From a reader:
Someone told me that it is wrong to do penance on Sundays during Lent. Are Sundays part of Lent? The “forty days” seem to be the week days only. Also, we hear that every Sunday is like Easter. So, do we have to do penance on Sundays during Lent?
When we look at the calendar, we see “1st Sunday of Lent”, not “1st Sunday During Lent Which Doesn’t Have To Be Treated As If It Were Lent”.
Sundays during Lent are during Lent, right? Lent is a penitential season, right?
During Holy Mass yesterday, for the 1st Sunday of Lent, I read (in the Extraordinary Form) about abstinence (in the Collect), fasting (in the Epistle), the Lord fasting (in the Gospel), fasting and refraining from bodily pleasures (in the Secret), bodily fasting and curbing vices (in the Preface) … get the point? This is for the Sunday Mass.
Sundays of Lent are also imbued with a penitential spirit, though we can see that Sunday, being an echo of Easter, isn’t going to be as penitential as, for example, Friday.
As far as the “forty” is concerned the days of Lent are forty, excluding the Sundays. The Triduum is also apart. But the whole season, from Ash Wednesday on, is Lent.
The joy of a Sunday during Lent has to be penitential joy, or rather joyful penitence.
The Sundays of Lent do not have a Gloria or Alleluia. Perhaps that should be reflected in our lives and meals as well? There are the Solemnities of St. Joseph and of the Annunciation, which liturgically have the Gloria, though not the Alleluia. Take your cue from that. We are not obliged to do penance on solemnites. However, we are still within the penitential season of Lent.
We celebrate these solemnities, but let us not forget that it is Lent.
Moreover, even if on a Sunday we decide to relax somewhat our penitential physical mortification, we can perhaps perform even more corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Some people have a custom of feeding the poor on the Feast of St. Joseph.
St. Pope Leo the Great in sermons on Lent reveals that for our ancient Roman forebears people fasted and abstained and cut back on what was necessary, not on what was in excess, so that they could give the difference to the poor.
We can have some festive joy, but perhaps the best way to preserve our penitential spirit on these exceptions to the rule is to engage in corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Let Lent be Lent.