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VOL. 35 | NO. 12 | Friday, March 25, 2011

Tasty menus stay true to traditions of Lent

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Lent, the Old English word for spring, is a 40-day period before Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday. It derived that name from the season of the year during in which the 40 days fall. This name is unique to English. In almost all other languages its name is a derivative of the Latin term Quadragesima, or “the forty days.”

Lent is 40 days long because that is a traditional number for discipline, devotion, and preparation in the Bible. Some of the 40 day verses in the Bible are: Moses stayed on the Mountain of God forty days (Exodus 24:18 and 34:28), the spies were in the land for forty days (Numbers 13:25), Elijah traveled forty days before he reached the cave where he had his vision (1 Kings 19:8), Nineveh was given forty days to repent (Jonah 3:4), and most importantly, prior to undertaking his ministry, Jesus spent forty days in wilderness praying and fasting (Matthew 4:2).

Lenten Menus:

For many, this starts a search for appetizing, non-meat meals. It can be an especially healthful eating time by serving a fish, seafood, or veggie main dish. It is a good time to try a different recipe, too. The Potato and Parmesan Gratin is a great tasting side dish, or try the Halibut in Apple Basil Sauce for a delicious main dish.

Potato and Parmesan Gratin
2-1/2 lbs russet potatoes - peeled, cut into 1/8” thick slices
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
2 cups (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 10 oz)
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup Panko Crumbs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter 13”x 9”x 2” glass baking dish, and layer 1/3 of potatoes evenly on bottom. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle with 1/3 of melted butter. Top with 1/3 of Parmesan cheese. Repeat layering twice more, and then pour milk over top.
Bake 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Continue to bake until potatoes are tender, top is golden brown, and most of milk is absorbed, about one hour longer. During last 30 minutes of cooking, sprinkle Panko Crumbs on top. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes and serve.

In the Western Church, Sundays are skipped when counting the 40 days because they commemorate the Resurrection. Therefore, Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter. Lent in 2011 started on Wednesday, March 9 and ends Saturday, April 23. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians emulate Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for 40 days.

The Eastern Church does not skip over Sundays when calculating the length of the Great Lent. Therefore, the Great Lent always begins on Clean Monday, the seventh Monday before Easter, and ends on the Friday before Palm Sunday—using the eastern date for Easter.

In some countries, the last day before Lent is called Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or Carnival, and has become a last fling before the solemnity of Lent. For centuries, it was customary to fast by abstaining from meat during Lent, which is why some people call the festival Carnival, the Latin term meaning “farewell to meat.”

Lent for most Catholics is a special time. No matter how far removed from their practices, most Catholics know that the 40 days is to remind them of giving up something that is a sacrifice, and perform acts of self-denial - acts that are geared toward Christ. Since Lent is a period of prayer and fasting, it is fitting Christians to imitate the Lord with a 40-day period.

The reasons behind fasting are several:

  • First, it is a self-imposed discipline. We do it in order to learn how to say “no” to our impulses.

  • Second, fasting is consciously intended to lower energy level. The less energy we have, the less energy we have to “sin.”

  • Third, the lower energy level makes it much easier to pray.

  • Fourth, we want to remember the poor, and the experience of fasting helps do this. In fact, a person is to use the money saved as “alms”– not to be given through and to institutions, but to be given personally to disadvantaged persons.

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