Monday, February 19, 2007


I was in the seminary before I realised that abstinence meant not eating meat.
There are just two days of abstinence now, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I am sure that the Church introduced abstainence as a sign of solidarity with the poor but not just that. It is also about Life being sacred. The slaughtering customs of Judaism and Islam both involve prayer, a recognition that killing is somehow treading upon sacred ground, something we need at least to draw a breath on before doing it, it is not something that is ever to be taken lightly. Good Friday, the day God is slain on the Cross we cannot think of taking life or spilling blood, the Church applies the same rigour to Ash Wednesday.
In the 21st century when meat comes packaged in such a way that it is disconnected with anything that might have once been alive, the Bird Flu outbreak in the Norfolk turkey sheds reminded us how cheap and how inconsequential the breath of life has become. I used to shoot a bit, I was very against the hunting ban because of its consequences on rural life, with these activities there is a certain effort or even ceremony involved in the killing. I love eating meat, I think there is something a little odd about vegetarianism but the industrial scale of production - 10,000 turkeys killed on one farm - and the very cheapness of meat is an indictment of our society.
The traditional Christian attitude to eating flesh was that it was for feast days because it was expensive, and not just financially, those who eat it were in a direct relationship with those who killed it and in the past one invariable had a "personal" relationship with the animal that was killed, one reared it, maybe even named it or one hunted it, along with the choice cfuts there was also the blood gore and intestines.
I know this is one of my rather cranky things but one of my Lenten things is trying to cut back on my carniverous activity to try and re-acquire a sense of the the holiness of a lamb chop or a pork pie.


Anonymous said...

I agreed with your sermon yesterday that Lent isn’t about just giving up chocolate, but giving up meat for Lent seems to me a much more tangible action of faith. Vegetarianism is something I think that shouldn’t be integrally linked with religion, like it is with Hinduism, but surely by adopting vegetarianism even for a short time shows a respect for sentient life. Furthermore, the fact that you are prepared to eat food found as low on the food chain as possible can be nothing but a humbling act, a reminder that we are prepared to do with as little as possible every now and again. And, you’ve heard it before, but eating meat does have a huge environmental impact on our planet. So it's not just the animals you're doing it ... Tell you what, if you give up animal meat for Lent, I’ll give up fish (as I don’t eat meat.) If you give up meat and fish, I’ll go Vegan (gulp) for Lent. How about it?

Fr Ray Blake said...

My sermon yesterday was about enemies, having them and forgiving them.
Though one might fast and abstain on penitential days, there are also feastdays and solemnities when it would be a bit wrong to fast or even to abstain.

Andrew said...

There are just two days of abstinence now, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Actually Father, the 2 days you mentioned are days of fast and abstinence.

The following is taken from the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

Canon 1251 -- Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Andrew, I did not mean to mislead, but the subject of this post is not fasting but abstainence. In the UK I cannot recall any Bishop ever mentioning abstinence, and the Conference of Bishops sets abstinence on Fridays as one option, along with saying the Rosary, or the Stations of the Cross, or visiting the sick. It is so vague that hardly anyone, is aware of this canon.

Anonymous said...

Well at least Wonersh taught you something!only joking

Anonymous said...

ps you r quite right Friday Abstinence is now so vague who knows what it means

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