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Church Laws: The Difference between Fasting and Abstinence


Church Laws: The Difference between Fasting and Abstinence

In Catholicism, the people and the church celebrate six seasons in a liturgical year. These seasons, namely Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time (after Epiphany), Lent, Easter, and Ordinary Time (after Pentecost) are well-celebrated by Catholics around the world. And now that we’re in the month of April, we have almost a few days before the Easter season begins.

Now, since we are still in the season of Lent, let’s talk about fasting and abstinence. Being the penitential season, Christians prepare for the commemoration of the passion of Christ. The Lenten season revolves around Jesus’ journey to Calvary.

Fasting and abstinence are two distinctly related concepts that Catholics practice for a whole season in the liturgical year. Both are often used interchangeably and their meanings were eventually jumbled. But what do these words really mean and why do we practice them for this particular season?

What are Fasting and Abstinence?

Lent is the season of penance. As we recollect Christ’s sacrifice to save mankind from sin, we also repent our sins and do penance for them. Two known acts of penance as obliged by canon law are fasting and abstinence.

Fasting is having only one full meal a day. It is obligatory to fast during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Even though light meals are allowed, eating between meals is prohibited. To fast is to abstain from food. Therefore, this penitential practice is a kind of abstinence that aims to free us from worldly temptations and in a way imitate Christ’s suffering. This is required for people ages 18 to 59 years old by the Catholic Church.

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While abstinence is more than just not eating meat. It does not include meat in any of your diets with the exception of fish, seafood, and eggs. The practice of abstinence signifies shying away from sinful inclinations. Catholics who are bound by the law of abstinence include people ages 14 and older. It is obliged during Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays of Lent.

‘Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil, and after he had fasted forty days and forty nights, then he was hungry.’ – Matthew 4: 1-2

Before this season ends, may we not forget to always be kind to others. Let’s take a moment to look at ourselves and how we’ve been treating ourselves and other people. Still in the time of crisis, may we not forget our humanity and help one another like how Christ sacrificed His life for our sins.

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