Is this quite in the spirit of the season?

If this picture has you salivating, you may be interested to know that it was used by Cathnews to illustrate this story: Caritas’ Fish Friday cook-off for Project Compassion.

Celebrity chefs from Sydney’s Aqua Dining, Nick’s Seafood, Garfish and Coast will cook-off for Caritas Australia’s “Fish Friday” tomorrow in a fundraiser for its newly-launched Project Compassion 2010.

The cook-off at Martin Place, Sydney, will involve the auction of four unique gourmet meals to the highest bidders. Seafood restaurant Peter Doyles @ The Quay will also prepare fish and rice meals for 1,000 people at the location until 2pm, Caritas said in a statement.

“By donating the same dollar value as the cost of a typical lunch, diners will stand in solidarity with the millions of people who survive on a staple diet of fish and rice, and support Caritas Australia’s long-term development projects in 32 countries,” the statement said.

It’s a great idea on the part of the Caritas mob (our local Caritas office is my neighbour at work), especially in this country where celebrity cooking TV shows and books are seriously hot stuff. But I do find myself wondering what a “fish and rice” lunch cooked by “celebrity chefs from Sydney’s Aqua Dining, Nick’s Seafood, Garfish and Coast” and Doyles is actually in the spirit of the Friday fish tradition…

At home we had homemade vegetable curry last night, which I made using a base from Jamie Oliver’s website (before noticing that my wife had actually left out a jar of readymade sauce for me to use…). Actually, it was not that appetising all up (mainly because I used vegies that were not the most fresh), but my oldest daughter ate it all, so it can’t have been too bad. She is rather skeptical of this “no meat” rule (“Dad, we’re Lutheran not Catholic”), so I have to make our meatless dishes appetising.

However I do wonder if sometimes, given the expense of seafood, and the “gourmet” status it has aquired in this land, whether we would not be better off having a “mince-meat” or “off-cuts” or even “left-overs” rule for Fridays in Lent and fast days, rather than emphasise a “Fish Friday” idea.

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38 Responses to Is this quite in the spirit of the season?

  1. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    How about this — listen to your daughter.

  2. John Rayner says:

    There’s nothing wrong with a good omelet you know. I actually did a couple of pieces of cobbler (but imported from an Asian country). The cost was $13.25 per kilo. I marinaded them in lemon juice from my own tree. Sprinkled salt on them and French Tarragon (it has to be French, the Russian is useless), which I grow myself and, of course some garlic. A quick fry-up in olive oil and the result was absolutely delicious. Of course I added the usual stuff, potatoes, butternut pumpkin and a huge tomato. This was for two of us by the way. We finished off with pancakes (made from eggs, flour, salt, water and milk ) and we spread honey over the pancakes. I used to keep my own bees but neighbours ruined that idea. Bees sting you know and they MIGHT sting my neighbours!
    This was Ash Wednesday’s “one full meal”.

  3. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    There was absolutely nothing in this world better than the walleye pike dinner plate at Barry’s Diner growing up — every Friday, not just Lent. The place was packed week after week, until Vatican II. Just like church.

  4. Clara says:

    I had the same thought David – gourmet food as lenten penance? Pasta with tuna at our place last night . . .

  5. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    It’s been a while since I’ve functioned within the rules, rules, rules, of the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church (that’s the whole religion!) but hey:

    Doesn’t (holy crap, I’m actually doing the Don’t just say something, make it sound like a question to appear all polite or whatever) the whole Fish Friday thing not exactly fit the whole Lenten thing anyway?

    For one thing it is not part of fasting at all, it relates to abstinence. “Relates to” in that there is no command to eat fish, just to not eat meat. So it’s not a church matter at all, it’s cultural, and now there’s not only “Fish Fridays” but a “spirit of the Fish Friday tradition”.

    God bless me sideways. Utter madness. Why not give THAT up for Lent? For good!

  6. Christine says:

    She is rather skeptical of this “no meat” rule (“Dad, we’re Lutheran not Catholic”), so I have to make our meatless dishes appetising.

    Well, this does compel me to share that my Lutheran relatives living in East Prussia also observed meatless Fridays. My grandmother even made those wonderful Polish Lenten treats, “Paczki.”


  7. Christine says:

    But Terry is right, the meatless part refers to “abstinence”, the “fasting” part refers to limiting the quantity of food one takes in. I can make a gourmet feast out of pasta, vegetables and all sorts of other non-flesh goodies.

    The other question that always tickles me is when people ask “Is chicken okay?” Um, does chicken grow on trees?

    The local Catholic diocese has clarified that very explicitly, that abstinence from meat also includes fowl.

    And yes, David, I agree with you. Dining on lobster may technically be “meatless” but it is hardly in the spirit of penitence.


  8. Christine says:

    One final thought — the Orthodox with their abstinence from dairy and all animal foods make Lutherans, Catholics and even, Gott hilf mir, Pentecostals look like pikers and wimps!

    Fortunately, St. John Chrysostom writes that upon the celebration of the Paschal feast it is moot, all should come and celebrate the feast, those who have fasted and those who have not.


  9. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    God bless me ten times if I didn’t just LOVE the haddock fish sticks served on hot dog buns with tater tots we used to get on Fridays a lot, oh hell yes.

    Now that was bad too I guess — it was a simple meal, but damn it was good and I always went back for seconds. Eat now, repent later! As long as you end up feeling bad about it, you’re Catholic as it gets.

    The best was First Fridays though, because the girls didn’t have to wear the damn uniforms and you could compare them to the public school girls kind of apples to apples. Fishsticks, tater tots, and nice scenery for once, oh yeah!

    Judas, maybe I’ll have a Big Fish (fka the Whaler) at Burger King to-morrow rather than that Double Quarter Pounder at McDuck’s!

  10. Christine says:

    God bless me ten times if I didn’t just LOVE the haddock fish sticks served on hot dog buns with tater tots we used to get on Fridays a lot, oh hell yes.

    No kidding, I had them at school too!

    Back in the day, though, most of the kids I knew were busy trading their Hostess Twinkies for Hostess cupcakes or Ho Ho’s! The fish sticks and tater tots weren’t quite as highly regarded!


    • Schütz says:

      My goodness. I have gotten you too going down memory lane, haven’t I?

      All I really meant by this post, and as you have demonstrated, PE, is that “rules” developed for the past often don’t carry the same message in a new context.

      In fact, I am sure that is why the Australian Bishops Council has dropped the “no meat” Friday rule entirely in place of a “do something penitential” rule.

      Only the “rule” – to do “something” penitential – is a bit more like a guideline, because although there is a “rule” that you have to do “it”, what kind of “something” the “it” is comes down to a few suggestions, eg. go to mass, go to confession, do an act of charity, or an act of almsgiving or an act of fasting/abstinence. There IS still a rule of both fasting and abstinence relating to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but that’s about it.

      The problem with suggestions rather than clear cut rules is that no one ends up paying much attention to them. The good thing about rules is that at least if people follow them (for either perfect or imperfect motives) they will benefit from them.

      And yes, whether fasting or abstaining, the idea is that you enjoy yourself LESS, not MORE!

      • Tom says:

        During Lent, as a season of repentance I was under the impression that The Church invites us in this time to live in a way that prepares us for the Paschal Feast. So we try and imitate Christ and his time in the Desert (also why Lent lasts for 40 days excluding Sundays) – the Devil came and tempted Christ with Bread, The World and Glory. Christ rejected those – we can’t. So Lent helps us to prepare for the fight against the Devil.

        Fasting helps us to reject the temptation of Bread. Alms Giving helps us reject the temptation of The World. Prayer and confession help us reject the temptation of the Devil himself and his false glory.

        The Lenten ‘rules’ as keeps being mentioned aren’t about rules at all; their meaning is hidden in a history that is 2,000 years old and needs uncovering. That’s why we need Catechists – to teach us what being a Christian means.

      • Peregrinus says:

        The problem with suggestions rather than clear cut rules is that no one ends up paying much attention to them. The good thing about rules is that at least if people follow them (for either perfect or imperfect motives) they will benefit from them.

        Don’t know about that. What PE and Christine’s reminiscing suggests is that the old rules mainly worked to reinforce a Catholic identity – in the cultural sense. They worked to make you feel special for being a Catholic. It’s debatable whether this contributed to proper Paschal preparation, or actively detracted from it. So when you say that “rules developed for the past often don’t carry the same message in a new context”, the evidence of PE and Christine leads me to think that they didn’t really carry that message even in the Good Old Days.

        We see here, I think, something for which PE’s mantra of “the Catholic Church the Catholic Church the Catholic Church” might be justified.

        As for the cook-off that stimulated your post, I agree that gourmet seafood meals are pretty much the opposite of Lenten fare. The project involves only four gourmet meals, however, and a thousand fish-and-rice meals which I assume will be more traditionally Lenten in character, but which will be charged at the full rate. And if the point of the project is actually the contrast between the gourmet experience of the few and the everyday reality for most, it may in fact raise some properly Lenten themes, since it implicitly asks, in what way is the gourmet special better than the plain old fish and rice? The point about going into the desert and fasting is not that there is anything wrong with eating three squares and sleeping on a bed. Desert spirituality rejects these not because they are bad, but because they are not good enough. Our ultimate fulfilment, our ultimate significance, is not to be found in material things, or in prosperity or in material security.

        • Son of Trypho says:

          What PE and Christine’s reminiscing suggests is that the old rules mainly worked to reinforce a Catholic identity – in the cultural sense. They worked to make you feel special for being a Catholic.

          -I’m not sure if the last sentence derives from the first part? I suspect that the part of the identity realised was the separation enforced by the fasting – people knew most Catholics usually ate fish on Fridays, non-Catholics usually didn’t. I’m not sure whether this made anyone feel special or not?

          • Peregrinus says:

            We value membership of the tribe. It makes us feel good. This is true whether the “tribe” is Australians, Catholics, those who barrack for the Blues, or any other group.

            Lots of people who don’t go to mass, and who don’t see any reason why they should go to mass, self-identify as Catholic. Indeed, when fish-on-Fridays was a tribal marker, lots of people who didn’t go to mass ate fish on Fridays. I know of people who don’t believe in God, but who passionately identify as Catholic. Why do you think this is?

        • Tom says:

          The problem is not that these rules are bad rules, and ought not to be there. It’s just that separated from their true meaning they begin to lose their potency and purpose. The rule itself are not bad – it is good to fast during Lent and not to eat meat on Friday’s.

          Complaining that people obey Lenten observances without understanding them is like complaining that children who are driven around in cars wear seat belts without understanding why they have to. The children themselves may not understand why they have to wear a restraint, but it doesn’t make the participation in such a habit a bad one. The role of the Church is to instruct those who DO participate in Lenten observances the reasons why one should do so. There is a reason we call God a loving Father, and The Church our Holy Mother. Just as a loving father and mother would instruct their children to wear seat belts, so too The Church instructs us to obey Lenten fasts and sacrifices.

          To complain about the legalistic nature of how people observe such instruction is not to make a valid complaint against The Church, but rather to make a complaint against the legalistic nature of the Anglo culture that loves to have rules for everything (and therefore to have ways of bending and breaking those rules like a culture full of Lawyers).

          It is not a problem that people who identify as Catholics obey the Lenten fast but don’t believe in God (in a direct sense, the atheism is a separate issue). That’s fine – all that means is that there is a cultural groundwork that has carried over from generations when these observances still DID mean something.

          The point isn’t to bash the rules, the point is to go out and catechise. Explain to people the 40 days that Christ spent in the desert, and how Lent mirrors this, and how Christ went towards Jerusalem, as we move towards the Paschal Feast, and that these rules aren’t arbitrary, but something to help us prepare, and to be in expectation of the passing of the Lord.

          The point of David’s comments about the grandness of the Seafood Feast, sure it seems at odds with the Lenten fast – but it’s a secular culture that we live in. Is anyone surprised?

          None of this makes the Church’s instruction to prepare for Easter any less valid, today, yesterday or tomorrow.

          • Schütz says:

            Yes! The Church’s role as Mother is to say “Listen to your Father and do what he tells you!”

            • Peregrinus says:

              Mmmm. And should I ask how effectively that strategy is deployed in the Schütz household?

            • Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

              Yeah right, like when He said “You guys invent a 40 day period in concept based on my Son’s 40 days in the desert”.

          • Peregrinus says:

            The point isn’t to bash the rules, the point is to go out and catechise.

            Sure. But these may not be the easiest or best rules with which to catechise. Apart from the tribalism issue that I have already noted, dietary disciplines present a second problem. As a society, we already have a fetish about body image and diet, which we express in moral terms. (I shouldn’t eat so much cake. I deserve this beer after all my hard work. I ought to eat more greens.) These proceeds from an unspoken (and unChristian) assumption that looking well/looking healthy/being fit is inherently virtuous, an assumption we embrace as a society because it gives a kind of secular blessing to our desire to look young, attractive, etc. Whether we want to or not, we engage all of that baggage when we choose to express the “formal” side of our Lenten journey in dietary terms. This may not be the best place to start our catechesis from.

            Desert spirituality has other aspects – for example, isolation, contemplation. Or detachment from material goods. Perhaps formal Lenten observances based on those would be a more effective catechetical tool. They might speak more clearly about what Easter means that dieting, in our time, can.

            • Tom says:

              Perry, I’m not suggesting one has to use Lenten observances as a catechetical tool, just that if we want people to understand and sincerely obey the observances of Lent, they need to be catechised generally. In the specific case of Lent, if people are confused about the meaning of Lenten sacrifices, they need catechesis about the meaning of Lent and Easter.

              As you point out about the desert spirituality, there are other things one can do during Lent, however the instructions given to us by The Church are not arbitrary. The instruction to fast, to pray and to give alms aren’t something ‘cultural’ – they are something profoundly anthropological.

              Christs temptation in the desert was in these three forms; the bread, riches and glory offered by the Devil. Each of the Lenten instructions are something the Church gives to us as a way to reject the Devil on these three counts (fasting, alms giving, praying respectively).

              If our culture has gastronomic and anthropomorphic problems, these aren’t solved by abandoning the Wisdom of the Church. I don’t know how to answer them, but it certainly will not be by rejecting the discipline of Lent.

            • Tom says:

              Sorry – I should point out here that when I talk about catechesis I’m not talking about catechesis to pagans – i’m talking about catechesis to Christians. Those of us in the Church need a continual spiritual formation. You are correct that if one wants to go and engage with pagans then yes, Lenten observances are definitely not the best place to start.

              The best place to start is the kerygma – the love of God, the death and resurrection of Christ, and eternal life.

  11. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    Judas at the clam bake old man, don’t you get it — the “rules” had the same “suggestions” in the past (go have a great walleye dinner at Barry’s was not the message in religion class) and they didn’t carry the message then either.

    OTOH, after a great walleye dinner you can always take a moment and grouse about how it could have been a steak so I really did enjoy myself less.

  12. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    “the evidence of PE and Christine leads me to think that they didn’t really carry that message even in the Good Old Days.” So says Der Wanderer in a comment time stamped 19 Feb 2010 224pm.

    “the “rules” had the same “suggestions” in the past (go have a great walleye dinner at Barry’s was not the message in religion class) and they didn’t carry the message then either.” So says my bleeding self in a comment time stamped 19 Feb 2010 1208pm.

    Miserable, reeking, ruddy WordPress and its tiered replies.

    Also sprach der Vorsteher (if I’m bloody going to just say something on my own authority with no references, links or citations I’ll do it in German):

    I’ll be dipped, bipped, whipped, tripped, nipped and clipped if I am not transported into a cosmic ninth Psalm tone (1) to have had Perry and Louise agree with me right here on SCE.

    You guys need to be downrange a while. There is no spirituality in the damn desert except to get the hell out of it alive and back to real life providing three squares and a bed for oneself and those for whom and to whom one is responsible.

    Speaking of which, the Wandering One is quite right re the “tribe” whatever tribe that may be, and that is why so many will so self-identify even when one does not share the tribe’s, should the tribe be a religion, beliefs.

    (1) Tonus peregrinus: an extra psalm tone outside the four pairs of modal psalm tones, which has one reciting tone (A) for the first part of a Psalm verse and another (G) for the second part.

    Bless us and save us Mrs O’Davis if I haven’t posted a comment with a bloody footbleedingnote. Gott hilf mir.

    • Tom says:

      But PE – even though there is no life in the desert, we go into the desert because God leads us there. Just as the Israelites went into the desert for 40 years on their way to the promised land, so was Christ led into the desert on his way to Jerusalem.

      In the same way, we Christians today are still led by God into the desert, because it is in the desert when we are in crisis and feel we cannot survive, that we can find the love of God for us. Suffering, a crisis, these things are the desert – and it is by entering into these situations that we can discover God’s will for us.

      The desert is very important. There is no life in the desert, which is why when we are there, if we are to have life, it will come from God.

  13. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    God leads us there? Pigs. (My Aussie roomie taught me that one!)

    Christ went into the desert. Well he went to the cross too, which doesn’t mean you have to climb up there too to be just like him.

    That’s the whole point — HE did it.

    For us to up and do it too just flies in the face of that. You don’t have to go to the desert. It finds you. That’s life in a fallen Creation. You don’t have to go looking for it. God gives us all this good to eat, and we say oh no, I want to make sure my real food is you Lord. Pigs. The real food is what he gave you, so say thanks and eat for God’s sake.

    I’ve experienced the death of a spouse and both parents, kids’ illnesses and injuries, job loss and financial reversal, just for starters, and frankly I could not care less what some neurotic goofball who “renounces life” in the desert has to say about God or who seeks a metaphorical desert as some kind proof of God’s love.

    That proof is already there, in his works, not ours. At the cross, in the Word, and in the Sacrament.

    Not in the damn desert.

    • Schütz says:

      I just saw this entry, after reading Tom’s reply, and must say that you went a little too far in this comment even for a Lutheran! I would have said that Luther’s Theology of the Cross is specifically about the fact that God DOES lead us into the Desert, that we ARE to be “crucified with Christ” (didn’t St Paul say something about that?). The point is not, of course, to earn our salvation, but rather that it is precisely in being united with Christ in his death and sufferings we receive his grace. I never thought that this was up for dispute between Catholics and Lutherans – although Pentecostal Prosperity Theology might have problems with it.

      • Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

        Maybe it’s the imprecision of desert as a metaphor. I am not at all disputing what is sometimes called crucifying the old Adam.

        But the Cross is his, and we are united to it.

        Saved by grace, case dismissed!

  14. Tom says:

    Alright, I’ve written and re-written about 4 or 5 posts responding to what you just said, and the more I think about it, the more I realise that this is something I simply cannot express in a post.

    Your objections to the Lenten discipline are coming from a radically anti-Catholic perspective. Everything I wrote (and tried to re-write) was an exegesis on the History of Salvation and the meaning of the Cross and the Desert – but I expect if I write what the Church has taught to me as the meaning of these events, there is an inevitable rejection (which I am not so concerned about for itself, as much as I am about consuming your time).

    I will just say then, that my defense of the Lenten discipline comes from a Catholic understanding of the meaning of being-human, of the Love of God for us and the hatred of the Devil.

    You say that God does not lead us into the Desert, or to the Cross? Then it seems this is the crux of the matter, because God does lead us to the Desert, and to the Cross. As Christ was obedient to the Will of God and was saved, so too are we called to be obedient to the Will of God. If that means he brings us to the Desert, or to the Cross, so be it.

    Since Christ instituted the Catholic Church to be His body here on Earth, and it speaks with his Authority, if the Church invites me to this discipline She does so out of Love for me, because She knows that this is something I need. I am not in the desert by my will – I am neither a sadist nor a masochist. Instead, I have been taught that my life, my happiness is in doing the will of God – which, in part, means being obedient to the Church.

    Your objection to the Lenten discipline can be to the culture surrounding it, but this does not invalidate the discipline itself. The Church gives us Lent as a time to prepare for Easter. This is hardly objectionable in itself, and your objection to the form of the discipline ignores the Anthropology behind it, and the Wisdom of the Church in understanding Man.

  15. John Rayner says:

    Well said Tom. Exactly right!

  16. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    Bought all that myself at one time, Tom.

    I’m not opposed to Lenten observances, and many Lutherans observe them. Not me, but many Lutherans do observe them. And I have no argument with them or that at all.

    What I do object to is a denomination laying down a law about it, and on top of that, attaching some defined merit or reward to it.

    Absolutely flies in the face of Jesus Christ. After he gave the Our Father, there just ain’t no You get 180 days for three of these or any such thing. Absolutely flies in the face of the Apostles, who could not be bothered with such legalism.

    Christ did not institute the Catholic Church to be his Body on Earth, and it does not speak with his authority, and its representations to the contrary are an affront to God, however well-intended.

    And again, the “desert” will find you.

  17. Tom says:

    We should probably set aside the question of the authority of The Catholic Church; this is something we are unlikely to ever agree on. That being said, I think there are points here we can agree on.

    Of course the desert will find you – this is what I have been arguing all along. However the desert, as an analogy for the experience of Christ, can come in many forms. One of the forms is the period of Lent that the Church gives to us, and in this time invites us to prepare well for the Easter Vigil.

    The Church doesn’t lay down a law – one of the things I wanted to say previously was that in an Anglo culture like ours, invitations and proclamations of truth get turned into laws when they are not really. It is not the case that if you do no Lenten discipline you will die, or if you do x, y and z you will get a, b and c.

    Instead Lent is a time of joy when the Church invites us to live the life of a Christian very well, rejecting those things that we can idolise in place of God.

    Fasting is not a sacrifice – we don’t fast so that God will go, “oh, how good.” It simply is not the case, and in the criticism of this mentality you are correct. The discipline of fasting is to encourage us to reject the security of bread: the fact that in our lives we arrange them such that we always care for ourselves first. That’s part of being human in a fallen world (as you said), we are selfish. Fasting helps us to reject that.

    The Prayer, in like fashion, helps us to reject our own plans and arrangements: we think we know what is best for us, when clearly, decision after decision, we demonstrate an abysmal lack of understanding. The invitation to do morning prayer each day of Lent, to regularly attend Mass and go to confession helps us to reject our own plans in place of those God has for us.

    Finally, the alms giving helps us to reject the idea that happiness comes from the World. Not that creation is evil, or that creation has not somehow come from God. Creation has come from God as a gift, clearly it has. The money, power and wealth of the world are not intrinsically evil things, except when they turn into idols that we think will give us happiness.

    The point of all this is not that the Church lays down a law – do this, this and this, and you will have that. Lent is not a time of sorrow or burden, but a time of joy, in preparation for Easter and the Resurrection.

    There is no law that is lain down, just that our Holy Mother in Her Wisdom understands that the Devil has ways of tempting us from the Will of God, and hands us the tools to fight him. That’s why the Gospel of the first Sunday in Lent is Christ being tempted in the desert. The Devil tempts us in the same way, and we can enter into the same experience of Christ as a way of rejecting the Evil One.

  18. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    I have no beef at all with the theology, if you will, of these Lenten practices, and indeed many Lutherans follow and encourage them, and I have no beef with that either.

    However, boil it all down, fasting and absence is still a part of Canon Law (canons 1250 to 1253 to be exact) and still regulated by the RCC according to Paenitemini of 1966, with the UC Conference of Catholic Bishops establishing meat abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Fridays in Lent and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and a book of indulgences was noted elsewhere on this blog. Close enough to laying down a law for me — though, were I still listening to such nonsense, at 59 I would be exempt — however theologised into not being a law except it is but not really in typical RCC fashion.

    BTW, I am enjoying this exchange with you. Fundamental disagreement plainly expressed need not be a barrier to that. And yes, I have no question but that the practices can be and for some are exactly to the benefit you describe.

    • Schütz says:

      Close enough to laying down a law for me

      I would see it as “laying down the grace”.

    • Tom says:

      I’m enjoying myself as well!

      Looking at those Canons, I think a different understanding can be arrived at, once more perhaps because of the particular orientation of Catholic and Protestant.

      For the individual, to receive a direction that Fridays will be days of Penitence seems arbitrary and perhaps even legalistic. Given the theological and anthropological hermeneutic of Protestantism (that is, of ones self alone, before God) such directions by the Canon Law can seem, well, legalistic.

      Canon 1253 is even more explicit in its instruction…Obey your local Bishop!

      Instead of understanding these as laws given in order to determine some legalistic purpose, I suggest an alternative. The Catholic Church is defined by several key points, but most notable and most readily recognised is this: that to be Catholic requires one to be in communion with The Bishop of Rome. That is, one of the distinguishing marks of Catholic life is communion, one does not find one self before God alone, but before God in the Church. We receive Faith, in our Baptism, as a gift from the Church.

      To that end, each morning when praying the morning prayer, every Catholic world over is praying the Psalms that the Holy Father is praying as well.

      To enter into fast and penitence on Fridays is such that, world over, all Catholics are in communion in their works of penitence and charity.

      Finally, in obedience, each Catholic can be in communion with their local Bishop while entering into such observances (the theological basis for which, at this point, I think we more or less agree on).

      Given this understand of the fundamental nature of Catholicism, as something radically based in community, such Canon Laws are not laws in the sense of legal instruction, but more of a coordinating nature. What day shall we do our works of mercy on, such that we do them together? Well, it seems eminently reasonable that it should be the Church who decides.

      What is the meaning of fasting and penitence for a Catholic? Well, given different historical and cultural traditions, such terms do have a different meaning (no point telling the Inuits to only eat Fish on Fridays, since that’s all they eat almost every day), and it seems reasonable that the local Bishop should direct the particular form, without changing the more general nature of such observances.

      I still maintain and defend that Lenten observances as directed by the Church are not laws to burden our life, but invitations to a time of holiness in preparation for the Night when Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.

      I should point out here that I am now in unfamiliar territory, no-one has taught me this, and this is all just supposition, but one I think reasonably well founded. The only things I have been taught are that the Church does not lay down a law to oppress or burden us, and that Lent is a time of joy.

      If anyone wants to correct what I’ve said, please jump right in. I may well have gotten it completely wrong :D

  19. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    Actually Tom, I think you’ve gotten it entirely right. Or else we’ve both gotten it wrong. The difference is, you buy it, I don’t, or more accurately, did once but don’t now.

    I don’t know how much of my history you know, but just in case, in between leaving Catholicism in any form in 1973 and professing the Lutheran faith in 1996 — iow, I did not convert from one to the other — I was a Gentile follower of Orthodox Judaism (which is to say, Judaism) and what is called in that context a Righteous of the Nations (but not, my rabbi advised me, a stranger within the gate, strange maybe, but not within the gate!).

    Your panegyric on Catholic Law reminds me exactly of the loving enthusiasm of a real Jew for Torah, wherein the lex does not at all semper accusat, but lovingly lifts and ennobles, something for which one prays daily a prayer of gratitude to God to have been one of the people chosen to receive it, so much so that on the conclusion of the annual reading through of the Law one celebrates Simchat Torah, Rejoicing in the Law, not to mention Pentecost (the original one, Shavuot) celebrating the giving of the Law at Sinai.

    Which is the way Catholicism strikes me now, Eastern Orthodoxy for that matter too, all Law and no Gospel, with the latter confused for a positive spin, as they say now, on the Law.

    Or as we say, a confusion of justification and sanctification arising from not making the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. But that would take us to another thread!!

  20. Tom says:

    That would indeed take us to a thread where I pretty much lost my head trying to make sense of, dare I say it, such a scholastic distinction.

    It is true that I think the law does ennoble us – but that is not because of the law in itself, but rather our relation to such. That is to say, the law is what indicates to us what nobility is.

    In this way the law both ennobles us and accuses us, since it shows to us what we want to achieve, and also our daily failure to achieve it, since we try, and try on our own strength to do so. It is also because of the law that Christ was perfectly just, because He lived the law perfectly. He loved God with all His heart, His mind and His strength, on the Cross.

    At the same time He gave to the law the new interpretation – someone who looks at another lustfully is guilty of adultery. That is, it is not only the letter of the law that is important, but the spirit of the law that we must live.

    It is not then the absence of a Gospel, but rather the realisation that the law has been perfected in the Gospel – for this, the proper response of a Christian before God is first and foremost, gratitude. We are grateful to God for having given us the law to live by, the 10 words of life. We are doubly grateful because He has assumed the task of fulfilling the law, taking the burden from us. Felix culpa!

    Strictly speaking, from what I understood of the other thread, it is not the distinction between the Gospel and the law that is the problem – it is the distinction that destroys the connection that troubles us. The law can only be a source of joy in light of Gods love, and Gods love can only be comprehended as radically generous and undeserved by comprehending the depths of our failure to live the law.

    In short – it is not all law and no Gospel, it all law and all Gospel; the two cannot be separated because neither can make sense to the Christian apart from the other. Not that the law fails to accuse, but that its accusation is made with love.

  21. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    Well Tom, I’d say you have a pretty good grasp of the proper distinction between Law and Gospel.

    For one thing, there’s the word proper in the phrase, which means, there is more than one distinction that can be drawn, but only one is proper.

    For another, any distinction which separates or destroys the connexion between the two is not the proper distinction at all.

    For yet another, the Law does indeed remain, as curb, mirror and guide — and it would be no guide, in fact no curb either, if action, works, were not part of the deal, just a mirror in which to see our sinfulness.

    And that idea, that it has no purpose any more, that really we can ignore it and not study it carefully, since it is fulfilled in the Gospel, is a Protestant, not a Lutheran, idea.

    Maybe then it’s more a matter of what is the Law and who adds to it. There too there is a parallel between Judaism and Catholicism. The Law, Torah, can mean several related things: the five books of Moses, the OT including the Prophets and the Writings (so inelegantly mixed to-gether in Christian Bibles!) as well, and the rabbinic consensus on things since, not just as collected in the Talmud but later decisions as well. This sense of the Law having both a written and an oral (which is now pretty much written too) side is paralleled exactly in the Catholic concept of one revelation in two ways, Scripture and Apostolic Tradition (as distinct from plain old we’ve always done it this way tradition). In fact, while weight is given to the Mosaic part, it is said of the rabbinic part “It is as if Moses heard it at Sinai”. In the same way does the Catholic accept its “Talmud” of later Church law and teaching and the ongoing magisterium or teaching authority of the Roman church.

    I think it may well be that the difficulty Catholics — and now Lutherans too, as most “Lutheran” bodies are not Lutheran at all except in historical derivation, witness the ELCA (better written E?CA, and since its last convention ??CA) and WLF, that great joke — is more centred on that, the parallel between ongoing Law in Judaism and magisterium located in Rome and “communion” therewith.

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