The Duration of Lent

by Jimmy Akin

in Liturgical Year

A reader writes:

I have a question concerning the duration of Lent.  My sister, who is just coming back into the faith, just came back from picking up her son at CCD class.  She said that they were told that the first 3 days following Ash Wednesday are not officially part of the Lenton season, and that Lent does not officially start until Sunday.  She said that they were also given a book, and that it also says this in the book. 

Is this correct??

No. The current regulations for what days are in what seasons are found in a document titled the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, which was released in 1969. It provides:

Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive [General Norms 28].

The origin of the confusion may be in the fact that the First Sunday of Lent (four days after Ash Wednesday) is sometimes said to inaugurate "the first week of Lent." This manner of speech is meant to pick out the first full week of Lent and does not change the fact that the controlling legal document, the General Norms, provides that Lent begins earlier.

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{ 1 comment }

Kristie March 2, 2006 at 7:16 am

Many folks have expressed confusion after the readings on Ash Wednesday which command us to “pray and fast” in private. But then we walk out of church with ashes on our foreheads for all the world to see. Should we wipe the ashes off of our foreheads prior to going into public places or are what the ashes signify different from our personal prayer and fasting?

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