Starting on Monday February 8 for the Chaldean rite, and on Ash Wednesday for the Latin rite, more than 1 billion Christians around the world enter the season of Lent, a time of solemn spiritual preparation for Easter, the culmination of the church’s calendar.
Despite its ancient history (Lent became standardized in the Catholic Church around the year 325) myths about Lenten traditions abound. Here are five of the most common, as well as one fact that may surprise you.
Lent is 50 days.
Lent is 40 days but when counting the season of 7 weeks for the Chaldean tradition and 46 days Latin tradition, how do we end up with 40 days of lent?
The 40 days of fasting during Lent do not include 7 Sundays and the last three days before the resurrection Sunday (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). Every Sunday, Christians commemorate the day of Christ’s resurrection, thus, Sunday by its nature is a day of joy and celebration. The Sundays during Lent are not prescribed days of fasting and abstinence, so meat is permitted.
Lent ends on Easter Sunday.
Lent ends on Holy Thursday.
The season of Lent began on Monday, February 8 this year, and ends on Holy Thursday, March 24, which commemorates Jesus’ last supper with his disciples.
For Chaldeans, the three days of Easter begin with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and includes Passion Friday and Holy Saturday. It closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.
Catholics abstain from meat during Lent.
Only on Fridays during Lent are Catholics required to abstain from meat in remembrance of the sacrifice Jesus made on Passion Friday. According to abstinence laws, meat includes warm-blooded animals and birds and dairy products. Fish and other cold-blooded animals are not prohibited.
Local Catholic bishops may determine specific prescripts about what foods are included in abstinence.
The Pope decides the date of Easter.
Thanks in part to astronomers who figured out when all full moons would occur, for nearly 1,700 years Easter has fallen on the first Sunday after the Paschal, or Passover, full moon. The earliest possible date of Easter is March 22, and the latest is April 25.This year Easter is on March 27.
The way to calculate the date of Easter was determined at a meeting of church bishops and others called the Council of Nicea in 325 near Constantinople in what is now modern-day Turkey.
Jesus went into the desert for 40 days before he was crucified.
Actually, Jesus spent 40 days in the desert before beginning his public ministry, several years before he was crucified.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke — individual, yet similar, interpretations of Christ’s message — each tell of Jesus spending 40 days in the desert, where he fasted, prayed and was tempted by the devil. After this he went to Galilee where he called his first disciples and began his public ministry.
The 40 days of Lent are a time to remember and imitate the life and ministry of Jesus as Christians prepare to commemorate his death and resurrection at Easter.