HISTORY OF LENT AND WHY 40 DAYS

The Catholic TV monthly magazine had an article about the History of Lent. I thought maybe some of you might be interested:

History of Lent-what did fasting used to look like: The Lenten season, preparation for Easter, has been observed from the onset of Christ’s Church, although there have been inconsistencies with duration and practices.  The Council of Nicea, 325AD, established Easter’s fluid date as the Sunday following the first full moon of the vernal equinox. In 461 AD, Pope St. Leo established the duration as 40 consecutive days before Easter. Pope Gregory the Great, in the sixth century, added the dispensing of ashes the preceding Wednesday (Ash Wednesday), making Lent 46 days. Sundays were considered feast days and not included in the count. (However, my mother informed us kids that if we gave up Movies for Lent we could not go on Sundays, or it wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice. Connie)

Initially, all forms of meat, fish and animal products were excluded for the entirety of Lent. People were allowed one meal per day, after 3 pm. In the 1400’s that time was revised to noon. Eventually, a small snack was included to sustain energy. Over time, fish, meat and eventually dairy products were allowed. However, fasting was require all 40 days. It wasn’t until 1966 that fast days were lessened to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday only. (Now, we give up meat on Fridays during Lent, along with Ash Wednesday)

WHY 40 DAYS????The number 40 has ecclesial significance: Moses spent 40 days on Mt. Sinai before receiving the Ten Commandments; Jesus spent 40 days in prayer and fasting prior to beginning his ministry. So, too, we spend 40 days preparing to do God’s work.

WHY  DO WE HAVE PENITENTIAL SEASONS?  (This is a question many Christians ask Catholics, who quite often don’t know the answer) Jesus gave the example of a penitential retreat, spending prayerful time in the desert preparing for His ministry, reflecting on God’s will and determining how He’d freely make that happen. Penitential seasons offer us this same opportunity to withdraw from our routines and evaluate our spiritual progress or regression. We do this through reflection and repentance, which enable us to identify our weaknesses and make reparation to amend our sinful ways. Penitential seasons create time to reflect on our need to make God the focal point of our lives. The result can be spiritually rewarding. (Many Catholics spend extra time in prayer. Go to extra Masses, the Stations of the Cross, and other spiritual reading during Lent)

WHAT ARE THE CURRENT RULES FOR LENT IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?

All Catholics, ages 14 and up, are bound by the law of abstinence. Abstinence means refraining from the consumption of meat (land animals) on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent. Why Friday? To unite ourselves with Jesus’ sacrifice, made for us on Good Friday.

All Catholics, ages 18-59, are to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting is defined as eating one full, meatless meal on prescribed days. Bits of food can be taken at other traditional meal times though their combined total should not equal a full meal.

Penitential practices, like fasting and abstinence, are intended to refocus our thoughts and intentions toward God. Lent’s 40 days include Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday (the Lenten fast continues until Holy Saturday), not including Sundays. Sundays are optional but encouraged. For health reasons, the infirm, ill, and pregnant or nursing mothers are exempt.

Three other Lenten disciplines are prayer (daily conversation with the Lord) fasting (from behaviors which detract from our relationship with God) and  almsgiving (sharing our resources, ensuring the basic needs of human dignity).

I WILL ADD; many Catholics like to go to the  Stations of the Cross usually on Friday if it is available in their Churches. The Stations of the Cross actually started before the Crusades when Christian were free to go to Jerusalem.  I read where they used to journey from Rome and Europe to Israel to follow the footsteps of Jesus to the Cross. Much like people do now. Then when the Muslims took over the Holy Lands and the Christians could not go there, they started setting up outdoor statues or pictures of what we now call the Passion of Christ. From the Last Supper to the capture in the garden, the whippings and crown of thorns thru the town, past the women, and when he had help carrying the cross and when He was nailed to the cross. Now Catholic Churches have pictures or carvings on the wall that go around the church, 14 stations showing the Passion of Jesus.  People say prayers at each station and they are called the Stations of the Cross.  It follows the story of His Passion in the Bible Gospels. Usually on Good Friday, when possible, the Stations are said at 3PM, the time that Jesus died.

GIVING ALMS: During Lent as with other times of the year, but especially during Lent, we can give up something we spend money on, coffee, candy, movies, whatever, and give that money to the poor. Examples; the Salvation Army, Local Food Cupboards or you can look up Catholic Relief Services (CRS) or Catholic Charities for example, all these organizations help people who are desperate for help.  Catholics have what we call a “Rice Bowl” we put on the table or somewhere in our home where everyone can drop money in, on Easter we put the money in an envelope marked RICE BOWL put it in the collection basket,and the Church sends all the money to Catholic Relief Services to feed the poor in other countries.  You can look up CRS Rice Bowl on line: http://www.crsricebowl.org. To get more information. Catholics have been donating to CRS for many years. They are all over the world helping and teaching the poor how to  feed and support themselves and they are at places of devastation like Haiti helping people to recover and start over.

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THE LITTLE BLUE BOOK, ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS SEASONS

Dedicated to Bishop Ken Untener who was inspired to create the Little Books. There are several short reflections on the infancy narrative of St. Luke, that I enjoyed and think you all will also, food for thought.

JOY OF THE GOSPEL, On Nov. 24, 2013 Pope Francis issued a pastoral exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel) which urged a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to the world. “I INVITE ALL Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day,” wrote Pope Francis in the exhortation, whose publication came at the conclusion of the Year of Faith

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ZECHARIAH AND ELIZABETH go home. I’m not told where this is but later, when Mary visits their home, I learn that it was “a town of Judah” (the same part of the land as Jerusalem) in the “hill country.”

Elizabeth soon learns that she is pregnant, as the angel had promised, and she expresses heer joy at what God has done for her.  PRAYERS of THANKSGIVING are the easiest to say. Every day, even on bad days, I come across all sorts of things that can remind me of God’s goodness–trees, little children, warm water in the shower, the sound of birds, a good burger, the sun, moon, stars, a kindness someone does for me. (and I will add,”the beauty around me after a wet snow storm, when the trees and every bush is covered in white). If I keep my eyes open for them, I can catch lots of things I never really noticed as “gifts” before–things that deserve a simple word of thanks to God.  If I haven’t done it often enough this week, right now might be a good time for a prayer of thanksgiving to God.

SPEND SOME QUIET TIME WITH THE LORD

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FINDING JOY AT CHRISTMAS

We often feel Christmas should be a “sugar plum” day with no touch of sadness. We feel we mustn’t let the sad parts of our lives into this special day. Suffering spois it. Let only gladness fill the air.

BUT CONSIDER ANOTHER APPROACH: Instead of avoiding all the sadness and trying to create a Hallmark Christmas, savor the richness of a savior born into a broken world, for broken hearts, to bring healing.

This is the feast of a God who so loved this world-my world-with its better and worse. Let the love of this feast touch the better and the worse, and I’ll find a deep down joy that can bring tears to my eyes. This mixture fits the feast. The event as Bethlehem wasn’t a Disney World experience. It was a time of both bliss and sorrow.

The joy of Christmas is that light overcomes darkness. It’s the good news of the angel to the shepherds: Today a savior has been born for you…for all that is happy in you, and all that is sad in you. Don’t hide the sad feelings. For some, it is the first Christmas with a newborn child or a grandchild. For others, it is the first Christmas without  their mother, father, husband, wife, child, close friend. For all of us it is Christmas celebrated in imperfect lives in an imperfect world.

WHEN WE remember who Jesus was and why he came, we can let him come into our real life, and then experience what it means to have a merry Christmas.

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SPEND SOME QUIET TIME WITH THE LORD.

More another time……………………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR-ARE YOU WILLING TO FOLLOW JESUS?

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

SIMEON NOW SPEAKS TO THE MOTHER OF THIS LITTLE CHILD HE IS HOLDING IN HIS ARMS. He is looking ahead to the division between those who opt to follow Jesus, and those who do not.

Mary herself will have to make the decision to be on one side or the other. She is his mother, but will she become not only a mother who loves her child, but also someone who believes in the way of life that he preaches? That act of faith goes beyond family ties.

Mary made the decision. The Gospels show her relating to Jesus not only as his mother, but also as his disciple-a difficult bridge to cross. Pope Paul VI described her as the first and most faithful disciple.

All of us have to cross this bridge.  There is a “sword of division” between those who simply admire Jesus…and those who are willing to follow Jesus.

WHICH RAISES THE QUESTION: HAVE I CROSSED THAT BRIDGE?

TALK TO THE LORD ABOUT IT.

HAVE A HAPPY AND HOLY NEW YEAR. GOD BLESS YOU ALL!