why do we not eat meat on ash wednesday

Fasting and abstinence are closely related, but there are some differences in these spiritual practices. In general,
refers to restrictions on the quantity of the food we eat and on when we consume it, while abstinence refers to the avoidance of particular foods. The most common form of abstinence is the avoidance of meat, a spiritual practice that goes back to the earliest days of the Church. , Catholics were required to abstain from meat every Friday, as a form of penance in honor of the death of on the Cross on. Since Catholics are normally allowed to eat meat, this prohibition is very different from the dietary laws of the Old Testament or of other religions (such as Islam) today. In the Acts of the Apostles ( ), St. Peter has a vision in which God reveals that Christians can eat any food. So, when we abstain, it s not because the food is impure; we re voluntarily giving up something good, for our spiritual benefit. That s why, under current Church law, the days of abstinence fall during, the season of spiritual preparation for. On and all of the Fridays of Lent, Catholics over the age of 14 are required to abstain from meat and from foods made with meat. Many Catholics don t realize that Church still recommends abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent. In fact, if we don t abstain from meat on non-Lenten Fridays, we re required to substitute some other form of penance. For more details on the current Church law concerning fasting and abstinence, see б And if aren t sure what counts as meat, check out.


One of the most frequent hurdles encountered by Catholics who abstain from meat on every Friday of the year is a limited repertoire of meatless recipes. While vegetarianism has become more widespread in recent decades, those who eat meat may still have some trouble finding that they like, and end up falling back on those staples of meatless Fridays in the 1950 sБmacaroni and cheese, tuna noodle casserole, and fish sticks. But you can take advantage of the fact that the cuisines of traditionally Catholic countries have an almost limitless variety of meatless dishes, reflecting the times when Catholics abstained from meat throughout both Lent and (not only on Ash Wednesday and Fridays). You can find a nice selection of such recipes in. If you would like to make abstinence a bigger part of your spiritual discipline, a good place to start is to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent, you might consider following the traditional rules for Lenten abstinence, which include eating meat at only one meal per day (in addition to strict abstinence on and Fridays). Unlike fasting, abstinence is less likely to be harmful if taken to extremes, but, if you want to extend your discipline beyond what the Church currently prescribes (or beyond what it has prescribed in the past), you should consult your priest. Catholics abstain from flesh meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the Fridays of Lent. Abstinence is one of our oldest Christian traditions.


БFrom the first century, the day of the crucifixion has been traditionally observed as a day of abstaining from flesh meat (Бblack fastБ) to honor Christ whoб sacrificed his flesh on a FridayБ (Klein, P. , Catholic Source Book, 78). Up until 1966 Church law prohibited meat on all Fridays throughout the entire year. б The new law was promulgated in 1983 in the revised Code of Canon Law which states, БAbstinence [is] to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus ChristБ (Canon 1251). БAll persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinenceБ (Canon 1252). The U. S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) extended this law to include all Fridays in Lent. Since Jesus sacrificed his flesh for us on Good Friday, we refrain from eating flesh meat in his honor on Fridays. Flesh meat includes the meat of mammals and poultry, and the main foods that come under this heading are beef and pork, chicken and turkey. While flesh is prohibited, the non-flesh products of these animals are not, things like milk, cheese, butter, and eggs. Fish do not belong to the flesh meat category. The Latin word for meat, caro, from which we get English words like carnivore and carnivorous, applies strictly to flesh meat and has never been understood to include fish. Furthermore, in former times flesh meat was more expensive, eaten only occasionally, and associated with feasting and rejoicing; whereas fish was cheap, eaten more often, and not associated with celebrations.


Abstinence is a form of penance. Penance expresses sorrow and contrition for our wrongdoing, indicates our intention to turn away from sin and turn back to God, and makes reparation for our sins, it helps to cancel the debt and pay the penalties incurred by our transgressions. Abstinence is a form of asceticism, the practice of self-denial to grow in holiness. Jesus asks his disciples to deny themselves and take up their Cross (Mt 16:24). Abstinence is a sober way to practice simplicity and austerity, to deny the cravings of our bodies to honor Jesus who practiced the ultimate form of self-denial when he gave his body for us on the Cross. Thus, to give up flesh meat on Fridays, only to feast on lobster tail or Alaskan king crab, is to defeat the ascetical purpose of abstinence. Less is more! б There are countless options for simple Friday meatless dinners:б pancakes, waffles, soup and rolls, chipped tuna on toast, macaroni and cheese, fried egg sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese pizza, and of course, fish. About Father Michael Van Sloun Father Michael Van Sloun is pastor ofб St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Wayzata, Minn. б As a former school principal, high school instructor and athletic coach, he has always been a teacher. He now teaches the faith as a homilist, Bible study leader, retreat director, pilgrimage guide and author of numerous articles. б 2008, Rev. Michael A. Van Sloun Used with permission.

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