why do we not eat meat during lent
You know you are in a Catholic townPwhen,PonlyPduring Lent, every single restaurant advertises one item on their menu: fish! I have even noticed how major fast-food chains point out on their fliers the date of Ash Wednesday! Suddenly everyone cares about the liturgical seasons of the Church! So why is it that the Church instructs Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays (as well as Ash Wednesday and Good Friday), but gives the thumbs-up Pfor Catholics to eat fish? Sounds fishy to me! First of all we must ask the question, why Friday? The
Catholic peoples from time immemorial have set apart Friday for special penitential observance by which they gladly suffer with Christ that they may one day be glorified with Him. This is the heart of the tradition of abstinence from meat on Friday where that tradition has been observed in the holy Catholic Church. Since it is believed Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross on a Friday, Christians from the very beginning have set aside that day to unite their sufferings to Jesus. PThis led the Church to recognize every Friday as a Good Friday where ChristiansPcan remember Christ s passion by offering up a specific type of penance. For much of the Church s history meat was singled out as a worthy sacrifice on account of its association with feasts and celebrations. In most ancient cultures meat was considered a delicacy and the fattened calf was not slaughtered unless there was something to celebrate.
Since Fridays were thought of as a day of penance and mortification, eating meat on a Friday to celebrate the death of Christ didn t seem right. P(As an aside, when Saint Patrick s Day falls on a Friday during Lent, as it is considered a solemnity for many Irish Catholics. ) Read more:P But why is fish not considered meat? According to the, the laws of the Church classify the abstinence from land animals. Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Fish, on the other hand, are not in that same classification. Fish are a different category of animal. P Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted. In Latin the word used to describe what kind of meat is not permitted on Fridays isP carnis,P and specifically relates to animal flesh Pand never included fish as part of the definition. Additionally, fish in these cultures was not considered a celebratory meal and was more of a penance to eat. Our current culture is much different asPmeat is generally considered the cheaper option on the menu andPno longer has the cultural connection to celebrations. This is why many people are confused about the regulations, especially those who love to eat fish and do not consider it a penance. In the end, the Church s intention is to encourage the faithful to offer up a sacrifice to God that comes from the heart and unites one s suffering to that of Christ on the cross.
Meat is given as the very basic penance, while the purpose of the regulation should always be kept in mind. For example, it does not necessarily give a person the license to eat a lobster dinner every Friday in Lent. The whole point is to make a sacrifice that draws a person closer to Christ, who out of love for us made the ultimate sacrifice a person can make. Just for fun: here is a to show youPwhat not to cook during those Fridays of Lent Picture it: You re in a hurry. You re focused on school or work or family or friends, where there are a thousand things going on. You stop real quick to eat in the middle of the day. Halfway through the meal or a little while after you remember it s Friday. And it s Lent! And that s a burger in your stomach!! In the words of Homer Simpson, D oh! This has happened to me before, and odds are that it has happened at one time or another, to you. A side note here to anyone who may be worrying or feeling guilty right now: If you forget, then no, it is not a sin. So why exactly do Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent? Actually, people offer several reasons for why the church embraces this discipline, a tradition that dates back hundreds of years. Some say it was because the church was trying to support the fishing industry when times were tough. The church was trying to keep fishermen afloat (yes, pun intended).
There is some historical evidence of that, dating all the way back to the second century. Some say it was safer to eat fish than meat. Everyone knew the specific time frame in which it was safe to eat fish, while people tended to test that time frame with beef. There s some historical evidence to that too, dating back to about the seventh century. Some point out that hundreds of years ago only the very wealthy could afford meat. Fish (in comparison) was the poor man s meal. It was cheap, humble food that you had to catch yourself. Some say that not eating meat helped folks to focus on the humility of Christ, who lived a simple man s life. There are literally dozens of other examples for this disciplines evolution over the years and the Church s maintenance of it. They are good to know, but they didn t help me a lot when I was teenager. I just knew that I wanted meat. If we aren t focusing on Jesus and on the cross when we abstain from the meat, then the matter can become less about Lent and more about should I have the meatless pizza or the grilled cheese sandwich? We all know that it s so much more than that. I prefer to look at it like this: Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Savior, gave up His own body, His own flesh, that Friday so many years ago, for me and for you. He went through the pain of that self-sacrifice, completely mindful of God the Father. When I go through the incredibly minor act of abstaining from meat on Fridays, it is just one tiny act of self-sacrifice that points me back to that awful but Good Friday.
That was the Friday when God loved me so much that He gave up His flesh in the most selfless act in history. Thinking about how often my physical body can lead me into sin and away from God, it is great to have a chance to let my body help lead me out of sin and toward God. That s the essence of what St. Peter was saying when he wrote: Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin (1 Peter 4:1). You see? Abstinence from meat is more than just going without during Lent or just a reminder that Christ offered His flesh for us on the cross. Abstinence is a form of prayer, a discipline. When we abstain from meat, we focus on Christ and on our souls, rather than on self and on our bodies. It is faith in action, placing our attention on Jesus and offering Him our flesh as a sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2), a vessel through which He can and does work. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I guess you could say that abstinence makes the body (and soul) grow holier if we embrace it and allow it. Meat is great, but Jesus seemed to do pretty well with just bread and fish, and so did everyone else who received the feast that day (Matthew 15:34-37). Remember, God made vegetables, too.
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