Friday, February 13, 2015

Why a Bowl of Beans Could be Just as Good as Fish on Lenten Fridays

Eating fish on Friday during Lent is a longstanding tradition in many Christian communities. By eating fish, this meant that you were foregoing  consumption of red meat, and in a sense fasting. This symbolic practice was more significant when red meat was more common on the dinner table. In more recent times, fish has become the more healthful option, particularly if it grilled or broiled. While fish remains a powerful symbol of Lenten Fridays, the food itself is not as important as what it represents: fasting.  I would argue that soy patties and meatless bean dishes are a good alternative to eating fish in fulfilling our fast.

Rev. Ken Collins,  a United Church of Christ minister in McLean, Va., points to another symbolic aspect of eating fish on Fridays. In the first century, meat was a luxury food.  "You either had to buy it in a market or you had to own enough land to keep cattle," Rev. Collins said in his Web site. "On the other hand, anyone could grow vegetables or forage for them, and anyone could catch a fish in a lake or a stream. You could buy better fish and vegetables, but the point is that you could eat without money if you were poor. So meat was rich people's food and fish was poor people's food. That is why the most common form of fasting was to omit meat and eat fish."  Read his full post on Why Christians Eat Fish on Friday and During Lent.

A Fish Fry to Help Feed Our Neighbors
No doubt many Christian congregations in Albuquerque and around the country will put together meals on Fridays during Lent that will feature fish (along with prayer and reflection).

One congregation, St. John's United Methodist Church (map), will serve a fish meal every Friday from Feb. 20 until March 27, 4:00-7:00 p.m. for a modest cost of $12. There is an important reason for the charge: The proceeds will be donated to two local worthy organizations Albuquerque Rescue Mission and Project Share

Spending less of our income on meals means that we have more money at our disposal for another of the important actions during Lent, which is to give to our neighbor. Or we can spend more on a meal (as is the case with the Fish Fry Dinner at St. John's UMC) in order to give to our neighbor. In our Lenten practice of charity, we are called not only to give of our excess but to show solidarity with our neighbor in a prayerful manner. Rice Bowl, the Catholic Relief Services' Lenten program, offers opportunities to pray, give and more importantly to learn about neighbors in our community and around the world who are in need. The program even offers you an app to engage in these practices via your smartphone.

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