Lent is the season of Fast and abstinence. Fasting is not unique to Catholicism, and neither is abstaining from certain foods. There is the cultural abstaining from the meat of pigs, its uncleanliness is written in the laws of Moses. Many cultures avoid dining on the meats of certain animals, though not always for religious reasons. They often are considered a cultural taboo. With these thoughts I think o the LENTEN traditions, and particularly the abstaining from meat on Fridays. What I wonder defines meat, is it not simply the flesh of animals? Only the flesh of certain animals are forbidden to be consumed. Cattle or grazing animals, and birds.Beef, lamb, goat, chicken, pheasant, turkey are all banned according to the traditional abstinence of the Fridays of Lent. Fish surprisingly is allowed , but isn’t its flesh a meat? Science would dictate that if it is not a plant, then it is an animal and animal flesh is meat. Church officials argued different, there is an exception for fish. (As an extrapolation alligator is permitted to, but that is a separate augment.) Why the tolerance for fish? The old joke is that Saint Peter was a fisherman, but for sure that is not the reason. What would a fisherman have to do with abstaining from meat?
There are some biblical stories involving fish.There is that story where Jesus tells that fisherman to go into the deeper waters and recast his nets. In that story Peter reaps an abundant harvest.There also is the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. The feeding of the crowds so similar to the Eucharist. Then there is the resurrection breakfast, Christ cooking fish on the shoreline. Christianity has a great association with the fish, it was the earliest symbol of the newly formed religion. The crucifix in early church history was still viewed with horror. I think of the mosaic floor of an ancient first century church recently uncovered. There in tile was the symbol of the fish. Maybe there is some truth to “Why do Christians eat fish on Friday” Maybe it is because Peter was a fisherman, and Jesus sought him out to be a fisher of men. The fish is a reminder that we are the ones pulled from the sea by Christ. We became Christians because Christ choose Peter the fisherman. The fish focuses members of Christ’s one Catholic and Apostolic Church on their identity as members of the Church. Feeding on Fridays fish is a reminder of Christian identity as much as abstaining from meat is a form of penance. It reminds us of whom we are. Fish Eaters, or the derogatory Mackerel snappers, or those that remain loyal to the successor of Peter, who coincidentally wears a fisherman ring as a symbol of office. With such a great association between Catholics and the fish how could one possibly abstain from that symbol of the Catholic religion during the season of Lent.