Tuesday, October 31, 2017
The Latin word for what we call ‘Lent’ is ‘Quadragesima’ which literally means ‘forty.’ The term imitates many biblical images of fasting for forty days (e.g. Exodus 24:18; Matthew 4:2; Luke 4:2). While all of this is true, Lenten and Easter practices varied in the East and the West as both traditions developed over time. The various Lenten fasts which developed did not always last forty days.
In fourth century, the council of Nicaea refers to Lent as “the forty” before the Paschal feast.[i] Although it is not entirely clear, the grammar of this phrase could be read to imply that one should prepare for forty days for the coming of Easter. One thing that is clear from the council of Nicaea is the fact that whatever the length of this penance, it did not include Sundays, since this council forbade even kneeling on Sunday.
Sunday’s were clearly treated differently by the early Christians and penitential kneeling on Sundays was strictly forbidden. This early discipline later evolved in the Western Church as our understanding of various gestures in worship shifted. Eventually in the Western tradition kneeling became a sign of reverence not of penance.
In the history of the development of Lenten traditions in the western Church there were actually two different focuses. One was on the Baptismal liturgy of catechumens who were journeying towards the Easter Vigil to be baptized and received in to the Church. The second tradition involved a rite for reconciling adult penitents. Initially these penitents were those who were excommunicated and were in the process of being reconciled to the Church. In 1091 AD, Pope Urban II changed this and required all the faithful to receive ashes in what became Ash Wednesday. Over time the penitential aspect alone became the focus of Lent.
Second Vatican council wished to restore the original double focus on baptism and penance. The fathers note, “The season of Lent has a twofold character: primarily by recalling or preparing for baptism and by penance, it disposes the faithful, who more diligently hear the word of God and devote themselves to prayer, to celebrate the paschal mystery. This twofold character is to be brought into greater prominence both in the liturgy and by liturgical catechesis.” (SC 109).
What are the implications for the Sundays in Lent? Can we solve this with Math? According to the modern General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar (2011), “The forty days of Lent run from Ash Wednesday up to but excluding the Mass of the Lord's Supper exclusive.” If you get a calendar out you would see that this year there are 20 days of Lent in February but only 24 days (23.5?) of Lent in March for a total of 44 days. There are 6 Sundays in Lent. Using these numbers you would not achieve the ‘biblical number’ forty by subtracting the six Sundays that occur within Lenten session. Does this prove that we should fast and abstain on Sunday’s? Or perhaps two of the Sundays?
Several points need to be noted. First the definition of Lent as excluding half of Holy Thursday, the whole of Good Friday and Holy Saturday only came about in 1969. These three days are now called the Triduum and are no longer considered part of the session of Lent. In other words, the numbers did actually work until this recent change. But now is the number ‘forty,’ merely figurative?
Notice that even in the current definition of Lent, Easter waits for us to complete the Triduum, and there are two more days of serious penance in the Triduum which still brings the total to forty days of penance excluding Sundays. The penitential disciple of Lent is still forty days even if the season of Lent is now shorten by the Triduum.
We must not confuse the season on Lent with the penitential disciple of Lent. The tradition of the Church did not require equal penances on each day of Lent, and no penance was required on Sunday.
Someone might say that the Sunday’s of Lent are part of the season of Lent and, therefore, must continue to have a penitential meaning. This is certainly partly true. We do worship in a more reserved and sober manner on the Sundays of Lent. But the fact remains that the penitential discipline of Lent always excluded these Sundays. We might also point out that the lectionary readings of the Sundays of Lent all focus on the catechumenal journey towards the Easter Vigil and not exclusively on penance.
St. Augustine and Sundays in Lent
I have already pointed out that the traditions of Lent have developed over time. One consistent feature has been that the penitential discipline of Lent excluded Sundays. To further emphasize this, I would like to invite St. Augustine to this discussion.
In St. Augustine’s Letter 36, he refutes a rigorist who insists that Christians should fast on the Sabbath (Saturday). This might initially sound tangential but it leads Augustine to our question. Augustine, by the way, argues that we are free to fast or not fast on the Sabbath, and as Christians we are not bound by the Jewish Sabbath keeping regulations.
Augustine also tells us that in his time Christians regularly fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year and not just in Lent (36.30) and that some Churches fasted as well on the Sabbath. By comparison, fasting on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) “would be a cause of no small scandal to the Church” (36.2, cf. 36.10, 29). He notes, “For in these questions on which the divine scripture has determined nothing certain, the custom of the people of God or the practices of our ancestors are to be taken as law” (36.2). He makes it clear that not fasting on the Lord’s Day was the standard practice for the Church in Rome, in Africa and in Millan. He also points out that fasting or abstaining on the Lord’s Day was a practice of the followers of the heresy of the Manichees (36.27) and Priscillianist (36.28) which the Church universally rejected.
Fasting on the Lord’s Day is a ‘scandal’ and ‘abominable’ (36.27) though Augustine allows one exception, “unless perhaps someone might be able to extend a fast beyond a week without taking any meal in order to approximate a fast of forty days” (36.27). He does not seem to have in mind someone who is merely, for example, not eating meat for forty days, but an epic fast of biblical proportions. (e.g. “without taking any meal”).
Again the point is that the penitential discipline of Lent always excluded Sundays and further St. Augustine says that fasting on Sundays is a scandal and abominable.
Finally someone might add one more layer to this discussion. The person who is asking about drinking their latte on Sundays in Lent, is really taking about their own self-imposed private devotion. It is interesting to learn about the history of this practice of private devotion.
Prior to Second Vatican Council the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the Roman Pontifical and the approved regulations for the United States (Uniform Norms 1951, Modification 1956) required a rigorous scheme of fasting by all the faithful 21-59 years old. Abstinence could be complete or partial, and fasting allowed one full meal plus partial meals. All week days of Lent had either a fast or a fast and abstinence attached to them. It is very clear in these documents that we were discussing the weekdays of Lent, excluding Sundays.
During World War II special permission was given to local ordinaries to dispense the faithful from these rigorous daily requirements and this permission was extended again in 1949. In light of these dispensations the Uniform Norms 1951, and Modification 1956 for the US included a paragraph which exhorted the faithful to be generous in performing additional voluntary works of Christian perfection.
It seems the wide spread custom of taking on voluntary penance began in the 1950’s. Prior to this people were satisfied fulfilling the demanding norms of Lent. Since these new voluntary acts are not required I guess you can do whatever you want, but choosing to do penance on a Sunday is clearly not in the spirit of Catholic Tradition. One might ask, what would St. Augustine say?
[i] Canon V, Greek text: τῆς τεσσεράκοντῆς, ἵνα πάσῆς, Latin: quadragesimam paschae. In the Greek the word “day’ is likely implied. The construction of ἵνα with a designation of time see Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 476). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. S. B-D-F §382, 1; 393. cf. Pl. Ti. 38c: ἐξ οὖν λόγου καὶ διανοίας θεοῦ τοιαύτης πρὸς χρόνου γένεσιν, ἵνα γεννηθῇ χρόνος, ἥλιος καὶ σελήνη καὶ πέντε ἄλλα ἄστρα, ἐπίκλην ἔχοντα πλανητά, εἰς διορισμὸν καὶ φυλακὴν ἀριθμῶν χρόνου γέγονεν .
Thursday, February 16, 2017
“The sacred liturgy does not exhaust the entire activity of the Church”: [SC 9] it must be preceded by evangelization, faith, and conversion. It can then produce its fruits in the lives of the faithful: new life in the Spirit, involvement in the mission of the Church, and service to her unity.” (emphasis mine CCC 1072).
The New Evangelization is directed to the Church herself, to the baptized who were never effectively evangelized before, to those who have never made a personal commitment to Christ and the Gospel, to those formed by the values of the secular culture, to those who have lost a sense of faith, and to those who are alienated (NDC p. 47).
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Sunday, December 15, 2013
|BOOK REVIEW: Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran, Tools for Rebuilding: 75 Really, Really Practical Ways to Make Your Parish Better (Ave Maria Press, 2013).
- Pope Francis: A Dream of Missionary Renewal (Evangelii Gaudium Review Part 1)(newhitherthitherandyon.wordpress.com)
- Book review: Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the lost, Making Church Matter, by Fr. Michael White and Tom Corcoran (Ave Maria Press: 2013)(newhitherthitherandyon.wordpress.com)
Friday, December 13, 2013
The stereotyped economic debate still seems to be centered around certain naive assumptions: that capitalists are always money grubbing, greedy villains and that collectivists are always high minded, idealistic brothers and sisters of the poor.
Fortunately the idea of Papal Infallibility only applies to occasions when the Pope himself declares that he is speaking infallibly. Which, from memory, has only been done once to assert the possibility of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. So it is still OK to disagree on this point about the nature of a desired economy.
In the magisterial declarations—in particular in those touching on political, economic, and social issues—many elements are found that depend upon historical circumstances. The magisterium of the Church in the field of social teaching also contains, together with immutable principles founded on the doctrine of the faith, a mass of implementations that are often, in hindsight, rather dubious. What is involved here is not a type of “teaching” similar to Catholic teaching in matters of faith and morals, where the Church interprets the natural law in an obligatory manner—as in the cases of questions concerning contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and other moral norms in the field of bioethics. (p. 1046).
In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent (religioso animi obsequio adhaerere debent). This religious submission (religiosum obsequeium) of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to (sincere adhaereatur), according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking. (Lumen Gentium, 25)
Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” (religioso animi obsequio adhaerere debent )422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it. CCC 892
(EG REVIEW PART 2)
- Pope Francis and the New Evangelization (newhitherthitherandyon.wordpress.com)
- Pope Francis: A Dream of Missionary Renewal (Evangelii Gaudium Review Part 1)(newhitherthitherandyon.wordpress.com)
“I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation (EG 27).
Monday, November 25, 2013
Hither, Thither and Yon: Resources for the New Evangelization
I have decided to launch a new website devoted to the New Evangelizaion.
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Friday, September 6, 2013
Recently I heard a story shared by one of the African Bishops who attended the Synod on ‘The New Evangelization.’ In this bishop’s diocese there was a maximum security prison. He decided that he should visit this prison to minister to any Catholics who might be there. The prison was underground and had no windows. The bishop journeyed deeper and deeper into the darkness of the prison before he eventually heard some singing and he was taken to a lighted room with a number of prisoners in it. The bishop became angry when he saw how many men were in the room and he confronted them asking, “Please tell me why so many Catholics are here in this prison for serious criminals?” Pointing to one of the prisoners, the other men replied, “Bishop, not one of us was Catholic before we met this man. We were so struck by his peace here in the prison that we all wanted to be like him. We are following him.”
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus challenges the great crowds that are following him to take stock of the cost of his discipleship. Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Jesus is not literally telling us to hate our families but warning us that Jesus must be our first love. If there is a conflict between loving Christ and respecting or honoring our family, the cost of discipleship is to renounce our family for the sake of the kingdom. Jesus continues, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). Being a disciple comes with a cost. We must be willing to suffer. Notice the two aspects of discipleship highlighted in these verses. Jesus says. “If anyone comes to me. . .” and then in the next verse he says, “come after me.” Our faith is both a beginning and an ongoing journey. Our modern culture, which is perhaps influenced by certain types of Protestantism, tends to focus only on the initial decision or the ‘altar call.’ If the focus is only on the beginning, then we will fail to grow and continue the work of conversion than God has started in our heart.
During the Nazi occupation of Germany, the German Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer complained against those who professed faith in Christ but allowed the Nazis to control the German State Church and to commit atrocities against the Jews. He helped found a dissident free ‘Confessing Church’ and eventually was executed in a concentration camp for his views. Bonhoeffer believed that our faith should impact the Christian’s role in the secular world. He called the separation of faith and living, “cheap grace.” In 1937 Bonhoeffer wrote, “Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our church. Our struggle today is for costly grace” (The Cost of Discipleship). Have we committed ourselves to intentionally following Jesus?
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council noted a similar problem at the time of the council. They complain about the error of those, “who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age” (GS 43).
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus is calling us to live one unified life in him. We must not have a separate family, political or business life and a private religious life. We must follow after him completely even if it is a costly call of discipleship. Jesus gives two illustrations on counting this cost and then he concludes, “In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
Once again this is not a call to hate our family, or to despise the world and all earthly possessions. The cost of discipleship is a daily endeavor, it means keeping Jesus at the center of our world. One traditional practice for this spiritual accounting is the examination of conscience. St. Ignatius of Loyola proposed a method involving five simple steps. First, begin by making an act of thanksgiving (Luke 17:15-16a). Next, pray and ask God for the grace to know ourselves and to have the courage to correct our faults. Thirdly, take a few minutes to review the hours of our day noting our faults in thought, word, deeds and omissions. Fourth, pray and ask God’s pardon for our sins. Finally make a resolution to improve ourselves in some small point of struggle during the next day (Spiritual Exercises, 43).