Lent is a period of 40 days of intense prayer in preparation for the celebration of Easter. As such the Lenten Liturgy disposes both catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery. For catechumens, that is, those expressing their desire to be members of the church, Lent prepares them through the several stages of Christian initiation called Scrutinies, celebrated on the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent, to help them search deeply their intentions and repent from their sins. While for the rest of the faithful, that is, those who are already baptized and practicing their faith, Lent reminds them of their own baptism and through penitential practices of Fasting, Almsgiving, Abstinence, and Prayer, they prepare for Easter.

1. The Lenten Season is a period of 40 days of prayer, fasting and abstinence; Sundays are excluded because it is the Day of the Lord. Every adult is expected to fast except the sick, aged or those caring for the sick. 

2. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and the Ashes imposed on the faithful are prepared from the palms or olive branches reserved from the previous Palm Sunday. The ashes remind us that we are from dust and shall return to dust, therefore we should repent, that our souls may not be lost in hell.

3. The Liturgical colour is Purple or violet which signifies Penitence

4. The gloria and Alleluia is not sung during lent in anticipation of the great Alleluia and Gloria that ushers the resurrection at Easter

5. Lenten Season culminates with the Holy week that begins with Palm Sunday and ends with the Easter Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday

6. Fasting and Abstinence: The law of the church (canon law) in canons 1249-1253 regulate the practice of penance, fasting and abstinence in the church. From these laws we learn that: fasting is the act of depriving oneself of food for the sake of penance or other spiritual good, while abstinence means regulating the quality of food that is taken. The law on fasting relates only to solid food and does not restrict the amount of water or beverages one drinks. And so on days of fasting, Catholics are allowed to eat only ONE full meal with collations otherwise known as light meals.

a. On Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays of Lent: Every catholic of age 14 and up must abstain from consuming meat.

b. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday: Every catholic of age 18 to 59 must fast, unless exempt due to a medical or Health reason.

7. Foods that constitute meat: According to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consommé, soups cooked or flavoured 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 gelatine, 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.

And so child of God, Knowing all these is not enough to have a spirit-filled Lent. Remember always that bodily fasting is meaningless unless it is joined with a spiritual avoidance of sin. St Basil of Caesarea gives the following exhortation regarding fasting: “Let us fast an acceptable and very pleasing fast to the Lord. True fast is the estrangement from evil, temperance of tongue, abstinence from anger, separation from desires, slander, falsehood and perjury. Privation of these is true fasting.

God bless you. I wish you a spirit-filled Lenten Season.

© Fr. SimOne Madu, OSJ 

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