Sundays in Lent: Part IV

by Jimmy Akin

in Liturgical Year

A reader writes:

For whatever it may be worth…

Ash Wednesday (inclusive) through Holy Saturday (inclusive), less Sundays, would yield a count of 40 days.

So, if you’re skipping Sundays (dealt with in another post), you could say that there are 40 penitential days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Note, though, that this little system would consider the Solemnities of Saint Joseph and the Annunciation as 2 of the 40 days – hardly days of penance in most minds.

I appreciate the effort and ingenuity involved in this solution, but it does not appear to correspond to the Church’s law. It is true that "if you’re skipping Sundays (dealt with in another post), you could say that there are 40 penitential days between Ash Wednesday and Easter," but one would be making up one’s own rules to get this total. The Church’s law is different on this point. According to the Code of Canon Law:

The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent [Canon 1250].

The limits of the season of Lent are defined as follows:

"Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive [General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar 28].

This means, as we saw below, that Lent includes forty four days of penance. If you want to have the number of "penitential days between Ash Wednesday and Easter," then the total will be forty five because Good Friday is also a day of penance under Canon 1250. (Holy Saturday, while it is a day on which fasting is recommended, is not technically a days of penance in the law.)

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{ 1 comment }

Richard February 28, 2009 at 1:25 pm

The current Law may be unclear, but excluding Sundays to reach the 40 days of fasting is the Church’s tradition.
I’ve posted this on a couple of other pages in this discussion, but again, from the 1911 Catholic Encyclopeida:
“From what has been said it will be clear that in the early Middle Ages Lent throughout the greater part of the Western Church consisted of forty weekdays, which were all fast days, and six Sundays.”
The Middle Ages took their fasting VERY seriously, so I think we can take them as a good exemple.
So yes, more than 40 days in Lent, but only 40 fasting days.

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