I said with my father-in-law Murcia spring festivities culminate with the burial of the sardine, all started in Easter celebrations end. He was surprised because he associated it with Carnival, without realizing that if we “bury” the sardine is precisely to dismiss Lenten abstinence. It is not an isolated case, we believe today continue traditions without remembering its origins at all. Do you know where it comes from the habit of not eating meat during Lent?
After Christmas we have a so-called break in the diet in January, but lasts little. Carnival again unleashes the culinary revelry, but not Ash Wednesday returns to place order. Since many of us receive lent with illusion and gluttony, because our recipes is full of typical dishes, fish, stews and many sweets that make the delights of all. Thus there is no way to keep the spirit of fasting and abstinence original imposed by the Church.
Fast and abstinence: sacrifice, penance and spiritual elevation
We need to eat and drink to live. Eating is something natural and essential, so we also enjoy if we have no restrictions. Eating can be so satisfactory that it is easy to fall into excess, as it is the case with other “pleasures of the flesh”. It is not surprising that in almost all religions will present fasting as an ascetic Act, a waiver that puts to the test the personal will to impose his own spiritual discipline.
By fasting and abstinence the believer renounced earthly pleasures of the body to lift your spirit: will impose some sort of punishment as penance or inner reflection. It is a form of mortification to dominate the body and strengthen the spirit, stimulating the Temperance and prayer. Depending on the religion that practiced it, you can take in addition to various paths and goals, as in Islam with Ramadan or abstinence from meat by Buddhists.
The practice of fasting on the first Christians
The history of Christianity and the Catholic religion is long, complex and also exciting, with many ups and downs in the traditions and liturgies. In the beginning, Christians took Christ as an example imitating his own life to recreate the sacrifice, passion in them. Emulating actions such as fasting, abstinence, and prayer were able to be closer to God by identifying with him in spirit. Sober life, penance, reflection, peace and love for the neighbor were the essential precepts that was connected to the figure of el Salvador.
The early church adopted several of these as their own practices, especially keeping fasting and abstinence. Jesus Christ and the Apostles were fasting by choice, and many prophets and subsequent martyrs and saints followed the example. Fasting was therefore understood as a way of delivery and submission to God, flee the temptations, of perfecting the soul with the mortification of the body, to demonstrate the love of Christ suffering for him as he did in his sacrifice for men.
Thus, for example, says the book of the Shepherd of Hermas:
Welcome to fasts to God are: don’t be evil and serves the Lord with clean heart; He keepeth his commandments following its precepts and don’t let no evil concupiscence to penetrate your heart […]. If you do this, your fast will be pleased at the presence of God.
It was at the first Council of Nicaea, in 325 year, was established when the celebration of the date of Easter; never should coincide with the Jewish holiday, it should always be on Sunday and never twice the same year it was to be held. Because let’s not forget that what is celebrated at Easter is the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, and that the term Easter also refers to other Christian solemnities, including Christmas.
Easter is the celebration more intense and significant for the Christian religion, with a very marked liturgy and traditions that are already cultural part of each society. If commemorating the passion of Christ it is no wonder that abstinence and fasting charge here a special relevance, even almost have forgotten the ancient tradition of practice it on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year.
Forty days of lent, fasting and abstinence
The fixed structure of the Christian and Catholic Liturgy should still improve, but already in the fourth century was set the Lenten period of forty days, or Quadragesima, hence its name. They are the six weeks that pass from Ash Wednesday until the supper of the Lord of Holy Thursday mass. In principle it is conceived as a period of penance and preparation for the Paschal mystery, through prayer and fasting.
Church today establishes the practice of making only one strong day meal as fast, and they are days set the Ash Wednesday and good Friday. In principle it is obligatory for healthy adults between 18 and 59 years of age, except for pregnant women, nursing mothers or sick. Abstinence is not to eat meat, in addition to those two days, all the Fridays of lent, and they can practice all over the age of 14.
Clear that as we have already mentioned other times, today the original sense of this penance has been lost and remains almost as curious habit, with much manga wide. The idea was not to simply stop eating meat and surrender to the pleasures of the toast, cod fritters, soups or doughnuts with chocolate. Abstinence is one part of one period that is supposed to be sober meditation, reflection and spirituality.
As has here Ana V. Pérez, our mothers and grandmothers certainly remember very different a lent and Holy week. Sobriety and modesty in all aspects of everyday life, the festive events or succulent meals, by very “flesh failures” that they were were not well seen. Over the centuries were respected even in fear the rules of fasting and abstinence that dictated the Church, pardon bulls apart.
The upper classes could always overcome limitations culinary menu with more luck, while for the plain people lent meant to further impoverish his power, especially in the regions in which it was almost impossible to gain access to fresh fish. Cod and other cured meats became the great salvation, and today stands as a typical product of the Lenten Cookbook.
There were intense debates and many writings on what you could eat and what not for a Lenten abstinence, especially when foods of the new world. Chocolate triggered great controversy and even in other countries defended the possibility of eating Beaver, for being a water and not land animal. It is the problem of always: is trying to impose fixed rules and the people trying to overcome them through the small print.
In short, the origin of fasting and abstaining from meat during Lent is related to the teachings of Christ and the spiritual preparation to celebrate Easter. Not enough to stop eating meat on Fridays, is supposed to be days of penance, reflection and approach to God. Some of this original spirit remains today, but the delicious gastronomy of Lent is, fortunately, far from disappearing. Some traditions worth keeping them.