Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Feelin' it in the Gut

Like many traditionally minded Catholics, I have often wondered whether it was truly a good thing that Lenten observance was made so relatively easy in our modern day. Under Da Old Rulz, all of Lent was meatless and the Lenten fast (only one full meal and two smaller collations per day) extended through all of Lent. (And further back than that, abstinence extended to milk, eggs, oil, and marital relations!)

There are some who are returning, bit by bit, to a more austere observance of Lent and finding there real spiritual benefit. One family I know began some years ago to eliminate meat from their entire Lent, starting with Fridays and adding one additional meatless weekday each year until the entire season is meatless. Sweets are eschewed throughout Lent as well. More of the fast days are observed. They say that the children (and the parents!) truly yearn for Easter, the Feast that breaks the fast, and I can well believe it.

Certainly there is a carnal aspect to this—I suppose it could be reduced only to that and one doesn't want to yearn for Easter merely because one gets chocolate and ham. But grace builds upon nature. With an empty stomach it is much easier to resonate spiritually with the Psalmist who proclaims, "For He satisfies him who is thirsty, and the hungry He fills with good things" ( Psalm 107:9) It is easier to identify, at least in a small way, with our Lord's heroic fasting: "And He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry" (Matt 4:2). It is easier to enter into the spirit of penitence and yearn for the much needed mercy of the Lord: "'Yet even now,' says the LORD, 'return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.' Return to the LORD, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love" (Joel 2:12-13).

Great Lent is upon us. God be with you all.


thepalmhq said...

Here's another great posting on Lenten sacrifice:


Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Thank you, you too!

one doesn't want to yearn for Easter merely because one gets chocolate and ham.

CSL said - more often than once, I think - that merely is a dangerous word.

Thom said...

The old Catholic Encyclopedia entry on fasting is informative. The fasting obligations of the time are well explained, as well as the circumstances which excuse one's strict adherence to them.

"Inability to keep the law of fasting and incompatibility of fasting with the duties of one's state in life suffice by their very nature, to extinguish the obligation because as often as the obligation of positive laws proves extremely burdensome or irksome the obligation is forthwith lifted." Several examples follow, including the need for those whose occupations are considered mental in character to have adequate nutrition.

I mention this because Lord knows we traditionalists (even reluctant ones, I suppose) are willing to go to extremes in our devotions, and this is not always a virtue.


Thom said...

I should clarify that the willingness to go to extremes for God's sake is always a virtue (as far as I know). It's when one acts on this willingness imprudently that he gets into trouble. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

thepalmhq said...

I agree, Thom. Certainly any significant fasting or severe penances should be done in consultation with one's confessor--and in the case of serious fasting with one's doctor. One correspondent mentioned that her husband ended up in the hospital with heart arrhythmia after some particularly severe fasting, so it is a good idea to be prudent.