A friend returned from a meeting with a group of Catholic Adults and had two serious questions. “Does the 40 days of Lent include Sundays” and from the pro-Vegan crowd, “aren’t fish animals?”
For a time in my life, I took the boot camp approach to Lent and whatever it was that I gave up—I gave every day between Ash Wednesday and Easter. A friend pointed out to me that Sundays didn’t count and I was skeptical. Some research on my part taught me an important liturgical lesson. As any good mathematicians can tell you there are forty-five days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. This suggests that the forty days of Lent are not a literal calculation. Indeed the forty days of Lent have both symbolic and spiritual meaning. They are symbolic of the Israelites experience of the desert, and of our Lord’s time in the desert at the beginning of his ministry. Forty day practices are spiritual exercises of prayer and fasting. The reason that the forty day calculation does not include Sundays is a reminder of the spiritual significance of Sunday.
“Remember to keep holy the Sabbath”
On Sunday, we gather to celebrate the fullness of the Christian mystery of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. Our Sunday celebration is a taste of the life that awaits us in heaven. We like to say that the Sunday Eucharist is an experience of the “already but not yet” nature of the mystery of our faith. We know that we have been saved through our Lord’s death and resurrection and we have been promised eternal life but the fullness of the promise of heaven and our Lord’s reign awaits the return of the Lord. For this reason Sundays stand apart. Sundays are, as we’ve been taught, “the Lord’s Day.” As Jesus reminded Martha in the biblical story of his visit to Martha and Mary nothing more is needed when one is in the presence of the Lord. http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/luke/luke10.htm
To really celebrate Sunday well, we should feast and not fast. Chocolate anyone?
Born in an economic crisis of another time
I had the great fortune of living and studying in Rome for five years and learned that Italians delight in a good story with a mysterious mix of fact and fiction. If the story is a good one, they don’t see a need for a fact checker. The Romans love to tell the story that the custom of eating fish on Fridays began in the 1300’s during the papacy of Pope John XXIII. At this time, fish was more expensive than meat and so it tended to be something that only the upper class ate. Fish sales were dropping and fisherman and fish markets were suffering. A group of fisherman pleaded their cause with the Pope. The Pope sympathized with the them and to lend a helping hand suggested that the practice of fasting on Friday (Catholics fasted Wednesday, Fridays and on the vigil of major feasts) include eating fish. And so it is!
As to the question about fish being a meat, scientifically speaking fish are considered animals. Once again, proving the point I made in my post on Ash Wednesday that the practice of fasting is what is important, only we know best from what we most need to fast.(See “Marked with the Sign of the Cross.”)