That’s the keyword for a lot of things people practice together during special occasions. Abstaining from eating meat during Lent is no different, which is one of the oldest Christian traditions observed between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.
During this solemn season, several restaurants and canteens offer meatless options. What is the reason behind the tradition of abstaining from eating flesh meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the Fridays of Lent?
First, to understand the tradition, we must understand what abstinence means.
• Abstinence is a form of penance.
• It is a sacramental devotion performed to show repentance of the sins made.
• It is an expression of turning away from sins and giving up certain things, which are needed to return to God.
• It manifests the practice of self-denial, allowing one to grow in holiness.
This shows that to deny one's wants honors the way Jesus practiced the ultimate self-denial.
Second, to better understand abstinence, we must appreciate the essence of the spiritual connection between fasting and prayer.
Manila Auxilliary Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo once wrote that fasting and praying are connected. He said that fasting is a way to "promote better self-mastery and to help a person to connect more with one's own spirit and with God."
He said that through fasting, we become more attentive and understanding of the needs of others.
Therefore, the annual tradition of abstaining from eating meat during Lent enables Catholics to be conscious of their relationship with God through fasting and prayer and to return to God with a renewed spirit.
• Meat was also considered a luxury and giving it up was a concrete expression of self-discipline.
• In the past, abstaining from meat was done every Friday throughout the entire year. This was later amended by the Church in 1966.
• In 1983, the revised Code of Canon Law promulgated this law to practice the tradition of abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday, and on “the Friday of the Passion and Death of Jesus.”
• Eventually, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops decided to prohibit eating meat on all Fridays within the Lenten season.
During the Lenten season, while we observe the tradition of abstaining from meat, it is important to remember how Jesus sacrificed His flesh for the human race on Good Friday. When we abstain from meat every Friday of Lent, we honor what He did for us.
However, if one does sacrifice meat but enjoys a sumptuous feast of luxurious seafood items like lobster, well, it’s time to think twice!