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The Lenten Season
Wednesday, February 17 - Saturday, April 3
The liturgical season of Lent lasts for 40 weekdays in remembrance of the 40 days and nights that Christ spent fasting in the desert, tempted by Satan. The beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday, is therefore dependent on the date of Easter.
Lent is a time of penance and preparation, so that the faithful may share in the joys of Easter Sunday with purity of heart. The three traditional forms of penance which are fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, "express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1434). For those adults preparing for Baptism at the Easter Vigil, Lent focuses on inner and outer scrutiny. For the baptized, Lent calls us to contemplate the redemption wrought for our sake by Christ's passion; and it admonishes us to contemplate the effort we put into accepting that redemption. In our Baptism, this redemption was planted in us when we promised to renounce sin and Satan and to live a chaste, holy life in devout service to Christ. Our salvation depends on our fulfilling those promises.
Because of the austerity of Lent, Alleluia is not said in prayer or sung in liturgy. The Gloria is not sung at Mass during Lent except for a few possible feasts and solemnities. During Lent, "the altar is not to be decorated with flowers, and the use of musical instruments is allowed only to support the singing" (Ceremonial of Bishops, 252).
The liturgical color of Lent is violet, just as for Advent. Rose-colored vestments, however, may be used on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, called Laetare Sunday from the first words of that day's Introit at Mass, Laetare Jerusalem ("Rejoice, O Jerusalem").
Abstinence -- Catholics over 14 years of age are bound to the obligation of abstinence. Abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays of Lent. On days of abstinence, meat may not be used at all.
Fast -- Catholics over 18 and up to the beginning of their 60th year are bound to the obligation of fasting. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the days of fasting. On these days, only one full meal is allowed. Two other meatless meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including milk and fruit juices are allowed.