 days in the time of Noah. Each was a period of preparation for what was to follow. So it was that early Christians began setting aside time before Easter to prepare for their celebration of the Resurrection.
Let us always rejoice in the season of Lent, which is a gift and blessing for us every Church year. Let us truly enter into this season of Lent with true generosity of heart. Let us die to sin and rise to new life!