Lent: An exhortation

To deny one's body nourishment has little value if at the same time the heart and senses revel in pleasures. (St. Albert the Great)

Lenten discipline consists of three separate parts:

1. Corporal or External Fast, including the abstinence from certain foods, drinks and amusements, i.e. music and parties during Lent. These points of fast (see liturgical calendar p. 38) should be stressed today especially with the mania of entertainment besetting our society;

2. Spiritual or Internal Fast, which consists of abstinence from "all evil" sin. St. John Chrysostom taught that the "value of fasting consists not so much in abstinence from food but rather in withdrawal from sinful practices." And St. Basil the Great explains: "Turning away from all wickedness means keeping our tongue in check, restraining our anger, suppressing evil desires, and avoiding all gossip, lying and swearing. To abstain from these things herein lies the true value of fast!";

3. Spiritual Change, which means the practice of virtues and good works must be the main objective of our fasting. The Fathers of the Church insisted that, during Lent, the faithful attend the Lenten church services and daily Mass.

In the course of the centuries, our fasting discipline has undergone numerous and radical changes. Today, unfortunately, the observance of the Lent is but mere formalism, reduced to abstinence on certain days and without any stress on one's spiritual growth or the amending of one's life (see Fast & Abstinence Rules). It is urgent, therefore, that we return to the pristine spirit of the Great Fast which is so badly needed in our materialistic world. It is important that we remember that our Lenten discipline has as its goal the expiation of our sins, the mortification of our wayward inclinations and our growth in supernatural virtue by which we share more intensely in the Divine Life of the Mystical Body of Christ.

May you have a fruitful Lent so that, dying to the world through a brief Lenten rigour, you may rise with Our Lord to the everlasting happiness of heaven.

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