Saturday, March 14, 2009

"Why fish on Fridays?" and other questions.

Ask Father!

Why do we have to eat fish on Fridays?

On the Fridays of Lent, we do not have to eat fish (or seafood). The essence of Friday abstinence is to abstain from eating meat (beef, chicken, etc.). Eating fish instead was always meant as a concession to human nature to make it easier to observe Friday abstinence. Since fish isn’t flesh-meat in the way that beef, etc., is, it was allowed as a kind of softening of the law.

And remember: the purpose of this penitential practice is to remind ourselves of Christ’s sufferings on that first Good Friday, our need for penance, and the suffering of all unfortunate people in the world.

Why is it called “Lent”?

Lent—so they’re telling us—comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “spring-time.” Since Lent falls in the spring, this is the word that caught on in popular usage, instead of the more formidable Latin word Quadragesima (literally, “fortieth,” since Lent begins on the fortieth day before Easter).

Why does Lent last forty days?

Besides the fact that Christ Himself fasted forty days (as did Moses and Elijah), some have pointed out that our imperfection (symbolized by 6) is brought to perfection (symbolized by 7) during Lent, so that 6 x 7 is 42. After the 40 days of Lent, there are two days (Holy Thursday and Good Friday) and on the third Christ brings all to completion on Easter.

(Photo: Rev. Father Charles Johnson celebrates the liturgy of Vatican II in continuity with the entire liturgical tradition of the Church as the fathers of the Council envisioned it aboard the currently deployed USS Theodore Roosevelt. The "Ask Father!" series is offered through the kindness of Father Johnson.)

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