16 September 2011
How on earth does 'no meat on Fridays' bring me closer to Christ?!
So, you have probably all heard by now, that as of TODAY, the Catholic Bishops Conference of England & Wales wish to bring back the practice of holy abstinence.
WHAT on earth does that mean?!
Holy abstinence is the practice of 'abstaining' (which means to restrain oneself) from doing or enjoying something. In this particular case, we will, by the grace given from God, abstain from meat on Fridays.
What is the difference between abstaining and fasting?
Some people go further than abstaining from meat on Fridays, and make a sacrifice of not eating anything for a whole 24 hours. If you are more of the hardcore type, fasting might be right up your alley! But the Church of England and Wales only require an abstinence from meat on Fridays.
What does abstinence have to do with God?
Let's first remember that we are body, soul and spirit (1 Thes 5:23). Our bodies (our material selves) are fed by food. Our souls (our immaterial selves such as all that we feel, our emotions, our thoughts) are fed with love. Our spirits (the part within ourselves that connects/relates directly with God), are fed with prayer.
Abstinence affects all three dimensions of ourselves. When we abstain from meat, we don't feed our bodies with that type of food. That's a rather simple statement, and is, in a sense, the easiest concept to understand about abstinence. The more difficult concept to get around is the link between abstinence and our souls and spirits. I don't know about you, but for me, I thoroughly enjoy eating meat. It tastes yummy, and it fills my tummy! When someone enjoys doing or eating something very much, it takes will power, and a strength of character not to do or have it. Take this deeper, and one may realise that this is an exercise for the soul. Abstaining helps one to 'love' their self-pleasure less. And this is the vital link between you, abstinence and God. For in loving yourself less, you begin to place someone else first: God. By depriving oneself from something pleasurable (in this case, to eat), we are able to begin to make reparation (in other words, to repair the damage) that our sin has done for our own souls and spirits. This is a surface level description of temporal punishment and can be considered a penance.
We're all wounded people, and each have our weaknesses that could be instrumental in us causing sin. When we sin, we take steps away from God. Abstaining from a pleasurable food like meat helps us remember that we desire to make it up to Him after we've said sorry (at Confession). Abstinence isn't only applicable to food, it could be applicable to other things that we take pleasure from, for example TV or facebook, but the Church in England and Wales are encouraging us to abstain from meat.
Why would some people abstain and fast by choice?
It's a really beautiful thing to want to be united in prayer and abstinence every Friday. Together, we ask the good and merciful Lord to bless the Church abundantly for this commitment made by His people. The tremendous gift of abstinence draw us closer to God on a personal level by coming face to face with our weaknesses and temptations (Rom 8:26). Prayer helps us to overcome weakness and temptation because it directs our spirits to rely and trust in God's power to strengthen and bless you through any trails. This practice, in a mystical sense, as the mystical body of Christ unites us in Christ's sufferings on calvary and during His passion. After a while, you learn to love this sacrifice, because you know that it's the one time of your week that you are doing something for God.
Tips for abstaining from meat every Friday
1) Don't beat yourself up if you fail on the first occasion! This practice may take months to get used to. Having said that, just because it might take someone else months, it might only take you weeks - so you're encouraged to make as great an effort as you can!
2) It might help if you dedicate your abstinence for a particular intention. For example, maybe you are having a difficulty with a friend - you could offer your sacrifice of meat for a healing in that relationship. Or maybe you wish to be generous, and offer your abstinence for a sinner you have never before met. Dedicating your abstinence for something, or offering it on behalf of someone else helps you take this more seriously, and helps you remember to continue the abstinence throughout the day.
3) If you're right outside KFC or Nando's, and you can smell the chicken wafting from inside the restaurant, you may very well be faced with temptation. Firstly, if you really take this seriously, it makes sense to make an effort to tell your friends about what's going on, and that you need to mooooooove awaaaaay from KFC! Secondly, that smell is going to linger on your mind. And the best way to overcome these temptations is through prayer. Jesus was tested in the desert with temptations from the devil (Matt 4:1-11), and overcame these temptations with fasting and prayer.
4) Get yourself used to fish! Fish is even more yummy for your tummy, if you know how to cook it with some tasty mouth-watering recipes! Try it! Likewise, get yourself a good vegetarian recipe book... there are some amazing dishes you can make which doesn't contain meat or meat stock! HAPPY NO-MEAT COOKING!!