Honoring The Sacrifice At Calvary

{Why we Catholics abstain from eating meat on the Fridays of Lent}

Growing up I was always a rule follower (those who know me now know me still to be). I always just did what I was told and I almost never questioned why. This was specifically true when it came to all things church. I went to Mass and CCD. I made my Sacraments and wore the appropriate clothes for the occasion. I gave up my favorite goodies for lent (Sundays included) and I didn’t eat meat on Fridays. Coming from an Italian family we also didn’t eat meat on Christmas Eve. I never really cared why we did or didn’t do these things…the predictable routine actually brought me comfort.

Fast forward to my early adult life and my foray into the life of being a military spouse. The life of many cultures and faiths and traditions…and for the first time in my life, the time when I was  asked why I did some of the things that our Catholic faith calls us to do. Most people got my going to Mass on Saturday night or on Sunday, but one of the biggest questions I encountered over and over again was why, as Catholics, we couldn’t eat meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. Sadly I must admit, like most habitual Catholics, I had no good answer.  I’d heard some interesting answers to this question over the years. The most popular had to do with the dietary needs of the people of the time or the overabundance of fish in certain areas, but these answers never quite sat right with me. I had also been asked why the meat of fish wasn’t considered meat. Goodness, I had lots to answer for!

So, back to why we as Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays. It wasn’t until I was teaching apologetics classes at Fort McPherson that additional research lead me to the answer that pulled all of the pieces of the puzzle together. I will try to explain it here.

Reparation for the forgiveness of sins in Old Testament times was physical sacrifice (as outlined in the book of Leviticus). If someone sinned they were required to find an animal whose size was commensurate with their offense. They would have to bring the animal to the temple, sometimes from great distances, proclaim their sin, and sacrifice the animal. The practice of sacrifice was very specific. The blood of the animal would need to be drained first, the animal would need to be dressed (broken down) and the inedible parts were to be burned to complete the offering. This differs from burnt offerings where the whole animal was burnt. The edible parts would either be taken and eaten by the family of the person who sacrificed the animal or could be given for food for others. Take this and join it with the sacrifice of the first Passover where the Jewish families were instructed to find an unblemished lamb, prepare the lamb for their meal by first draining its blood and then placing this blood on the doorposts. In order that the sacrifice was fulfilled they were instructed that they needed to eat the lamb that evening. This event prefigures the events that took place at the Last Supper (a Passover meal). The Last Supper took the Levitical sacrifice to its Holy conclusion by Jesus instituting the Eucharist and readying for His ultimate sacrifice. Jesus, the Pascal Lamb, was preparing to be the final physical sacrifice made for the reparation of our sins. In keeping with the practice of Passover, the Lamb would be sacrificed, His Blood would be spilled, and we would need to consume the lamb (and we do in the Sacrament of the Eucharist) to complete the sacrifice for full reparation of our sins. And so, the reason we do not eat meat on Ash Wednesday and the Friday’s of Lent is to honor the sacrifice that Jesus made on Good Friday. The Lamb was slain and was the final physical sacrifice was offered. We honor this by not eating the flesh of animals that would/could have been offered as sacrifice for the reparation of sins. Repetitious, yes, but let me restate: Catholics abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and on the Fridays of Lent because those are penitential days and the ultimate sacrifice for our sins has already been offered. Jesus was killed, His blood let, and He offered Himself for our sins. We do not eat the flesh of the animals that would have been sacrificed for the reparation of sins because no other physical sacrifice or bloodletting is necessary. The Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice, takes away the sins of the world and we have forgiveness of sins through Him. We honor His sacrifice by abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and on the Fridays of Lent.

If you are like me, knowing this lifts a burden off of your back and frees you to, in full understanding, appreciate abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. It used to be the tradition of the Church to carry this practice to each Friday of the year. While not a requirement, it is suggested that we honor the sacrifice and abstain on all Fridays throughout the year. God Bless and enjoy a fruitful and Holy Lent.


“Honoring The Sacrifice At Calvary” contributed by Lisa Miklos.

This entry was posted in Faith Reflections, Lent & Easter, Military Life and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Honoring The Sacrifice At Calvary

  1. Diana Webster says:

    Nicely written, Lisa! And thanks. No doubt this will be appreciated by many. I’m fwding to my three adult kids.

  2. Maria says:


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