Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bright Friday Abstinence: Surely of the Devil

Some chappy has taken to advocating abstinence from meat and the associated practice of penance during Friday of Bright Week, that is, on Friday during the Paschal octave. He writes:
"Therefore, if one follows the discipline of 1962, then the corresponding practice on Easter Friday remains a day of abstinence.  If one follows the post-Vatican II discipline (which admittedly is the law, just as it would be lawful to feast during 38 of the 40 days of Lent), then grill the steak with one's novus ordo friends." 
I could not think of a greater indictment of the 1962 kalendar system, or really the kalendar as it existed during the century of so preceding Pius XII, Montini, and Bugnini's great brain child, Liturgical Reform. St. Pius V's kalendar had about 180 feasts of either semi-double or double rank, including days within octaves, leaving the rest as ferial or simple days. The few double feasts could supersede Sunday's liturgy. By the time of the 1911 reforms only a few days were left of ferial ranks either because of new feasts inserted at double rank or old feasts promoted so as to curtail the length of the Offices on those days. The 1960 simplification did not clean up kalendar clutter and the lack of rhythm (the liturgical context in which the 1917 Code of Canon Law was created). Rather it simply conceded to the clutter: first class is important, second class is for Sundays and those pesky Apostles, third class is everything else, fourth class means have yourself a votive Mass. The unique ranking of a week that precludes all other celebrating is quite lost.

A cursory glance at some sources indicates no consistent outlook on fasting or abstinence from meat during octaves in the medieval church, when octaves became very important. Sarum seems to have foregone these two during the Paschal and Nativity octaves. It is possible that some octaves were given more festive treatment than others, which would only be reasonable. There would be some abstinence on Friday during the Pentecost octave because the penitential Ember days are more ancient than the week-long extension of the feast.

My Greek rite church will have neither fasting nor abstinence until the Friday after All Saints Sunday (same day as Trinity Sunday in the West).


  1. So this was one big weakness even of the post-Pius X calendar, as enlarged by succeeding Popes up to Pius XII? It seems St. Pius X's reform didn't really fix the problem, but treated only symptoms. Even if the Office and the Mass was much more streamlined and more variety post-Divino Afflatu, in the end a lot was lost.

  2. BTW, the local FSSP priest also saw the absurdity of abstinence on Easter Friday and said in an email that eating meat was fine.

  3. That is interesting, Rad Trad, about your church; it is my understanding that the usual Byzantine practice is for Wednesday and Friday fasting to resume after Thomas Sunday. I know that the Antiochian Orthodox in this country do not fast throughout the Pentecostarion. My calendar for the Ruthenian metropolia marks abstinence beginning this coming week.

  4. Ah, good ol' 50's Irish-American Catholicism... Anything else is just modernism amirite? :3

  5. I can’t say with certainty if the Institute of Christ the King ORDO specified abstinence or not, but given that for Epiphany, whether or not it is properly a solemnity on the 6th (the canon law on that is bonkers), Sacred Heart, and days of the 1st class which fall on Friday, like the Precious Blood last year, I think it did not!

  6. Hi,

    As usual Father Zed covered the subject here with the author of the post in question...commenting. I agree with the RadTrad that having to abstain from mammal and avian meat on Friday in Bright Week is an indictment of General Roman Calendar as it existed pre-1969. The hypothetical liturgical synod/conclave of 2026 should make a small amendment when 1960 & 2002 are merged together, so that abstinence during the Octave of Pascha is waived.

    For my part during the rest of 40 Days of Paschaltide, the principle of ‘Abstinence, but no Fasting’ should apply, including to Fridays (& Wednesdays for those have penances on both days) in the Latin-Rite West. Were I to become an Eastern Catholic, that might change...

    N.B.: The author you called "[s]ome chappy" is a devoted chanter at his parish, helping the TLM there for years. (I know him in real life.) Ken is not just another Internet keyboard warrior watching from the sidelines.

    Yours in commenting,


    P.S.: It's my first time commenting on this blog, having read it for a little while now. I may go back and comment on a few more items from April of this year.