It’s a Long, Good, Silent, Mourning or Great Friday today.

Today is the Friday of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. “Good Friday” is probably derived from “God Friday” with “God” being used as an adjective meaning godly or pious. In the Nordic countries it is the Long Friday (Långfredagen). In German-speaking countries, it is Karfreitag (Mourning Friday) or Silent Friday (Stiller Freitag). In Greece and Eastern Europe it is Great Friday.

Fifty years ago, in all countries with a Christian tradition, all signs of merriment or happiness were forbidden by the church and by civil law. There were penalties for smiling and eating meat and dancing. If you were anybody of note you dressed in black. Most of the legal prohibitions for Easter and the period leading up to Easter have disappeared. Some still persist. In Ireland, the sale of alcoholic drinks is prohibited. In Germany, dancing and sports and gambling and the showing of “irreligious” movies is banned (Mary Poppins and Ghostbusters as examples). In the UK, horse racing is banned. In the Philippines, political campaigning is not allowed today.

In the Catholic tradition, all Fridays and the period of Lent are “penitential” days and penance in the form of abstinence and fasting is considered appropriate. Abstinence generally means refraining from any pleasurable activity. Abstinence from eating meat is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year, while abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The abstinence requirements apply to all Catholics over 14 years of age until death. Fasting is not required if you are under 18 or over 60. Traditionally milk and alcoholic drinks do not break the fast but milk shakes do.

Abstinence

The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Also forbidden are soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste.

Fasting

The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem to be contrary to the spirit of doing penance.


 

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