The dates of both Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday are dependent on the date of Easter, a movable feast, meaning that it occurs on different dates each year. Ash Wednesday in the Western calendar falls 46 days before Easter Sunday, the greatest holy day of the Christian year. When counting the 40 days of Lent you do not count the six Sundays as part of the 40 days. (For Eastern Catholics, Lent begins on Clean Monday, two days before Ash Wednesday.)
What most people mean by “When does Lent end?” is “When does the Lenten fast end?” The answer to that question is Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday), Liturgically, however, Lent ends two days earlier, on Holy Thursday—at least since 1969, when the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, which govern the revised Roman calendar used in the celebration of the Novus Ordo Mass, were released. Liturgically speaking, Lent ends just before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening, when the liturgical season of the Easter Triduum begins.
Lent is a 40-day period of prayer, fasting, abstinence, and almsgiving, while reflecting on the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus. During Lent Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays during Lent, and traditionally give up something pleasurable, in addition to increasing their prayer and almsgiving.
Regarding fasting, refraining from food is a great discipline that can help us to bring our bodies under the control of our souls, and also a way of doing penance for past excesses. This is why the Church strongly recommends that Catholics fast during Lent.
The 40 days of Lent come from two biblical stories. The first is the Old Testament story of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years. The second is the New Testament story of Christ’s 40 days spent in the wilderness when he was tempted by Satan.
During Ash Wednesday services, priests place a cross of ashes on a worshipper’s forehead. This is meant to serve as a reminder of human mortality, repentance and a way to prepare for Holy Week and Easter. The ashes are made from the burnt remnants of the Palm Fronds of the prior year’s Palm Sunday, symbolizing humility, deep love and respect for the Passion of our Lord.
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: ” Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence.For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may also be taken, but not to equal a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.
Members of the Eastern Catholic Churches are to observe the particular law of their own sui iuris Church.If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the “paschal fast” to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily his Resurrection.” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)
Remember – Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, March 5th. For those of you who are giving up Facebook for Lent, yet still would like to read my daily prayers and posts, (without the distraction of Facebook) you can find these posts at http://www.lovebeingcatholic.com.
Wishing you all a very holy and humble Lent!