Tag: Meaning

What Is Lent? Understanding The Reason For Lent.

What Is Lent? Understanding The Reason For Lent.

Understanding the reason for Lent.

Is Old English for ‘Spring‘.

What is Lent?

According to the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar:

“Lent is a preparation for the celebration of Easter. For the Lenten liturgy disposes both catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery: catechumens, through the several stages of Christian initiation; the faithful through reminders of their own baptism and through penitential practices” (General Norms 27).

Is Lent actually forty days long?

Technically, no. According to the General Norms, “Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, exclusive” (General Norms 28). This means Lent ends at the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. Count it as you will, that’s more than forty days. Therefore, the number forty in traditional hymns such as “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days” is only an approximation.

Are Sundays excluded from Lent?

No. The definition of what days are included in Lent is given above, in General Norms 28. No exception is made for Sundays. Indeed, the General Norms go on to specifically name the Sundays of the period as belonging to the season: “The Sundays of this season are called the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent. The Sixth Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week, is called Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday)” (General Norms 30).

Some people customarily allow themselves on Sunday to have things they have voluntarily given up for Lent, but since these forms of self-denial were voluntarily assumed anyway, a person is not under an obligation to practice them on Sunday (or any other specific day of the week).

Why is the season called ‘Lent’?

Lent is the Old English word for ‘spring’. In almost all other languages, Lent’s name is a derivative of the Latin term quadragesima or “the forty days.”

Why is Lent approximately forty days long?

In the Bible, forty days is a traditional number of discipline, devotion, and preparation. Moses stayed on the mountain of God forty days (Ex. 24:18, 34:28). The spies were in the land forty days (Num. 13:25). Elijah traveled forty days before he reached the cave where he had his vision (1 Kgs. 19:8). Nineveh was given forty days to repent (Jonah 3:4). And, most significantly for our Lenten observance, Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness praying and fasting prior to undertaking his public ministry (Matt. 4:2).

Thus, it is fitting for Christians to imitate him with a forty-day period of prayer and fasting to prepare to celebrate the climax of Christ’s ministry, Good Friday (the day of the crucifixion) and Easter Sunday (the day of the Resurrection).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, ‘For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning‘ [Heb. 4:15]. By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert” (CCC 540).

What are fast and abstinence?

Under current canon law in the Western rite of the Church, a day of fast is one on which Catholics who are eighteen to sixty years old are required to keep a limited fast. In this country you may eat a single, normal meal and have two snacks so long as these snacks do not add up to a second meal. Children are not required to fast, but their parents must ensure they are properly educated in the spiritual practice of fasting. A day of abstinence is a day on which Catholics fourteen years and older are required to abstain from eating meat. (Though under the current discipline of the Western rite of the Church, fish, eggs, milk products, and foods made using animal fat are permitted, they are not in the Eastern rites.) Their pastor can easily dispense those with medical conditions from the requirements of fast and/or abstinence.

Is there a biblical basis for abstaining from meat as a sign of repentance?

Yes. The book of Daniel states, “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . ‘I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over”‘ (Dan. 10:1-3).

Isn’t abstaining from meat one of the “doctrines of demons” Paul warned about in 1 Timothy 4:1-5?

When Paul warned of those who “forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods,” he had in mind people with the Manichean belief that sex is wrong and certain foods like meat are immoral. (Thus the spiritual ideal for many modern New Agers is a celibate vegetarian, as in the Eastern religions).

We know that Paul has in mind those who teach sex and certain foods are intrinsically immoral because he tells us that these are “foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:3b5).

Sex and all kinds of food are good things-which is why the Catholic Church has marriage for a sacrament and heartily recommends the practice to its members. This is why it is fitting for these things to be given up as part of a spiritual discipline. Thus Daniel gave up meat (as well as wine, another symbol of rejoicing), and Paul endorses the practice of temporary celibacy to engage in a special spiritual discipline of increased prayer (1 Cor. 7:5). By denying ourselves these good things we encourage an attitude of humility, free ourselves from dependence on them, cultivate the spiritual discipline of sacrifice, and remind ourselves of the importance of spiritual goods over earthly goods.

In fact, if there was an important enough purpose, Paul recommended permanently giving up marriage and meat. Thus he himself was celibate (1 Cor. 7:8). He recommended the same for ministers (2 Tim. 2:34) and for the unmarried in order to devote themselves more fully to the Lord (1 Cor. 7:3234), unless doing so would subject them to great temptations (1 Cor. 7:9). Similarly, he recommended giving up meat permanently if it would prevent others from sinning (1 Cor. 8:13).

Since the Catholic Church requires abstinence from meat only on a temporary basis, it clearly does not regard meat as immoral. Instead, it regards it as the giving up of a good thing in order to attain a spiritual goal.

What authority does the Church have to establish days of fast and abstinence?

The authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus told the leaders of his Church, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt.16:19, 18:18). The language of binding and loosing was (in part) a rabinnic way of referring to the ability to establish binding halakah or rules of conduct for the faith community. (See the Jewish Encyclopedia: “Binding and loosing (Hebrew, asar ve-hittir) . . . Rabinnical term for ‘forbidding and permitting”). It is especially appropriate that the references to binding and loosing occur in Matthew, the “Jewish Gospel.”

The Jewish Encyclopedia continues: “The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra, the Pharisees, says Josephus (Wars of the Jews 1:5:2),became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind.‘ . . . The various schools had the power ‘to bind and to loose’; that is, to forbid and to permit (Talmud: Chagigah 3b); and they could also bind any day by declaring it a fast day (Talmud: Ta’anit 12a). . . . This power and authority, vested in the rabbinical body of each age of the Sanhedrin, received its ratification and final sanction from the celestial court of justice (Sifra, Emor, 9; Talmud: Makkot 23b).

In this sense, Jesus, when appointing his disciples to be his successors, used the familiar formula (Matt. 16:19, 8:18). By these words he virtually invested them with the same authority as that which he found belonging to the scribes and Pharisees who ‘bind heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will not move them with one of their fingers‘, that is ‘loose them,’ as they have the power to do (Matt. 23: 24). In the same sense, [in] the second epistle of Clement to James II (Clementine Homilies, Introduction [A.D. 221]) Peter is represented as having appointed Clement as his successor, saying: 

“I communicate to him the power of binding and loosing so that, with respect to everything which he shall ordain in the earth, it shall be decreed in the heavens, for he shall bind what ought to be bound and loose what ought to be loosed as knowing the rule of the Church” (Jewish Encyclopedia 3: 215).

Thus Jesus invested the leaders of this Church with the power of making halakah for the Christian community. This includes the setting of fast days (like Ash Wednesday).

To approach the issue from another angle, every family has the authority to establish particular family devotions for its members. If the parents decide that the family will engage in a particular devotion at a particular time (say, Bible reading after supper), it is a sin for the children to disobey and skip the devotion for no good reason. In the same way, the Church as the family of God has the authority to establish its own family devotion, and it is a sin for the members of the Church to disobey and skip the devotions for no good reason. Of course, if the person has a good reason the Church dispenses him.

In addition to Ash Wednesday, are there any other days during Lent days of fast or abstinence?

Yes. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence. Also, Good Friday, the day on which Christ was crucified, is day of both fast and abstinence.

All days in Lent are appropriate for fasting or abstaining, but canon law does not require it. Such fasting or abstinence is voluntary.

Why are Fridays during Lent days of abstinence?

Because Jesus died for our sins on Friday, making it an especially appropriate day of mourning our sins by denying ourselves something we enjoy. (By the same token, Sunday—the day on which he rose for our salvation—is an especially appropriate day to rejoice).

Are acts of repentance appropriate on other days during Lent?

Yes. The Code of Canon Law states: “All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and time throughout the universal Church” (CIC 1250).

Why are acts of repentance appropriate at this time of year?

Because it is the time leading up to the commemoration of our Lord’s death for our sins and the commemoration of his resurrection for our salvation. It is thus especially appropriate to mourn the sins for which he died. Humans have an innate psychological need to mourn tragedies, and our sins are tragedies of the greatest sort.

What are appropriate activities for ordinary days during Lent?

Giving up something we enjoy, engaging in physical or spiritual acts of mercy for others, prayer, fasting, abstinence, going to confession, and other acts expressing repentance in general.

Is the custom of giving up something for Lent mandatory?

No. However, it is a salutary custom, and parents or guardians may choose to require it, since the spiritual training of their children is their prime responsibility.

Why is giving up something for Lent such a salutary custom?

By denying ourselves something we enjoy, we discipline our wills so that we are not slaves to our pleasures. Just as over-indulging in the pleasure of eating leads to physical flabbiness, over-indulging in pleasure in general leads to spiritual flabbiness. When the demands of morality require us to sacrifice something pleasurable (such as sex outside marriage) or endure hardship (such as being scorned for the faith), spiritual flabbiness may well make us fail. 

Is the denying of pleasure an end in itself?

No, it is only a means to an end. By training ourselves to resist temptations when they are not sinful we train ourselves to reject temptations when they are sinful. We also express our sorrow over having failed to resist sinful temptations in the past. There are few better ways to keep our priorities straight than by denying ourselves things of lesser priority to show us that they are not necessary and focus our attention on what is necessary.

Can we deny ourselves too many pleasures?

Definitely. God made human life contingent on certain goods, such as food, and to refuse to enjoy enough of them has harmful consequences. For example, if we do not eat enough food we can damage our bodies (and, in the extreme, even die). Just as there is a balance between eating too much food and not eating enough food, there is a balance involved in other goods.

If we deny ourselves too much, it may deprive us of goods God gave us in order that we might praise him or decrease our effectiveness in ministering to others. It can also constitute the sin of ingratitude by refusing to enjoy the things God wanted us to have because he loves us. If a child refused every gift his parent gave him, it would displease the parent, if we refuse gifts God has given us, it displeases God because he loves us and wants us to have them.

Aside from Ash Wednesday, what are the principal events of Lent?

There are a variety of saints’ days that fall during Lent, and some of these change from year to year, since the dates of Lent itself change based on when Easter falls. However, the Sundays during the Lenten season commemorate special events in the life of our Lord, such as his Transfiguration and his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week. Holy Week climaxes with Holy Thursday, on which Christ celebrated the first Mass, Good Friday, on which he was crucified, and Holy Saturday-the last day of Lent-during which our Lord lay in the tomb before his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Why Do Franciscan Friars Wear Brown? What Does Their Vestments Signify? 

Why Do Franciscan Friars Wear Brown? What Does Their Vestments Signify? 

It’s one of the most iconic and recognizable religious habits in the world. The image of a preaching Friar, in a simple brown robe with a humble cinture, is a powerful, evocative, and indelible image. But why exactly do Franciscans wear brown? Let’s take a close look at how the classic brown robes of the Franciscans came to be. 

By Canon Law, the numerous religious orders existing within the Catholic Church each wear their own distinctive garb according to the customs and laws of their institute. While it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of them all, the most easily recognizable religious robes may be those coarse brown ones worn by Franciscan friars, which are usually tied with a three-knotted rope, and paired with sandals. We can recognize a Franciscan’s robes from 100 yards away, but how did their brown color become the standard for their order.

Living simply.

Franciscan friars live their lives in solidarity with the poor, taking vows of poverty and living with few possessions. The Rule of St Francis does not prescribe any particular color to the order, but it does invite its members to “wear humble garments,” to “dress in cheap clothing.” The Franciscans serve the poor at their level and it would not help their mission to be covered in finery while serving the destitute.

Earth tones reflect the earthly body.

Every order which takes a vow of poverty does so in order to demonstrate that possessions are not what define us, and to follow the words of Christ in Matthew 19:21:

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

OFM.org, homepage to the Ordo Fratrum Minorum, cites a biographer who mentions the saint’s admiration of the plain lark, suggesting that brown reflects earthly life and the works of the order to relieve earthly suffering:

“Its plumage is earthy. It gives example to religious women and men that they should not have elegant and fine attire, but rather wear dull colors, like that of the earth.”

In the beginning, brown was all they had.

St. Francis began his order about 809 years ago, in 1209. At the time the brothers’ robes were supplied by peasants, who often were not much wealthier than the Franciscans. The most common color worn by the peasant class of the dark ages were varying shades of gray and brown, depending on the source of wool that was used. Undyed cloth was the cheapest available. The robe worn by St. Francis preserved at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels is gray. The Franciscans, whose clothing is meant to be utilitarian and long-lasting, were unconcerned by color, but as their influence grew, brown simply became “their color.”

The color served another purpose as well. When the order first began, the brothers lived among the leper colony of Rivo Torto near Assisi, and spent much of their time climbing the mountainous region of Umbria in order to bring relief to the needy. The friars would often sleep in dirt, and the brown color was useful in helping them to still look relatively clean.

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a more recent branch of the followers of Francis, are known for their gray habits.

The cincture.

Another distinctly Franciscan trait of their garb is the cincture, a long corded rope with three knots tied into it that is worn around the waist. While the cincture does help to keep the sack robes closed on gusty days, the three knots represent Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, the three cornerstones of the Franciscan Order.

The hood.

While most Franciscan habits have an attached hood, one branch is distinctive for its long hoods, known as capuches. The Capuchin Franciscans take their name from this distinctive feature, and have in turn given their name to the capuchin monkey (who seems to be wearing a hood) and to cappuccino, the coffee beverage that echoes the coloring of the Franciscan habit.

Why Do Catholics Cross Their Foreheads, Lips And Hearts During Mass? 

Why Do Catholics Cross Their Foreheads, Lips And Hearts During Mass? 

Here is why Catholics cross their head, lips, and heart at Mass.

During Mass, we make a little cross on our head, lips, and heart, because these outward gestures made with our bodies are pointing to an inward prayer that is happening in our hearts.

When the Gospel is about to be read, the priest says: ‘A Reading from the Gospel according to St____.’ The congregation then responds, ‘Glory to You Oh Lord,’ making a small cross with their thumb over their forehead, lips, and chest.
Remember, the cross itself is a sign of redemption in and through Jesus Christ. When we make this sign of the cross, in any form, it’s an outward act to profess our inward faith in the Trinity. This sign declares that, through our baptism, we belong to God.
The reason for making a cross during this period of the Mass is to highlight the importance of the Word of God we are about to hear.
St. Paul taught us,
‘For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart’ (Hebrews 4:12).
In the outward sign of crossing our forehead, lips, and heart, we are asking that the Word of God to pierce our mind, lips, and hearts.
We cross our forehead so that the Word of God may be in our thoughts and purify our minds. We cross our lips so that our speech may be holy and incline us to share the Gospel with others. And we cross our hearts to invite God to strengthen our love for Him and others. All of this is so that we might know, proclaim, and love Jesus Christ all the more.
So next time you’re at mass and the Gospel is about to be proclaimed pray that ‘The word of God be ever in my mind, proclaimed by my lips, and pierce my heart leading me to deeper communion with you, Jesus.’

What Is The Sudarium Of Oviedo? 

What Is The Sudarium Of Oviedo? 


In the Gospel of St. John, we read the account of Sts. Peter and John running to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning: “Presently, Simon came along behind (St. John) and entered the tomb. He observed the wrappings on the ground and saw the piece of cloth which had covered the head not lying with the wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself” (Jn 20:6-7).

Therefore, the Gospel account explicitly mentioned first the “wrappings,” which are believed to be the Shroud of Turin and the bindings. The shroud is a long linen sheet about 4.36 meters long by 1.1 meters wide (or 14’4″ x 1’7″). Jesus would have been laid down on top of the shroud, and then it would have been folded over Him. Jesus’ body would then have been bound by narrow linen strips.

The other cloth was the head covering, called the sudarium. After Jesus had died but before He was taken down from the cross, His head would have been wrapped to collect any bloody discharges from the nose or the mouth. For the Jews, all of the bodily parts and even the blood had to be preserved for the future resurrection of the body. For this reason, Jesus’ body was not washed before being placed in the tomb. After the body was removed from the cross, the sudarium would have been removed, Jesus would have been covered with the shroud, and then the sudarium would have been wrapped around His head.

Early Christian sources state that St. Peter took custody of the sudarium, and it was kept in the Holy Land until the Persian and Muslim invasions. Records indicate that it was taken then to Alexandria, Egypt, and then to Cartagena and eventually to Toledo, Spain, where it was kept (636-711A.D.). 

Again, due to the Muslim invasion of Spain, the sudarium was taken to the Cathedral of Oviedo, where it remains to this day.

In 1989, Jose Delfin Guillermo Heras Moreno led a team of about 40 scientists (Investigative Team of the Spanish Center of Sindonology, i.e. EDICES) with expertise in hematology, pathology, palynology, criminology and other fields to investigate the sudarium. Here are some of the findings:

The sudarium is a linen cloth measuring 85.5 by 52.6 cm. (or 34 by 21 in.). It was wrapped around the head of an adult male who had a beard and mustache with his hair tied in the back. Blood stains are present, but no image appears.

*The sudarium dates to the time of the Roman empire. The weave of the line uses a “Z twist,” indicating it was produced between 400 B.C. and 500 A.D. The Shroud of Turin uses the same “Z twist.”

*Some 141 pollen grains and 10 fungus spores were discovered on the sudarium; 99 percent were endemic to the Mediterranean region. Three plant species were identified that grow only in Palestine — the terebinth, tamarisk and the batha oak. Two other native plant residues found were that of the “Rocks Rose” (Cistus creticus) and Goundelia tournefortii, which may have been used for Jesus’ crown of thorns. All of these can be found within a radius of 20 km. of Jerusalem and blossom in the spring (around Passover time). These pollens also appear on the Shroud of Turin; however, there are pollens of Spain found on the sudarium which do not appear on the shroud (which is kept in Milan) and vice versa.

*Traces of myrrh and aloe were found. Remember: Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloe for the burial of Jesus (Jn 19:39).

*Two kinds of blood are on the cloth: First, around the nose and the mouth, there are traces of blood and other liquid from the pulmonary edema that was caused from asphyxia (the ultimate cause of death by crucifixion); this blood would have been discharged when the body was removed from the cross. 

*Second, traces of blood around the head were found, caused by the crown of thorns. The blood stains of the sudarium and the shroud match. Also, the blood from both the sudarium and Shroud of Turin belonged to a male with type AB blood.

*Finally, if the sudarium is placed on the facial image of the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello (believed to be St. Veronica’s veil), it is apparent that all of them depict the image of the same man.

The sudarium is kept in a reliquary at the Cathedral of Oviedo. It is displayed three times a year: on the feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14), the feast of St. Matthew (Sept. 21) and Good Friday.

While belief in the authenticity of the sudarium as well as the Shroud of Turin and the Veil of Manoppello are not articles of faith, these relics aid our appreciation for what Our Lord suffered for our salvation and can only increase our devotion. We are left, then, with that great adage: “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not, no explanation is possible.”!

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