Ash Wednesday…The beginning of Lent
The number “40″ has always had special spiritual significance regarding preparation. On Mount Sinai, preparing to receive the Ten Commandments, “Moses stayed there with the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights, without eating any food or drinking any water” (Ex 34:28). Elijah walked “40 days and 40 nights” to the mountain of the Lord, Mount Horeb (another name for Sinai) (I Kgs 19:8). Most importantly, Jesus fasted and prayed for “40 days and 40 nights” in the desert before He began His public ministry (Mt 4:2).
Once the 40 days of Lent were established, the next development concerned how much fasting was to be done. In Jerusalem, for instance, people fasted for 40 days, Monday through Friday, but not on Saturday or Sunday, thereby making Lent last for eight weeks. In Rome and in the West, people fasted for six weeks, Monday through Saturday, thereby making Lent last for six weeks. Eventually, the practice prevailed of fasting for six days a week over the course of six weeks, and Ash Wednesday was instituted to bring the number of fast days before Easter to 40. The rules of fasting varied. First, some areas of the Church abstained from all forms of meat and animal products, while others made exceptions for food like fish.
Growing up as a Catholic, my family fasted on Ash Wednesday and then every Friday of the six weeks of lent. The “fasting” included abstaining from meat with the exception to seafood. As most of you know, I live in South Louisiana and seafood is abundant. As a child, I constantly questioned where was the sacrifice in eating seafood? My answer was always to not question such things. I LOVE seafood and the cajun spices that seafood is cooked in. Fried seafood, boiled seafood, seafood gumbo, stews, etc. As an adult, I have carried on the “fasting” with my own family. My children attend a Catholic school and study religion daily, they don’t think of questioning the seafood aspect of it.
Still not seeing the sacrifice.