QUAERITUR: Friday penance in the Octave of Christmas revisited

Yesterday I facetiously posted about Friday penance during the Octave of Christmas.

Days (other than Sunday) within the Octave of Christmas are not “heavy enough” (as a “solemnity” would be) to “outweigh” the Friday obligation to do some sort of penance as determined by the conferences of bishops. In the 1962 Missale Romanum they are “II class”, which corresponds to the newer, non-traditional calendar’s “feast”. In the 2001 Missale Romanum they are categorized as second class, as “feasts”. If, howeverm you are at a parish named “Holy Innocents”, such as that great place in Manhattan, and the Feast of the Holy Innocents falls on the Friday, you might argue that it is greater due to it being the patronal feast.

Bottom line, the Octave of Christmas does not have the “weight” of the Octave of Easter.

So, pay attention to can. 1251.

Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

And, you can ask your parish priest to dispense you or commute your act of penance.

Can. 1245 Without prejudice to the right of diocesan bishops mentioned in can. 87, for a just cause and according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop, a pastor[parish priest] can grant in individual cases a dispensation from the obligation of observing a feast day or a day of penance or can grant a commutation of the obligation into other pious works. A superior of a religious institute or society of apostolic life, if they are clerical and of pontifical right, can also do this in regard to his own subjects and others living in the house day and night.

You can substitute another form of penance for abstaining from meat.  Make it penitential, however.  Abstinence from meat has good reasoning behind it.  For some, however, there abstinence from other things can be of greater spiritual effect.

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13 Responses to QUAERITUR: Friday penance in the Octave of Christmas revisited

  1. Joseph-Mary says:

    Well you answered a question I also had! In fact, I wrote my spiritual father yesterday with this very question but have not yet heard back. I did abstain from meat but wondered about the necessity to requirement in the octave of Christmas. I am a Third Order religious so it is part of my rule to abstain from meat on Fridays.

  2. Fr. Lovell says:

    This post leads me to ask (and if this has been explained already please direct me to the link), if St. Joseph or Annunciation fall on a Saturday during Lent is the (U.S.A.) obligation of not eating meat on Friday end with first vespers of the solemnity that Friday evening? I have heard completely different explanations from many different sources. What adds to the confusion is that Canon law states that a day begins at midnight while the liturgical directives seem to indicate that a solemnity begins with first vespers.

    Also, if a solemnity or feast of the Lord falls on a Saturday in Ordinary Time (Per Annum) should the Saturday evening Mass be for the solemnity/Feast of the Lord and not Sunday? The Ordo says Second Vespers of the Solemnity/Feast of the Lord should be celebrated, it would seem the evening Mass should be as well.

    Thank You.

  3. AnnAsher says:

    Interesting it mentions dispensation from observing a feast also. I wonder does that ever occur?

  4. jesusthroughmary says:

    To the above, as far as the Friday obligation goes, Friday is Friday, from midnight to midnight. The liturgical calendar has absolutely nothing to do with the canonical obligation of Friday abstinence. Both Fr. Z and Dr. Peters have posted on this multiple times.

    As far as the Saturday evening Mass, yes, second vespers matches the evening Mass.

  5. Fr AJ says:

    I abstained from meat on Friday but I tend to think that to fast from meat during the Christmas season, especially during the octave, is disconnected from the liturgical calendar. I like the Byzantine Catholic practice of not fasting or abstaining during the Christmas season, it just strikes me as being more in tune with the liturgy.

  6. Fr. Lovell says:

    jesusthroughmary,

    Thank you for your very direct response. If you would be so kind as to direct me to where Fr. Z and Dr. Peters says that I would appreciate it. If you could also cite what your source is for the Saturday evening Mass since many parishes if not most in the U.S. seem not to follow that.

    In regards to your statement: “The liturgical calendar has absolutely nothing to do with the canonical obligation of Friday abstinence.” Just to clarify, you would hold that the liturgical days of March 19 and March 25 when they fall on a Friday (outside Holy Week) do exempt one from Friday abstinence, correct?

  7. Jerry says:

    @Fr. Lovell – “if St. Joseph or Annunciation fall on a Saturday during Lent is the (U.S.A.) obligation of not eating meat on Friday end with first vespers of the solemnity that Friday evening?”

    A completely unofficial response: This seems fair if you begin abstaining from meat at first vespers on Thursday.

  8. marcpuckett says:

    Friday abstinence from meat is a habit at this point, so I don’t pay much attention to discussions about it.

    I had thought that the US Bishops in ’66 lifted the requirement to abstain from meat on Fridays (requiring some penance somehow, instead) and now I read canon 1251 which requires abstinence from meat or some other food– is there some authoritative judgment that allows ‘some penance somehow’ to be done on Fridays in the US, contrary to c 1251? or did the US Bishops reinstitute the necessity for abstinence from meat, or from some other food? I know the latter didn’t happen so there must be some ‘complementary norm’ (have been looking around the USCCB site) that is operating here.

  9. Jerry says:

    @marcpuckett – you’re looking for canon 1253:

    The Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

  10. FrCharles says:

    I agree. Despite our founder’s famous advice that if Christmas day should fall on a Friday, even the walls should be made to eat meat, on this recent Friday in the Octave the brethren here at the Capuchin curia observed the standard Friday abstinence.

  11. jesusthroughmary says:

    ” Just to clarify, you would hold that the liturgical days of March 19 and March 25 when they fall on a Friday (outside Holy Week) do exempt one from Friday abstinence, correct?”

    I should clarify that what I meant was that the fact that a Saturday solemnity is anticipated with a Friday night Mass does not change the fact that Friday is still Friday until midnight. If the day of the solemnity itself (such as St. Joseph, March 19, for example) falls on Friday, of course there is no obligation to Friday penance. But if March 19 falls on a Saturday, it doesn’t follow that because first Vespers and/or an anticipated Mass for said solemnity might be celebrated on Friday night, March 18, that therefore after said liturgy you can chow down on a steak at 8 pm Friday night.

  12. A religious community can ask for such a dispensation. In my community, we have a such a dispensation for the Octaves of Christmas and Easter and half a dozen key days of the congregation that aren’t solemnities (the date we were founded, the date we got the decretum laudis, etc.). Even in the US, we don’t eat meet the other 49 Fridays of the year. Just an FYI.