A previous edition of this post stated that the fast and abstinence rules do not apply on the Feast of the Incarnation and on Maundy Thursday. After a question from a reader and further inquiry with the clergy it has been made clear that: 1) Fast and abstinence never apply on a Holy Day of Obligation, but that 2) the Incarnation has not been a Holy Day of Obligation for some time now, alas. This post has been modified from its original edition in which this exemption was intimated.
It may have been the First Sunday of Lent in the Church calendar today, but it sure felt like the first day of Spring - may it not be long off! I laughed a bit at myself today as I was happy for the "relief" of a Sunday - yet I had not even deserved it, as it had not even been a full week of Lent yet. I wanted to clear up some confusion as even among some friends and acquaintances there seems to be some lack of clarity regarding Lent.
Back at the end of February Fr. Nicholas Desposito (via his Twitter account) very kindly posted the rules of the Lenten fast. I accept the Traditional discipline of the Church that imposes fast and abstinence throughout all 40 days of Lent - which, if you count them up, do not include Sundays. The Eastern Church has always been more austere - to their credit - than we have been, so I'm not certain if they exempt Sundays from their count.
But - Stephen - not even everyone agrees with you about Holy Week - how will you get them to agree with you on fasting? Well - my argument is simple, really. If you don't fast and abstain during Lent, then there is no disciplinary difference between this season and any other liturgical season of the year. Yes, sure, it's challenging - but it's only 40 days. It's just a little more than a month. And after experiencing it you can say you have experienced in at least a small, minute way (not even consecutively!) what Our Lord experienced in today's Gospel. This is above and beyond whatever you may be doing additionally or giving up personally during Lent. It's a way to prepare in a method with everyone else in the Church in the same way at the same time. Join us. You'll likely even have lost a few kilos/pounds at the end of it - and that's never a bad thing! 🙂
As a follow-up to my Madrid posting some days ago, there is a twitter account for that group now available. Please follow them here.
If you don't have any plans for this evening, listen in to our Flagship radio show, which returns to the air tonight discussing health, fitness and food.