40 days

Spring will not get here soon enough.  I say this because we still have 2 feet of snow and even had some visit yesterday which thank goodness left nothing behind to worry about.  But the other ritual before spring that is officially part of my life is Lent.  Today many people are having a party for Fat Tuesday, the end of Mardi Gras.  Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday,  there will be repentant heads and souls.  Some will be in church, as was the original thing to do, to having ash place on their head and promising to give something up for the next forty days.  If you pull your calendar out you will find that there is actually 46 days till Easter the end of Lent.  This is because the church originally had a non-beast eating rule during Lent.  Beasts were defined as those that walked upon the earth, because they were cursed when Adam and Even sinned; “…cursed is the ground for thy sake: in sorrow shalt thou eate of it all the dayes of thy life.” (Genesis 3:17b)  The thought being, because the earth was cursed so must the animals that walk upon it including birds. Lent was the time in preparation for easter and also our being like Jesus, who fasted for forty days in the dessert.  I am not sure but I would believe that they knew we were human and not god like and would fail, so making it forty-six days allowed for 6 days of reprieve during this long time.  These six days were Sundays.

In addition to the two major fasting periods, Advent and Lent, there were three other official fasting days: Wednesday, to fast for we are sinners;  Friday, for our Lord gave himself as a sacrifice on a Friday and therefore we fast in thanks and acknowledgement that we have salvation; Saturday, to fast to ask to be vessels of his works as the Virgin Mary herself gave herself to be used by God.  But never was there fasting allowed on a Sunday, because Sunday is a holy day and therefor a day of celebration.  Incidentally, if a holy/saints day fell on a fasting day the fasting was cancelled.  As time rolled along, there became too many saints days and of course amendments were made to the fasting rules.  There was also exceptions to whom fast rules apply, like the elderly and young children, not to mention the sick.  There even were Papal dispensations given out.  Then with the Protestant Revolution, fasting diminished or done away with completely.  It is now a personal choice to have a time of fasting.  When I was growing up Friday was observed in the Catholic church as Fish day but even that is a personal choice, however, one is encourage now to give something up in reflection of the Lenten season.

All of this brings me to the fact that I now have 46 days of Lent to look forward to, and yes my family gives up something, red meat.  Since too much fish has in the past caused me some physical ailments, we continue to have fowl, eggs or cheese.  However, this year I am going to try replicate a few historic receipts.  There are Lenten sections in cookery books up to about the year 1745 and event past this time, but I am unsure if it is just added because there has always been a Lenten section or if there is anyone still practicing.  I say this because in An Essay on Regimen: Together with Five Discourses, Medical, Moral, and Philosophical(1740, London), the author,George Cheyne, talks about fasting for Lent being for Catholics in France, Italy and Spain. I am neither Catholic, French, Italian or Spanish but I love history and this is part of history.

I will admit this is my third year of giving up red meat and I still struggle with not having it, but this will be the first year I will try out “Lenten” receipts.  I am not sure it is right to as for luck in this endeavor but it’s probably ok to as for your prayers.

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 3:37 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Dory Gean, I will keep you in my prayers for the next 46 days. I was raised in a Catholic home and understand Lent in that capacity. Although I do not currently have a church home, after reading your entry above, I, too, will commit to give up something for until Easter. At this time, I have a few ideas but I need to pass them by Lord Jim before setting it in stone. I have a cookbook of Lenten Soups if you want some inspiration, although not historic recipes, they are those of the parishioners of my mother’s church. Just give me a “holler” if you are interested! My love to you and your family! Lady Katherine Magee

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