Facets of Faith: Start of fasting dominates early March observances

Over the next two weeks, several religious events take place. A handful deal with the Christian observance of Lent.

In western Christianity, March 4 is Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday, followed March 5 by Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent for western Christians.

Shrove comes from the word shrive, which according to Webster’s New World Dictionary means to hear the confession of and after a penance give absolution to a person or to receive such absolution.

In western churches, fasting starts immediately after Mardi Gras. In eastern churches, the fasting starts in stages and includes four preparation Sundays.

The fasting requirements are:

First Sunday: No fasting is allowed. It is a feast week, a celebration.

Second Sunday: The Wednesday and Friday fasts are observed.

Third Sunday: This is Meatfare Sunday or Sunday of the Final Judgment. No flesh from a vertebrate is to be eaten after this Sunday. It is a “farewell to meat” until Easter. People include shellfish in this fast. Normal fasting continues on Wednesday and Friday.

Fourth Sunday: This is Cheesefare Sunday or Sunday of Forgiveness. No products from a vertebrate are to be eaten after this date. This includes things such as milk, eggs, butter and cheese.

Cheesefare Sunday is March 2. It is followed by Clean Monday, March 3 this year, which is the beginning of the Great Lent for Orthodox Christians.

Clean (or Pure) Monday starts the 40 days fasting and includes seven Sundays, each with a theme:

1. Sunday of Orthodoxy.

2. St. Gregory Palamas.

3. Adoration of Cross.

4. St. John of Climacus.

5. St. Mary of Egypt.

6. Palm Sunday.

7. Easter Sunday.

This year, Easter Sunday is the same for eastern and western churches: April 20.

Other celebrations

March 1 is the feast day of Saint David of Wales. According to catholic.org, he was a priest and missionary who started several monasteries and was considered a great spiritual leader in Wales.

He lived in the 500s.

March 2 in the Baha’i’s Nineteen Day Fast. It happens right before the start of the Baha’i new year and involves avoiding food from sunrise to sunset.

March 13 is the birthday of H. Ron Hubbard, science fiction author and founder of Scientology.

He was born in 1911. In 1950 he wrote “Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health,” the foundation of Scientology.

Sources: interfaithcalendar.org; oca.org; lent.goarch.org; World Book; A Feast of Festivals, Hugo Slim; Dictionary of Christianity, J.C. Cooper; catholic.org; info.bahai.org/article-1-4-7-2.html; What is Scientology