Is Lent in the Bible?
Jesus spent 40 days of preparation in the Judean desert for His public ministry. The Church follows Jesus’ example as a basis for her Lenten practices. Our Lord fasted and prayed during those weeks, as well as faced, and overcame, the temptations of the Evil One. We are called during Lent to imitate His resolve.
What is traditionally given up for Lent?
Since Lent is a time of penitence it is usual to offer a sacrifice to the Lord, both to appeal for the grace of personal conversion, and to strengthen our will to be able to cooperate with that grace. The two go together, since without God we can do nothing (John 15:5).
The best sacrifice we can make is to give up sinning. For the Catholic, daily examinations of conscience, more frequent Confession, as well as more frequent Mass and Holy Communion, to the extent possible during the pandemic, are especially good ways to prepare for Easter.
It is also usual to make some material sacrifice, one that calls for will-power and self-denial, whether television or social media, foods or treats we particularly like, recreations and other pleasures that we crave in excess, and which keep us from prayer and good works. The extra time can then be spent to pray and to serve others.
What are the penitential rules for Lent?
Since repentance is necessary for salvation, so are the acts which manifest repentance (Luke 13:1-9; Acts 26:28). Throughout the year, the Church calls the faithful to do penance, therefore, establishing norms of fast and abstinence to aid us.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence.
For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.
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