Why you should break Lent on Sundays

At work we’ve had some friendly disagreements about the way we look at Lenten fasts (Lenten Fast = fancy Christian word for choosing to sacrifice something from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  It may be an abstention, like from a favorite food, or it may be a gift, like offering your time to a cause.)

Yes, this was a real conversation at work.  Yes, we are that nerdy.  Have I mentioned I’m really liking this new role? But I digress…

At least two of us fast through the season without breaking the fast on Sundays.  At least two of us insist on breaking the fast for Sundays.  I fall into the latter group, for two reasons.  One is objective, the other subjective.

1.  Math.

The objective reason for breaking your fast on Sundays is math.  Lent is a 40 day fast. Christians are big on the number 40.  Jesus spent 40 days in the desert before launching a public ministry.  The Israelites wandered 40 years before inheriting the land God promised to them.  We like 40.

From Ash Wednesday to Easter is actually not 40 days, though.  It’s 47 days.  Because of Sundays.

2. Hope

The subjective reason for breaking your fast on Sundays is hope.  Originally, Sabbath was observed from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, closing the week with rest and worship.  When Jesus returned to life on a Sunday, his followers changed their Sabbath worship from Saturday to Sunday, in honor of the resurrection.  We worship on Sundays to celebrate the resurrection, both past and future.  Each week we remember Jesus’ victory over sin and look forward to the day it is fully eradicated in this world.*

When we break a Lenten fast on Sunday, we do it to celebrate the resurrection.  (This is also the reason many people choose not to observe a fast during Lent at all. That, and a caffeine addiction.)  Sundays always celebrate this, even during Lent, because it is a tangible reminder that the darkness in this world does not win.  Eating that chocolate is a little taste of heaven.

Of course, I have a bias.  I want every celebration of the resurrection I can get my hands on.  I want Sundays.  Because I don’t want to go through this life full of grief, stunted by sadness and the reality of loss.  I want to lean into joy, hope, healing, restoration, wholeness–things we know are coming because of what God has done for us.

And they aren’t just coming someday.  They are available now.  That’s the power of Christ in us.  And when I forget that, as I am inclined to do, Eater reminds me, Sunday reminds me, and breaking the fast reminds me.

*Of course, it is not that important that the Christian community worship on Sunday specifically.  Saturday night service, Wednesday midweek, Friday house church–whenever it falls, the point is to rest, honor God, and lean into the truth that Christ has died, is risen, and will come again.  As Rachel Green said, No I don’t want you to buy me a hat I’m saying I AM a hat. It’s a metaphor, daddy!

4 thoughts on “Why you should break Lent on Sundays

  1. Pingback: No Spend Month, Year 2 | Meredith Miller

  2. Christ is Risen!

    My comment may seem late, but really it is not. Orthodox Christians haven’t yet reached the mid-point of Lent. It is interesting to note the differences in the calculation of the 40 days of Lent or “Great Lent” as we have some lesser “lents” as well. Orthodox begin Lent on Clean Monday, so even in years when we celebrate Easter/Pascha on the same date (Which was the norm until a 16 century Papal innovation continued by Protestants, now we only celebrate together in about 1 out of every 4 years) we start 2 days sooner. Orthodox do count Sundays as part of Lent, but Holy Week is counted separately and begins on the Saturday before Palm Sunday and lasts 8 days through Great and Holy Saturday. These differences are not matters of dogma and existed long prior to the Schism, the Western Church has Eastern rite Catholics that follow the Orthodox Lenten calculations and a small number of Orthodox that follow the “Western Rite” and use the same schedule of Lent as RCs and Protestants, though they always celebrate Easter/Pascha the same as the churches they are in communion with.

    I take some issue with “his followers changed their Sabbath worship from Saturday to Sunday.” I think I know what you were trying to say, but wasn’t sure about the wording. The Sabbath was never “moved,” however, due to the Resurrection Sunday became the preeminent day in the weekly liturgical cycle, with Saturday as the 2nd most important day due to the Sabbath. Early Christians gathered and celebrated the Eucharist on a daily basis outside of Lent, but Sunday was definitely the most important day. Our Lenten fasting is not eliminated on Sunday but, it is lessened on both Saturday (Sabbath) and Sunday (Resurrection), weekdays are considered so penitential in nature that the Divine Liturgy (the typical communion service) is not celebrated on weekdays during Lent because the consecration of the gifts is considered inappropriate because it is too celebratory, there is however an evening service known as the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, in which pieces of the body and blood are reserved from the previous Sunday and communed by the faithful during the weekdays.

    Tell Curtis I say “hi”, and Congrats on the kid! When you coming to Michigan?

    • Hi Kyle, I really appreciate this. It’s so informative, as I am largely unfamiliar with the Orthodox understanding of the tradition. And I agree with you that “changed” is quite imprecise. It was a very broad stroke written more for readers who might not be familiar with some of the history. But perhaps that lack of precision is misleading, as you point out.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I enjoy reading your thoughts when you do.

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