On Good Friday, the faithful are obliged to observe a strict fast, which involves abstaining from meat foods. This second principle, however, does not apply to fish, which have a symbolic meaning in Christianity. The modern approach to these animals has its origins in antiquity, when creatures living in water were associated, among other things, with purity and peace.
In accordance with the provisions of canon law, members of the Catholic Church on Good Friday are bound by a strict fast and abstinence from meat foods. As part of a strict fast, you can eat three meals: one full meal and two light meals. “The law of abstinence applies to persons over the age of 14, and the law of fasting applies to all adults until the age of 60. Priests and parents should ensure that also those who, due to their younger century, not yet bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, were introduced to the authentic spirit of penance” – we read in the Code of Canon Law. The obligation does not apply to sick people.
Good Friday – Can Catholics Eat Fish?
Catholics are required to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. However, they can eat fish. What is the source of such a division? Dr. hab. Jarosław Dumanowski, professor at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and head of the local Culinary Heritage Centre, in an interview with TVN24 Magazine, he explainedthat in ancient times there was a different division of animals: – Some animals were thought to have hot, explosive blood, most mammals and birds were included in them, and others – those living in water are cold in nature and eating them cools us down – explained the expert.
Magdalena Spychaj, a historian from the Nicolaus Copernicus University, points out that due to the association of fish with cold and water, it was considered “thin, white, clean, even calming”. “So when the Church instituted Lent, it could have had these features of fish in mind. It was about the personal feeling of the fast that Christ had to undergo, about his own mortification in order to redeem his faults and sins once a year” – she noted in the text “Fish and fasting” ” on the website of the Museum of King Jan III Sobieski’s Palace in Wilanów.
The symbolic meaning of the fish
The fish has the rank of a symbol in Christianity. “Fish has always been a symbol of the Eucharist” – evaluates Spychaj. In graphic representations, the Christian appeared in the form of a fish, and Christ himself in the form of a fisherman. “The ideogram of the fish (“iktus” in Greek) became a kind of emblem of the Catholic Church, and the first five words describing Christ the Savior in Greek began with the successive letters of this Greek translation – ‘Iesus Kristus Theou Uios Soter’ (Jesus Anointed, Son of God, Savior ) – the historian enumerates in the text “Ryby a fast”, adding that according to the gospel of St. Luke, a piece of baked fish was Christ’s first meal after the resurrection.
In turn, Dumanowski, in an interview with TVN24 Magazine, emphasized that the Bible does not mention fasting in its modern understanding. – It only says that you don’t eat, which means that fasting is quantitative, not qualitative. There is no information about what can and cannot be eaten. There is food freedom. There is no such thing as a post. And only in the 3rd or 4th century Christians depart from it and the hierarchs of the Church create the rules of fasting, based on various traditions – he noted.
Food and the balance of humors
The inspiration was to be dietary and cultural habits with their origins in antiquity. The ancients believed that the world is made up of four elements (fire, water, air, earth). This was connected with the belief that the human body is also filled with fluids attributed to these elements, called humors. – The balance of moods was ensured by a proper diet – said Dumanowski, explaining that a person who ate meat was considered “nervous, promiscuous, with increased libido and willingness to fight”. Fish and vegetables, i.e. “moist and cold” foods, were supposed to provide balance.
– It was also forbidden to eat products that came from animals, i.e. milk, eggs, butter, cheese – added the historian. In the Mediterranean culture that took over these customs, it was understandable, because its representatives rarely ate meat. – On the other hand, in the north, when Germans and Slavs became Christians in the Middle Ages, it all began to mean something else – assessed Dumanowski.
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