Our observance of Lent begins today on Ash Wednesday, February 26th. The imposition of ashes reminds us that we are all sinners and of our total dependence upon the mercy and forgiveness of a Most Compassionate God.
During this time of the Church year, Lent becomes a time of transition for us, a time in the liturgical life of the Church in which we reflect interiorly on our life of faith and the relationship we live with our God – an interior transformation about which I will speak in much more detail in today’s meditation and the days to follow.
It is during this season in which each one of us, as a child of God and co-heir with Christ, is called to return to God through our works of prayer, fasting and almsgiving (cf. Joel 2:12). For those who are Catholic, the Lenten discipline is as follows:
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of universal fast and abstinence. In the United States, fasting is obligatory for all who have reached the age of 18 and have not yet attained their 60th year. Fasting allows a person to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may be taken; however, they are not to equal one full meal.
Abstinence from meat, and foods made with meat, is obligatory for all who have reached their 14th year, and is to be observed not only on Ash Wednesday, but also on all Fridays during Lent.
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For those of you who are Catholic and reside outside of the United States, you should check for any variations in the rules for fasting and abstinence with your local pastor or with the Bishops’ Conference for your particular country. Also, any Eastern Catholics should check with the governing body for your particular Rite.
The Lenten discipline of fast and abstinence is a spiritual discipline, for it is a means by which each and every one of us, regardless of our particular faith persuasion, can exercise acts of self-denial, a means by which we may transform our hearts through interior repentance for our past transgressions against God’s Infinite Love.
As we enter the solemn season of Lent for the next forty days, may God bless each of us as we begin our walk of faith with Christ Jesus, accompanying Him as He begins His ascent towards Calvary. †