For Lent, we decided to ask our Face Forward audience for their questions about Lent during the week instead of our usual Chat Tuesday at 7:30p.
Father David Schalk of Christ the King parish answered our questions about Lent that were submitted earlier this week on the Face Forward wall.
FF: What are the things you need to know during Lent?
The key to understanding Lent is this: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.
Lent is a time for increased prayer. Go to Adoration. Pick up the rosary. Read Scripture. Visit your parish for a weekday Mass. Do something extra that lifts your mind and heart to God.
Lent is a time for fasting. Let go of something you love so that you can better hold on to Someone who loves you.
Lent is a time for almsgiving. Donate some of your wealth to a person who is less fortunate. Help Christ who is often disguised as our brother or sister in need.
Every prayer, every fast, and every act of generosity draws us closer to Jesus and prepares us to celebrate his death (Good Friday) and resurrection (Easter Sunday).
FF: Why do we give things up during Lent?
This is an ancient practice in the Church. We sacrifice to enter more deeply into the mystery of the sacrifice of Jesus. For example, people may give up candy during Lent (a teeny, tiny sacrifice) to help them better appreciate Jesus who gave up his very life (a tremendous sacrifice).
FF: Why is purple associated with Lent?
Let me quote an article on liturgical colors from newadvent.org: “Violet, the gloomy cast of the mortified, denotes affliction and melancholy.” Essentially, everything in Lent points us to Jesus on the cross, so we use a somber color, purple, to help us contemplate Jesus’ life poured out for us.
FF: Why is Lent 6 weeks long?
This may seem a bit complicated. Let me try to walk you through it in 4 easy steps.
1) Let’s take the 6 weeks in Lent and multiply it by the 7 days in a week. We get 42 days.
2) However, we don’t actually count the 6 Sundays of Lent when we do our calculation. Why? Because every Sunday is a like a little Easter, a day in which we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.
3) That means that we have to subtract those 6 Sundays, leaving us with 36 days of Lent.
4) But you can’t forget that Lent does not begin with the first Sunday of Lent. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. When we add the 4 days from Ash Wednesday to the first Sunday in Lent (Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat.), we get 40 days.
Tricky, I know. The most important thing to remember is this: Lent is 40 days. Why? Because 40 is a hugely significant number for our faith. The flood in Genesis lasted 40 days and 40 nights. Israel spent 40 years in the desert. Jesus endured 40 days in the desert immediately before his public ministry. The 40 days of Lent remind us of these biblical events. 40 symbolizes both a time of trial and a new beginning.
Let me add one more thing to this answer. You remember that Sundays are not actually counted as days during Lent. Technically speaking, this means that you do not have to keep your Lenten fast on those 6 Sundays during Lent. For instance, if you gave up pop for Lent, you are allowed to drink Mt. Dew on Sunday. However, as a priest, I would recommend not breaking your fast on the Sundays during Lent. Your sacrifice will be even more meaningful if you persevere all the way to Easter without taking breaks on Sundays.
FF: Why do we eat fish on Fridays in Lent?
Fish was, for a long time, the food of common folk. It was the rich who ate meat. Abstaining from meat was a way in which all people humbled themselves and ate less exquisite meals. Though fish is not necessarily considered the food of common folk in this day and age, we are still called to partake in meals that are less than extravagant. The point is this: Jesus humbled himself on the cross, and we follow his example in every aspect of our lives, even at the dinner table.
Many thanks Father Schalk! We can all start Lent better informed!