Fasting and Holy Communion during Lent and Easter
Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation
The Mass and the reception of the Lord´s Body and Blood are the centre of both the life of the individual and of the Church. The Church has therefore obliged the faithful to participate in Mass every Sunday and on other holy days of obligation (Christmas and the Ascension), unless one has a serious reason for not doing so. On these days, one should refrain from all unnecessary activities which would prevent one from participating in Mass, from celebrating the Lord´s day or from getting sufficient rest. If one has missed Mass without serious reason, one should confess it before going to Holy Communion.
Reception of Holy Communion
All who have made their First Holy Communion are obliged to receive Holy Communion at least once a year. If one has not been to Holy Communion regularly in the course of the year, the obligation should be fulfilled during Eastertide, when we celebrate Christ´s death and resurrection and his continuing presence amongst us, unless there is a good reason for fulfilling it on another occasion. Eastertide stretches from the Easter Vigil to Pentecost Sunday.
General rules for the reception of Holy Communion
1. It is permissible to receive Holy Communion twice in one day as long as the second occasion happens during a Mass and not during a Communion service.
2. The person wishing to go to Holy Communion should abstain from eating or drinking – apart from water and medicine – for at least one hour before Holy Communion. The elderly and the sick or those looking afer them can receive Holy Communion without fasting.
Fasting before the reception of Holy Communion goes back to 300 AD. The Church understood this fast to be a time of spiritual preparation and a means of showing reverence for the Mass and Holy Communion.
The Sacrament of Penance
If one is conscious that one has committed grave sin, one is obliged to go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion. One is obliged to confess within a year if one has committed grave sins. There is no obligation to go to Confession during the year to confess less serious sins, but the Church encourages us to make regular use of the Sacrament of Penance in order to grow in the life of Grace.
Annual days of Penance
All the faithful are, according to God´s Law obliged, each in his own way, to do penance. In order that everyone can be united about a definite type of penance, the Church has prescribed days of penance and a time of fasting, where the believer consecrates him/her self especially to prayer, piety and acts of charity, and denies oneself by fulfilling one´s obligations more faithfully and with fasting and abstinence.
Friday is a day of penance
Every Friday throughout the year which is not celebrated as a day of solemnity is a day of penance. In the diocese, instead of abstaining from meat on Friday, one can chose another way to mark Friday as a day of penance, for example: by abstaining from other food, from certain drinks or something else, or for example: abstaining from pleasure or by carrying out special acts of charity, praying more and the like.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, which lead into and close the time of Lent are both days of abstinence and fasting to remind us about the Lord´s own fasting, suffering and death. To fast and to abstain from eating meat on these two days is a serious obligation.
To fast means that, as a maximum, one eats one full, but simple meal during the day and eats a minimum for the other meal times, if one is not able to omit them completely.
During the whole period of Lent, one should try to concentrate on everything that can strengthen one´s life of faith and practise acts of charity with more perseverence. One should, if possible, avoid parties and exaggerated pleasure, because Lent is a serious time. It does no harm if we experience that Lent has a definite character of discipline precisely because we wish to unite ourselves with Jesus´suffering. So much more so then will we be able to experience the great joy of Easter, and our life of faith will have a greater depth.
Who is under obligation?
Persons of fourteen years of age and upwards are obliged by the stipulation that Friday is a day of penance and that Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of abstinence. From the time one has celebrated eighteen until one reaches fifty-nine, one is also obliged to fast. Parents are encouraged to talk with their children about the importance of keeping the Church´s directives in this area and to mark days of penance and fasting in the family.