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The forty days of Lent begin on Ash Wednesday, and last until Easter Day; the Sundays alone are not fasting days.
The Lenten fast was instituted by the apostles in commemoration of Our Lord’s fast in the wilderness (Matt. iv.). It is a time of penance and of sorrow for sin; hence violet vestments are worn at the altar. It is natural to fast when we are in grief (Matt. ix. 15). We ought also during Lent to meditate upon Our Lord’s Passion, which is commemorated in Holy Week, and which usually forms the theme of the Lenten sermons. By fasting and meditation upon Our Lord’s Passion we most readily awake within ourselves the grace of contrition and consciousness of sin. The forty days of Lent are also a preparation for the Easter festival. In early times the fast was much more rigorous; the primitive Christians ate no meat all the time, and did not break their fast until the evening. Even in the Middle Ages meat was prohibited; those who ate it were not admitted to the paschal communion (Council of Toledo, 653). Those who broke this law were punished by the secular authority on the ground of contempt for religion. The rule of fasting is made very easy nowadays. All that the Church requires of us is to take only one full meal in the course of the day; a slight refection is permitted in the morning, besides the evening collation. Drinking does not break the fast; yet we must only drink to quench our thirst, not in order to compensate for privations in the way of solid food. No one is required to keep the fast of Lent who has not attained the age of twenty-one years.
DAILY LENT MEDITATIONS
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