Whether or not you are religious, you may be aware that Fish Friday is a tradition during Lent. But do you understand why? – Given that, according to Christian doctrine, Jesus died on a Friday, Friday fasting became a way to commemorate his sacrifice.
- However, this type of fasting did not involve abstaining from all food (unlike trendy modern-day fasts).
- It simply meant refraining from eating the flesh of warm-blooded animals, since, according to popular belief, Jesus was a warm-blooded creature.
- However, cold-blooded fish were permitted to be consumed during fasting days.
Thus, Fish on Fridays and “Fish Friday” were born, among numerous other religious holidays. According to NPR, the most intriguing aspect of the reason so many people eat fish on Fridays is that it was one of the most significant drivers of the growth of the global fishing industry.
- However, fish were associated with sacred holidays even before Christianity.
- And as the number of meatless days on the medieval Christian calendar increased, including not only Fridays but also Wednesdays and Saturdays, Advent and Lent, and other holy days, the demand for fish increased.
- Indeed, fish fasting days became indispensable to the expansion of the global fishing industry.
Regarding the practice of consuming fish during Lent, there is an additional element. The Lenten diet consists primarily of fish and vegetables—foods that an average or poor Roman citizen could reasonably acquire. Meat was considered a luxury for the upper class.
Why can you eat fish on Fridays but not meat?
Why do Catholics not consume meat on Friday? On Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the Fridays of Lent, Catholics abstain from eating flesh meat. Abstinence is one of Christianity’s oldest traditions. “The day of the crucifixion has traditionally been observed as a day of abstinence from flesh meat (the “black fast”) to honor Christ, who sacrificed his flesh on a Friday” (Klein, P., Catholic Source Book , 78).
Prior to 1966, Church law prohibited eating meat on every Friday of the year. “Abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday commemorating the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ,” states the 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law (Canon 1251). “Everyone who has reached their fourteenth birthday is bound by the law of abstinence” (Canon 1252).
The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) extended this law to all Fridays during Lent. Since Jesus sacrificed his flesh for us on Good Friday, we do not consume flesh meat on Fridays in his honor. Primarily included in this category are beef, pork, chicken, and turkey.
- Flesh meat includes the meat of mammals and birds.
- While the flesh of these animals is prohibited, their non-flesh products, such as milk, cheese, butter, and eggs, are not.
- Fish do not belong in the category of flesh meat.
- The Latin word for meat, caro, from which English words such as carnivore and carnivorous are derived, refers exclusively to flesh meat and has never been understood to include fish.
Furthermore, in the past, flesh meat was more expensive, consumed infrequently, and associated with celebrations, whereas fish was inexpensive, consumed frequently, and not associated with celebrations. Abstinence is a type of punishment. Penance is an expression of remorse and contrition for our wrongdoing, an indication of our intention to turn away from sin and return to God, and reparation for our sins; it assists in erasing the debt and paying the penalties incurred by our transgressions.
Abstinence is a form of asceticism, which is the practice of self-denial in order to become more holy. Jesus requests of his disciples that they deny themselves and take up their cross (Mt 16:24). Abstinence is a sober way to practice simplicity and austerity, to deny our bodies’ cravings in honor of Jesus, who exemplified the ultimate form of self-denial when he sacrificed his body for us.
Thus, abstaining from flesh meat on Fridays in order to indulge in lobster tail or Alaskan king crab defeats the ascetic purpose of fasting. Fewer is better! Simple Friday meatless dinner options include pancakes, waffles, soup and rolls, chipped tuna on toast, macaroni and cheese, fried egg sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese pizza, and, of course, fish.
- Father Michael Van Sloun’s background In Wayzata, Minnesota, Father Michael Van Sloun is the pastor of St.
- Bartholomew Catholic Church.
- He has always been a teacher, having served as a former school principal, high school teacher, and athletic coach.
- As a homilist, Bible study leader, retreat director, pilgrimage guide, and author of numerous articles, he now teaches the faith.
© 2008, Michael A. Van Sloun, Rev. Used with authorization: Why do Catholics not consume meat on Friday?