Sunday, February 10, 2013
The Traditional Lenten Fast
Posted by David Werling
As we prepare for Lent in this Septuagesmima season, it is good to review the nature and requirements of the traditional Lenten Fast. The Current Code of Canon Law requires that Ash Wednesday and Good Friday be days of abstinence and fast, and all Fridays of Lent (like all other Fridays of the year) are days of abstinence. However, this modern Lenten observance is laughable in its laxity, and only goes to show how far removed the modern, novus ordo establishment has removed itself from all things authentically Catholic. One might as well not even observe the season Lent at all!
However, the observance of fasting on all weekdays of Lent is the traditional method of observing the Lenten fast, and is strongly recommended for all traditional Catholics. It is also our hope that the more ancient and spiritually efficacious traditional Lenten Fast will be soon restored to universal practice, for the good of the Church, and the greater glory of God.
According to the traditional Lenten Fast:
*all days of Lent are days of fast and partial abstinence, except:
*Ash Wednesday and the Wednesday in the Lenten Embertide, which are days of fast and abstinence;
*Fridays and Saturdays, which are fast and abstinence;
*Sundays, which are neither fast nor abstinence.
Abstinence: In the Latin Church, abstinence means refraining from eating flesh meat, or in other words, meat from mammals or fowl. This includes soup or gravy made from these kinds of meats. Meat from cold blooded animals is allowed, however, such as fish. This is why Fridays are known as "Fish Fridays." Traditionally, the laws of abstinence apply to all aged 7 and over, but the new Code of Canon Law applies it to all who have completed their 14th year.
Partial abstinence: Flesh meat, and soup or gravy made from flesh meat, may be eaten only once during the course of the day, at the principle meal.
Fasting: Eating only one full meal (which may include meat) and two smaller, meatless meals that don't equal the large one meal. No eating is allowed between meals, but various beverages such as water, milk, tea, coffee, and juices can be consumed. Meat can be eaten, usually for the principle meal, but only if the day is not a day of abstinence as well as a fast day. Traditionally, everyone over 21 years of age and under 59 years of age is bound to observe the law of fast; but the present Code of Canon Law sets the ages of 18 and 59 as the limits.
As in all things, we need to practice the virtue of prudence. All situations should be weighed in the light of Christ's love. Traditional Catholics fast in order to share in the sacrifice of Christ and to discipline the body. Our bodily discipline should be directed toward the cultivation of virtue, not an indulgence in austerities for the sake of show or false pretenses.
If our fasting doesn't help us to cultivate virtue, bring us to distrust the self, and, most importantly, help us love God and become completely dependent upon Him in all aspects of our lives, then our fasting and abstaining is a futile exercise that will lead us farther from God. Indeed, it would have been better if we hadn’t fasted at all. Bodily mortification gains us nothing if we allow vices to go unchecked, and virtues remain stagnant. The first fast, the primary abstinence, must be the fasting and abstinence from sins and all occasions and causes for these sins.
One needs to be careful that fasting doesn’t bring one to spiritual pride, one of the most cunning traps of our adversary. Our fasting can be an occasion of scandal if we bang a gong or blow a horn. Once again, we should use prudence to discern all the various, and sometimes uncomfortable, situations in which we might find ourselves during this Lenten season. We need to remember that not everyone with whom we come into contact at work or at social events are Catholic, and we need to weigh between giving offense or giving scandal, between our station and civil obligations, and our obligations to Christ and His Church.
We should also consider various health needs that differ from individual to individual. Those who must engage in strenuous physical activity throughout their workday have different nutritional needs than someone who works in an office or classroom. Pregnant mothers and those suffering from illnesses have nutritional needs that mitigate a portion or all of the fasting and abstinence requirements of the Church. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask a pastor or spiritual director for guidance.
Lastly, we should all strive equally, if not harder, to cultivate the virtues during this Lenten Fast by increased prayer and mediation, lectio divina, spiritual reading, and acts of charity. Cultivating a new devotion, praying the 30 days prayer, or drawing closer to Our Blessed Lord's Sacred Heart and Precious Blood, and Our Sorrowful Mother, are exercises that greatly benefit our spiritual lives. Helping to build our various Latin Mass communities, by making and hanging fliers, inviting friends and family to the Traditional Latin Mass, donating a little extra for new vestments or altar furniture, volunteering for the choir, or lending your talents to the parish would all be great ways to contribute to your Lenten Fast.
May your Lenten Fast be blessed and happy, and bring you the peace of mind that flows from the abundant graces of Our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ.