Fish On Fridays
Some people often wonder why Catholics fast on some days and do not eat meat on Fridays during Lent. In the past, fasting and abstinence were practices that characterised Catholics and gave them a distinct religious and cultural identity. Nowadays, these practices are not so common and some wonder whether they still have any real spiritual value or are just old-fashioned practices belonging to the past.
Lent has always been a special time of the year wherein we prepare ourselves spiritually for Holy Week and commemorate the death of Jesus and celebrate his resurrection. It is a time that has always been marked by fasting, abstinence, prayer and almsgiving. These practices, which are practices of penance, are meant to spiritualise our lives, to help us to live unselfishly so we can more easily love God and neighbour with generous hearts.
Focusing on fasting and abstinence, these are practices Jesus himself engaged in and recommended his followers to do (Matt 9:14-15). This is because they help us to acquire a level of self-control that opens the way to a greater freedom of the heart and greater happiness.
The Church helps us to acquire this ‘spiritual freedom’ by giving guidelines on how we can fast/abstain today. These include a partial fast and abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Meat is chosen because it is a clear and simple way of commemorating how Jesus sacrificed his own flesh at the crucifixion, which occurred on a Friday.
Fish is recommended by the Church as a substitute for meat as it is traditionally a symbol of Christ. The ancient Greek word for fish was ICTHUS, which also doubled as an acronym for “Jesus Christ Son of God Saviour.”
As we journey through Lent we should remember that the Church calls upon all Catholics to the practice of penance on each and every Friday of the year, except on the occasion of a solemnity. This penance, which may take the form of prayer, helping others or abstinence is in memory of the passion and death of Jesus. This Lent, Sydney Catholic Schools will observe the Lenten Penance by promoting ‘meatless Fridays’.