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.
An alternate method of enumerating the 40 Days of Lent other than the common explanation that Sundays are excluded is that there are 40 days exactly between Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Holy Week. I realize Holy Week is still "Lent" (i.e., not Easter), but it never made much sense to exclude Sundays from the count when they are referred to as the "First (or Second, Third, etc.) Sunday IN Lent".
Also, Maundy Thursday is still a traditional day of fast, despite the festive character. And, the SGG All Saints Calendar for 2014 indicates fast for March 25th, as well. It has always been my understanding that the Lenten fast applied every day during Lent, excluding Sundays, and up until noon on Holy Saturday. I suppose I could be wrong on this.
Dear Sir/Madam/Entity (you do not leave your name)
Thanks for your comments. I have checked with some clergy and here are the responses:
Sunday was never a fast day, though it still is Lent. Lent probably began with the triduum, then expanded to Holy Week, and then to our Passiontide, then to the full Lent.
Holy Days of obligation are never fast days. Annunciation has not been a Holy Day since the 18th century. Alas. The temporal cycle of Lent developed distinctly from the sanctoral, which was at one point considered incompatible with Lent. So, the feast days came later.
I wasn't advocating fasting on Sundays (or Holy Days), just an alternate theory which might include them in the count of "40 days", regardless whether the fast was observed on all those days. I simply thought it interesting that there are exactly 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday, also. Regarding Annunciation and Holy Thursday, I guess I am confused, because this post specifically mentioned that the fast was not observed on those two days, and I was unaware of any concession.
Thanks to your inquiry I have made a change to the article. You can check it now.