By Father Andrew Seba
Considering that it feels like we just finished exchanging gifts, it certainly seems as if it’s too soon for us to start fasting for Lent. however, here we are another opportunity the church has given to us to grow in love with Jesus, and our neighbor. Lets us prayerfully set realistic goals and work towards realizing them with the grace of God. Every year many of the same questions arise, below are some of the popular ones:
Why we do fast for 50 days and not 40 days?
The first day of Lent in the Chaldean Church is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, that equals 50 days. There are 8 Sundays that some people do not count, (that’s still 42, I know). However, in the Chaldean Church, Lent actually ends on Palm Sunday then we enter a different type of fasting and prayers during Passion week. The real reason…. the world may never know
Why don’t we have Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday is a beautiful tradition. As the priest marks the forehead of the individual they say the words, “from dust you came and from dust you shall return”. It is a reminder of death, and a symbol for the beginning of Lent. However, this is a Latin Rite tradition. Each Church has traditions proper to their history and development. Ba’utha for example is a beautiful tradition in the Chaldean Rite but it is not something practiced in the Latin Rite. It is not wrong for a Chaldean to participate in an Ash Wednesday celebration, it’s just not part of our tradition.
How about Sundays? Do I observe my fasting or not?
This is an age-old question to which there is no official answer. Some people will say that each Sunday is a mini Easter, therefore it is a feast day and one should not observe a fast. Others will say breaking the fast is like cheating and so they would rather continue and anticipate the celebration of Easter. Remember, when we fast we are called to be transformed, breaking the fast is not wrong if we are growing. Perhaps, one can be a bit more moderate while retaining some observance of a fast. We must be careful not to be so tied up with the law, rather make sure our fasting, praying, and alms giving is helping us to become more holy.
What happens when I accidently break my fast?
There is an urge to go to confession. Remember, confession is reserved for mortal sins. If we fail during lent, it is okay, learn from the experience and move forward.
Do I have to fast from meat on Friday?
Short answer, yes. Although, you might not suffer much from fasting on meat on Sundays, one of the great reasons we do this is to be united in something. It helps to have something in common. There is strength in numbers, we are called through Lent to support each other and fasting from meat is something we all do and therefore, can help us better understand how we suffer together.
What are ways that I can perfect my prayer, fasting, and alms giving during Lent?
BE CREATIVE AND DON’T BE AFRAID TO FAIL. Also, be realistic with your expectations.
Prayer: Sometimes, we are called to just perfect what we are doing. For example, if we are already coming to Mass, try to get more out of it. Sit somewhere else, close your eyes more, offer up your distractions, read the Gospel before, discuss the Homily afterward, get to know the people you are praying with (other than the ones you came with). Also, try to incorporate more silence in your prayer.
Fasting: Make sure that your fasting causes you to suffer at least a little bit. If it doesn’t, then we aren’t really lenting well. Better understanding how to deal with suffering, and being able to unite it more closely with Jesus’ is one of our main goals for Lent.
Alms Giving: Traditionally, this is donating money or something to charity. However, it also includes spending our time or sharing a talent. Almsgiving helps us to be more like Jesus, it forces us to see the needs of others and give of our resources, time, treasure or talent. Almsgiving helps us to grow in generosity.
Blog courtesy of Eastern Catholic Re-Evangelization Center.