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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Ideas for Lenten Abstinence.

Every year many of us consider
what we should "give up" for Lent.

As people who love the traditions of the Church
we could gravitate towards taking upon ourselves
some parts of the Church's ancient Lenten Abstinence.

Since we are not bound to the ancient discipline in conscience
we may choose what we are able to do physically and socially,
in as much as it is prudent for our own particular situation.

The ancient discipline of Lenten Abstinence was that:
We abstained from three kinds of food:
Abstinence from meat.
Abstinence from eggs.
Abstinence from all dairy products
(milk, butter, cheese etc).

Sundays were not fast days
but Sundays remained days of abstinence
(we could eat throughout the day
but not meat, eggs or dairy)

Historical notes:
From the 4th - the end of the 19th century we abstained from eating meat during the whole of Lent, Sundays included.
From 4th - 16th century we abstained from eating all dairy products and eggs for the whole of Lent. We lost this ancient discipline of egg and dairy abstinence mostly through dispensations:

First in 1376 King Charles V of France
obtained a dispensation from Pope Gregory XI
for himself and the Queen to eat dairy and eggs during Lent;

Sixtus IV.

Then by 1475 Sixtus IV (1471-1484)
had granted the dairy and egg dispensation
to the Germans, Bohemians and Hungarians for five years;

Butter Tower is the one to the right.

Later, Innocent VIII (1484 -1492) gave the dispensation
from eggs and dairy abstinence
to the diocese of Rouen in France
as a fund-raiser for the building of a belfry
that is called the "Butter Tower."
The Lenten abstinence from eggs and dairy was dispensed
in exchange for donations to the tower project.

This abstinence was later abandoned in the West.
However it still remains part of Lenten Discipline in the Christian East.

If you have not found something to give up for Lent,
why not return to some part of our ancient discipline.

For example:
If abstaining from meat is too difficult to do for all of Lent,
why not abstain from it for the weekdays of Lent,
or on the traditional days of Friday and Wednesday.

If abstaining from meat is not an option,
why not abstain from eggs for the whole of Lent
(and enjoy an Easter egg!),
or abstain from eggs only for the weekdays of Lent,
or abstain for the traditional days of Friday and Wednesday.

If abstaining from eggs is impractical
why not abstain from dairy only for the weekdays of Lent,
or for the traditional days of Friday and Wednesday.

There is a wide variety of possibilities but let us,
who so love the traditions of the Church,
do something traditional and,
within our means and the virtue of prudence,

You could choose an option from the following tick sheet:
(click on the image to prepare it for printing off.)


Jack said...

Thank you for posting this.

The traditional Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox Lenten fast is very simple.

You MAY eat fruits, vegetables, and shellfish.

On Saturdays, Sundays, and a few other days, you may have olive oil and wine.

One meal a day is eaten, after sundown Monday-Friday.

Fish is allowed on Annunciation and Palm Sunday.

(I will admit here that because of medical conditions, I can abstain only from meat.)

Holly Hall said...

Ah, thank you so much for this excellent post during the time we should be getting ready to commemorate Our Lord's bitter Passion and Death! I am going to print out that chart and use it myself during Lent; I would have loved to go to Mass yesterday and received the ash, but pressing, unforeseen duties prevented me from doing so. Pray for those of us who can't come to the traditional Lenten practices through no fault of our own!

Jack said...

Well said, Holly.

One monk said, "Pray as you can. Not as you can't."

I think the same advice applies to fasting.

And His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios of the Melkites (which parish I attend) has urged us to offer our Lenten fasting according to our ability for peace in the Middle East and protection of the Christian faithful there.

Na evloghimenon.

Anne B said...

I have a friend who fasts from meat, eggs and dairy ALL the time but her reasons are to prevent cruelty to animals, and for her own health.
Surely I could do it for the rest of Lent for the love of Jesus crucified.
This is all very clearly spelt out - a clarity I could hardly even glean from the beautiful Papa Stronsay calendar!

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