This Sunday used to be called Quinquagesima Sunday. Quinquagesima means 50, as in there are 50 days until the completion of the Easter Octave. This Sunday as well as the past two Sundays used to be part of the season of pre-Lent. The past three weeks have been a time to ease into a penitential state of fasting and abstinence. So now that we are on the cusp of Lent here are the current penitential practices Catholics are bound to:
Laws of Days of Abstinence (no meat – fish allowed):
- Begins on one’s 14th birthday.
- Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent.
- Obliges abstention from flesh meat.
Laws of Days of Penance:
- Applies to all the Faithful.
- Lent and Fridays out side of Lent.
Laws of Days of Fast:
- Applies to everyone aged 18 to 59, inclusive.
- One full meal permitted and two other meals may be taken which, when combined, are less than a full meal.
- Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
The Law of the Eucharistic Fast:
- Under the New Code of Canon Law, the Fast for Holy Communion is one hour before the reception of the Holy Eucharist. Those who are able to maintain the previous discipline of the three-hour fast are still encouraged to do so.
Do remember that these fasting and abstinence regulations are considered the bare bones requirement of the Lenten fast. Remember the purpose of fasting and abstinence: to make room for the Lord. Don’t let your fast be about what you can do as that is pride. Don’t let your fast become your boast, also pride. Let your fast be a sweet oblation to the Lord. The saints are unanimous that fasting without pride is the only way to spiritual fruit. “In the same way, fasting, vigils, scriptural meditation, and total deprivation do not constitute perfection but are the means to perfection. They are not in themselves the end point of a discipline, but an end is attained to through them” (St. John Cassian). “Beware of limiting the good of fasting to mere abstinence from meats. Real fasting is alienation from evil. ‘Loose the bands of wickedness.’ Forgive your neighbor the mischief he has done you. Forgive him his trespasses against you. Do not ‘fast for strife and debate.’ You do not devour flesh, but you devour your brother. You abstain from wine, but you indulge in outrages. You wait for evening before you take food, but you spend the day in the law courts. Woe to those who are ‘drunken, but not with wine.’ Anger is the intoxication of the soul, and makes it out of its wits like wine” (St. Basil).