Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Worth remembering

Today we use the English translation of Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday. As we Catholics begin our rather wimpy version of Lent, it is worth recalling the older tradition that many of our Eastern brothers and sisters keep even now.

In the east they move into the Lenten fast gradually. First there was the Sunday called in English "meatfare." This is the day after which no meat can be eaten. The following Sunday, cheesefare, extends the fasting to include products from animals. This includes all diary products and eggs. Here is where we find the fat of Fat Tuesday.

Today would be the last day on which any animal fat could be consumed. Imagine no butter, no fried food until Easter Sunday. Even more difficult from my point of view, no dairy or eggs. To put it most simply, until recently Christians became vegetarians for Lent. That's why those eggs, and sweet buttery breads on Easter Sunday were so meaningful. When you've gone all of Lent without eggs, that Easter egg looks really good.

In the West we are required to fast, only tomorrow and Good Friday, and to abstain from meat on all Fridays. That is the minimum. I thought it worth recalling the older tradition to perhaps encourage us to be more than minimalists.

While most of us probably aren't ready to go full vegetarian. Perhaps the most important thing is that we choose a Lenten eating plan that will shake up out routine, transform our daily life, and constantly remind us throughout Lent that it should be CONSTANT conversion.