Friday, March 25, 2011

Solemnity of the Annunciation

Icon of the Annunciation
Today, Friday March 25, 2011 is the Feast Day of the Annunciation of our Lord - which is a solemnity.  A solemnity is the highest ranking feast in the liturgical calendar.  Essentially it is like a Sunday.  So, when a solemnity falls on a Friday during Lent, like today, we're not obliged to abstain or fast.  The Annunciation is when St. Gabriel the Archangel came to the Blessed Virgin and announced that she would be the Mother of Our Lord.

Every Friday Throughout the Year?
The above being said, I like to remind everyone that abstinence on Fridays is not just a Lenten practice!  Back in the 1960's the requirement of abstaining specifically from meat was lifted - EXCEPT during Lent, when the penitential practice of abstaining specifically from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent remains.  Now I said "specifically from meat" because we (those of proper age and circumstance) are still obliged to abstain from SOMETHING EQUIVALENT - or - do a specific act of charity as approved by our local Episcopal Conference.  My position has been and remains, if it must be something equivalent, why not stick with the tradition of abstaining from meat?  1) It's easy to remember.  2) It became synonymous with Catholicism for so many years that it's part of our identity!  Wear it proudly!  Do not be ashamed to offer up this small amount of penance for our Lord!
Can We Eat Meat Today?
OK, back to the subject at hand...  TODAY you can enjoy that hamburger without guilt!  Hey, if you're going to have some beef - why not make it a prime rib or filet mignon?!  And don't worry - St. Gabriel is on your side!  This only happens about once every seven years - so celebrate it!  And when your friends ask you why you're eating meat on a Friday in Lent - it can be an ice-breaker to discuss the Solemnity of the Annunciation and the whole topic of abstinence and the proper observation of it.  You know, many of your Catholic friends may not even be aware of these facts - so help educate them!

And so you know this is not just "me" speaking, here's the pertinent Canon Law on the matter (emphasis mine):
Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Make note, this also supports what I said about ALL FRIDAYS too, not JUST Fridays of Lent!
Always Be Prepared To Give An Answer!
I would also throw a bit of caution to the wind...  be prepared to answer for yourself too!  In the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15-17, always be ready to give an answer!  If you're eating meat today and someone asks and you do not explain yourself, that could be scandalous - which would be sinful.  Be ready to answer, and answer with charity.

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