Post by Admin on Feb 16, 2019 13:14:20 GMT
The Angelus - February 1982
On Fasting: Excerpts from "The Catechism Explained"
by Spirago & Clarke, 1899.
by Spirago & Clarke, 1899.
By the second commandment of the Church the precept of fasting is laid upon us.
Fasting is as ancient as the human race itself. Even in paradise it was enjoined upon man to abstain from the fruit of one tree: moreover, certain meats were forbidden to the Jews; pork, for instance (Lev. xi.). On the Day of Propitiation the Jews were not permitted to taste food for twenty-four hours. Our Lord fasted forty days; so did Moses and Elias before Him, and St. John the Baptist, the Precursor, fasted most rigorously. The Church has good reasons for laying the obligation of fasting upon the faithful.
In the second commandment of the Church we are ordered to abstain on all Fridays of the year; and to fast during the forty days of Lent, on the Ember days, and on the vigils of certain feasts.
We are forbidden to eat meat on Friday, because on that day Our Lord died for us.
Not only is meat prohibited, but all dishes in the preparation of which it enters. Fish, turtle, and shellfish may be eaten, also eggs, milk, and butter, in almost all countries. The Church has forbidden the use of meat because Christ sacrificed His flesh for us; also because meat is an article of food easily dispensed with, and yet what men generally like best. Another reason is to remind us that the lusts of the flesh are to be resisted (Gal. v. 19), and these are fostered by eating meat. Some people quote Our Lord's words: "Not those things which go into the mouth defile man" (Matt. xv. 11), as opposed to this prohibition; but He also said: "The things that come from the heart, those things defile the man" (Matt. xv. 18). Disobedience to the Church comes from the heart, and this it is which defiles, not the actual meat. If Christmas Day falls on a Friday, meat is allowed, because Our Lord would not have us fast at a season of rejoicing (Matt. ix. 15).
During the forty days of Lent only one full meal is to be taken, as a partial imitation of Our Lord's fast of forty days, and as a suitable preparation for celebrating the festival of Easter.
The forty days of Lent begin on Ash Wednesday, and last until Easter Day; the Sundays alone are not fasting days.
The Lenten fast was instituted by the Apostles in commemoration of Our Lord's fast in the wilderness (Matt. iv.). It is a time of penance and of sorrow for sin; hence violet vestments are worn at the altar. It is natural to fast when we are in grief (Matt. ix. 15). We ought also during Lent to meditate upon Our Lord's Passion, which is commemorated in Holy Week, and which usually forms the theme of Lenten sermons. By fasting and meditation upon Our Lord's Passion we most readily awake within ourselves the grace of contrition and consciousness of sin. The forty days of Lent are also a preparation for the Easter festival. In early times the fast was much more rigorous; the primitive Christians ate no meat all the time, and did not break their fast until the evening. Even in the Middle Ages meat was prohibited; those who ate it were not admitted to the Paschal Communion (Council of Toledo, 653). Those who broke this law were punished by the secular authority on the ground of contempt for religion. The rule of fasting is made very easy nowadays. All the Church requires of us is to take only one full meal in the course of the day; a slight refection is permitted in the morning, besides the evening collation. Drinking does not break the fast; yet we must only drink to quench our thirst, not in order to compensate for privations in the way of solid food. No one is required to keep the fast of Lent who has not attained the age of 21 years.
It is by no means the desire of the Church that we should fast to the injury of our health, or that we should thereby be hindered from performing the duties of our station.
Consequently persons whose health is weak are permitted to eat meat on Friday. The sick, those who are recovering from an illness, very aged people, and children under seven come within this rule. Children under seven, being incapable of sin, have no need for penance.
Persons are dispensed from fasting (i.e., from taking only one full meal in twenty-four hours) who are under twenty-one years of age, or who are constitutionally delicate, or who have continued, strenuous exertion, whether physical or mental.
No one ought to carry fasting to an excess, for what God requires from us is our reasonable service (Rom. xii. 1).
He who overdoes fasting is like a coachman who whips his horses into a gallop, and runs the risk of upsetting the carriage; or like an overladen vessel, that is easily capsized. Even some of the saints went to an excess in fasting, and afterwards much regretted it. No one ought to venture to do more than the rule prescribes, without the advice of his confessor. Obedience is far better than self-willed piety. As a rule it is preferable to be temperate every day of the week than to fast rigorously on one or two days. Fasting is intended to destroy the evil lusts of the body, not the body itself. We must deal with our bodies as a parent deals with his child; he does not chastise him when he is docile, but when he is disobedient. Fasting, like medicine, must be used in moderation or it becomes injurious.
Abstinence from food is only pleasing to God if, at the same time, we refrain from sin and perform good works.
Fasting is not in itself an excellent thing (1 Cor. viii. 8), but only as a means whereby the suppression of our vices and the practice of virtue is facilitated. How does it profit a man if he abstains from meat, and by his calumnies destroys his neighbor's reputation? Such a one may be compared to a whited sepulchre, outwardly beautiful, but foul within (Matt. xxiii. 27). The devil does not eat, yet he is unceasingly employed in doing evil. Fasting without prayer is like a lamp without oil, because we only fast to pray better. Fasting without almsgiving is a field without seed; it fosters the weeds of avarice. He fasts for himself, not for God, who does not give to the poor what he denies to himself .