Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lent in Traditional Catholicism

The season of forty days preceding Easter is traditionally called 'Lent' ("spring" in anglo-saxon). Term "Quadragesima" ("forty" in latin) was traditionally used by the Church. These forty days period does not include Sundays.
The season of Lent, according to the early Fathers of the Church, was instituted by the Apostles. The universal fast was then established for the purpose of purifying souls of sin, of subduing passions and evil inclinations. In other words, penitential practices were established to develop self-discipline in the practice of virtues which is indispensable in pursuing holiness and closeness to God. It is good to remember that the struggles with temptation and the evil one are the struggle of wills.

The Lenten fast used to be observed in every day of Lent from Ash Wednesday until Easter, except Sundays, for those over 21 and under 59 years of age. The corporal fast allows one large meal with meat and two small meals without. Between meals no solid food should be consumed. Complete abstinence from meat pertains to those over age 7 on Ash Wednesday and, on Fridays. This is certainly a mild form of self-mortification or rather self-discipline in comparison to what was usually practiced by Christians in earlier centuries. However, these practices will leave us still on the hungry side and remind us to subordinate our bodies to higher spiritual purposes and to use them for God's purposes. In this way, we will prepare ourselves for the proper celebration of Easter. Here are some suggestions for observance of the Lenten discipline, consisting of corporal and spiritual observances:
 Corporal or external fast.
* Observe the traditional Lenten fast (consuming less than usually) and abstinence (from meat and additionally from anything we like very much).
* Limit significant entertainments and parties during Lent.
* Avoid listening to popular music (rock, pop) and instead listen to Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony.
* At mealtime, take more of what you dislike rather than your favourites (at least for one day).
* Try for one day to abstain from using food/drink seasoning like salt, pepper and sugar.
* Avoid listening to the radio or watching television at least for one day or for all fast days. 

 Spiritual, internal fast.
* According to St. John: "The value of fasting consists not so much in abstinence from food, but rather in withdrawal from sinful practices."
* St. Basil the Great said: "Turning away from all wickedness means keeping our tongue in check, restraining our anger, suppressing evil desires, and avoiding all gossip, lying, and swearing. To abstain from these things - herein lies the true value of fast!"
Therefore, we should do our best to:
* Abstain from all evil (any, even slightest form of gossip, ridiculing, slandering, 'snaring' at others in thoughts and words)". 
* Avoid unnecessary, 'idle', 'empty' talks, at least for one day.
* Make extra efforts to exercise patience in all things.
* Make extra efforts not to complain.
* Make extra efforts to restrain anger.

Spiritual Change
* Make extra efforts to grow spiritually and to amend life.
* Practice the virtues, particularly the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and the cardinal moral virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
* Attend Divine Office, Holy Mass, and liturgical exercises as often as they are offered during Lent.