VATICAN CITY, MARCH 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Fasting today is not just about not eating or drinking, says the president of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute.
Fasting can also include abstaining from radio, television, telephone — and criticism of others, says Benedictine Father Juan Javier Flores Arcas.
“Our Lent should be like Christ and with Christ,” the priest said in this interview with ZENIT on Lent.
Q: What does Lent mean and what is its significance?
Father Flores: It is of course the 40 days that separate us from the Easter triduum of the passion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As the triduum already begins on the afternoon of Holy Thursday with the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Lent lasts up to this moment, more than 40 days, specifically 46, but Sundays are not counted. …
Lent was thought out and planned thinking of penitents who did public penance and needed these 40 penitential days to do so.
It was also created thinking of the catechumens who are to receive the sacraments of Christian initiation on the holy night of Easter and who in the course of 40 days fulfill the last stage of their catechumenal journey.
Q: In what way is Lent today different from what it was before the Second Vatican Council?
Father Flores: Essentially it is the same Lent, with the same ideas, though with the publication of the new liturgical books and the new pastoral situations, the preparation for candidates to receive baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist on Easter night has taken on a new life.
On the first Sunday of Lent they will carry out the rite of the inscription of names and during the third, fourth and fifth Sundays they will carry out the examinations, exorcisms and delivery of the Our Father and Creed, as a means of intense and immediate preparation for the reception of the Easter sacraments.
Thinking of today’s catechumens, the liturgical books speak of Lent as a time of illumination and purification. And what is said of the catechumens is applied to all Christians who must allow themselves to be illuminated by the Word of God, so abundant and rich throughout Lent, and they must purify themselves interiorly to reach holy Easter and be totally renewed.
Q: There is talk of fasting and abstinence. Don’t you think that today there are other more necessary fasts, such as fasting from watching television, fasting from the telephone?
Father Flores: The traditional Lenten practices, of which the Ash Wednesday liturgy speaks, are fasting, prayer and alms. Needless to say, they have not lost any of their timeliness.
But there are many more fasts than those the Church asks of us on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
The member that sins the most must fast, and each one will know what fast suits him and which he must practice most: media fasting; doing without everything that is superfluous in a Christian’s life; the indiscriminate use of the telephone, television, the computer, and of the Internet is superfluous; fasting from that which can be harmful in our conversations and which might injure our brother; fasting from lack of charity and sensitivity, from constant criticism of others, from falsehood and lies, from one’s egoism.
The eye that sinned, the mouth that spoke evilly, the hand that acted worse, the foot that went on the wrong path, the heart that sinned, must fast.
Alms make total sense, but not only giving money but also giving of ourselves and overcoming our egoism and our being completely indifferent to those around us.
Prayer more than ever in Lent is full of sentiments of forgiveness and reconciliation. Therefore it must be a penitential prayer, which is inspired in the infinite mercy of God who always treats as a person the one who draws near to him in humility.
Q: In what way does Lent draw the believer closer to the person of Jesus?
Father Flores: Lent draws us near to Christ tempted in the desert, to the Christ who confronts his persecutors, who goes to Jerusalem to suffer his own Pasch; who takes up the cross and carries it through the streets of Jerusalem, also to the Christ of Tabor and, of course, to the Christ of Gethsemane.
And so following in the footsteps of Christ, Christians confront the problems of the man of today, the human deserts, the infinite hungers of our humanity, the Gethsemanes of the countries at war and in conflict, the crosses that men suffer in all parts of the world.
Our Lent must be like Christ and with Christ, with man and for man through Christ.
Man must be saved with that integral salvation of which Pope Benedict XVI speaks in his 2006 Lenten Message, an integral salvation to which Lent in fact leads us taking into account Christ’s victory over the evil that oppresses man.