Every year, Ash Wednesday denotes the beginning of Lent and is always 46 days before Easter Sunday. Lent is a 40-day season (not counting Sundays) marked by repentance, fasting, reflection, and ultimately celebration. The 40-day period represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted and where Satan tempted him. Lent asks believers to set aside a time each year for similar fasting, marking an intentional season of focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection.
Lent is the period of 40 days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. Start on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a period of reflection and preparation before the festivities of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians redo Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities.
Today, several Catholics fast and abstain only on Ash Wednesday and Friday of the Lord’s Passion and abstain from flesh meat on other Fridays of Lent, which is the least mandatory by the teachings of the Church. In early times, nevertheless, the forty-day period of Lent sometimes involved extended and more austere fasts, as some Catholics practice today. For example, some Catholics fasted each of the forty days (except for Sunday and sometimes Saturdays) up to the ninth hour or 3:00 p.m., which is the hour that Christ gave up his spirit on the cross (Matt 27:50). The intent was to unite one’s suffering through fasting to the passion of Christ. Since our Lord’s suffering ended at the ninth hour, so too was the fast ended at that hour. St. Athanasius recommended in his Festal Letter (AD 331) that Christians engage in a forty-day fast prior to a stricter fast during Holy Week.
Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs–all of which live on land. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consommé, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden. However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste). Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.
Throughout Lent, Catholics are also encouraged to carry out some sort of personal penance or abstinence. Examples include giving up sweets, a favorite TV show or not listening to the radio in the car on the way to work. Giving up these things isn’t some sort of endurance test, but these acts are done to draw the faithful closer to Christ.
For example, a person may give up his favorite TV show, but if he simply turns the television to another channel, the Lenten penance really does not mean as much. Instead, the person should consider devoting the spare time to prayer or perhaps his family.
Sundays during Lent are very important to Christians around the world. Where the Monday to Saturday of each of the six week as concerned with fasting and abstinence, the Sunday is a celebration symbolic on Jesus’ resurrection. Instead of fasting, Christians holds feast in the remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice.