The Maronite Church was founded by a monk named StMaron and continues to be a tradition based on monastic practices. St Sharbel is our most recent model of a faithful servant. In the Cana Week Monday Safro the First Prayer shows the sacred focus of fasting
Lord, have mercy on us and save us.
O God, may we submit to this holy fast
and accept it with all our will, with joy and good cheer; do not make us strangers to the reward given to those who fast.
Walking in the way of penitence and mortification we shall arrive in the eternal kingdom where we shall praise your glory, for ever. Amen.”
So what is the expectation of the faithful during Lent? The 1736 Synod of Mt. Lebanon states:
“Every weekday of Lent (Monday through Friday) is a day of fasting and abstinence from meat and dairy products (eggs, butter, milk, etc.) Fasting involves eating and drinking nothing at all (except water and medicine) from midnight until noon. The rest of the day normal meals can be taken, but without meat or dairy products. Dairy products are excluded because they are animal byproducts. Saturdays and Sundays are exempt from fasting and abstaining, as are the following four feast days: St. Maron – February 9, The 40 Martyrs – March 9, St. Joseph – March 19 and the Annunciation – March 25.” This is a wonderful goal but not a requirement. The requirement now is fasting on Ash Monday and Good Friday.
I like to use an analogy of tuning a musical instrument. To be perfect one needs to use a tuning fork. But if you tune by ear it still may sound ok. This is not precise but acceptable with some. The same with these kinds of suggested practices. Following the original 1736 practices is like using a tuning fork to be precise and ultimately closer to the perfection of Creation. But the current practices are OK. Jesus does give us the freedom to choose. The consequences or rewards of those choices are subject to multiple interpretations of the Magesteruim and our prayerful reason, but in the end are a mystery. I would suggest the Magesterium has the wisdom of the ages for the most part. That is the subject of another blog.