Sunday, March 13, 2011

Theology: Why Feast on Sundays?

In the Western Church1, the season of Lent has "breaks" on Sundays. Every Sunday is a feast, when the disciplines entered into for the season are foregone. Some, often ignorant of these feasts being part of the tradition, complain that it is lame to take breaks during a fast. While this complaint is in many ways childish, there is some sense to it. Why commit to a forty-day fast and then take breaks? Certainly, if I were to do Lent my own way, I would do a full forty-day fast. But Lent isn't my own fast, it is a church tradition to which I am submitting.

So why then the feasts? It is because Sunday is the day of the Lord's resurrection. Sunday is the timeless day in which Christ was raised, the day where we celebrate the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Every Sunday is, in effect, a mini-Easter. The western tradition holds that it would be disrespectful to fast on such a day as this. “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?" (Mark 2:19).

Indeed, the entire Western Church calendar is built around this conviction. The fast of Lent is forty-days, but from the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday is forty-six days. The Sundays are excluded from the count that they might be days of feasting.

So join me today at the Lord's table. Eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow we mourn.
1. The Eastern Church has different traditions, and a different calendar. There are no feasts during Lent, and from the beginning of Lent to Easter is exactly forty days.