Friday Lenten Penance on 25 March – Annunciation

Those who are bound by the law are to do penance on Fridays of Lent.

However, tomorrow, Friday is 25 March, the Solemnity (in the post-Conciliar calendar) of the Annunciation.

Please attend 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.

For those who don’t like the Novus Ordo… your likes or dislikes make not the slightest difference.  If you are a subject of the Latin Church, the 1983 Code pertains to you.  Since in the Ordinary Form the Feast of the Annunciation has the rank of a Solemnity, and since can. 1251 applies to you, you are not bound to your Friday penance.

Of course you can do as you please.  Do penance if you choose.  You are not bound to it.

In these cases of great feasts during Lent, I generally suggest that people keep their festivities somewhat muted.  But the Solemnity is a true Feast Day.

Be penitentially festive, festively penitent.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Liz says:

    Thank you, Father Z. I was just googling this to find out and I ended up at your blog. Thanks for answering this!

  2. matt1618 says:

    Thank you, Father. I’m wondering, is it proper to have a communal Stations of the Cross tomorrow?

    thank you,
    Seminarian assigned to lead ’em [Did Mary stand at the foot of the Cross?]

  3. Will D. says:

    As it is my birthday as well, I intend to enjoy the day. I’m inclined to make next Wednesday a pseudo-Friday and abstain then.

  4. Gail F says:

    My husband suggests eating nothing BUT meat. [PETA would not approve… unless it means People Eating Tasty Animals. Animal for All!]

  5. Gail: Let animal be consumed at will.

  6. Random Friar says:

    matt1618: This would be too long to explain here, but there is a long tradition that the Crucifixion took place on the same day as the Annunciation.

  7. Random Friar says:

    I would say not only do as you please with respect to abstaining and Lenten penance this Friday, but hold off any tsks tsks toward those who do otherwise. Both are allowed by Holy Mother Church. [There are many ways to do penance. Food is the usual and BEST way for most people. But for some people food is not the best way.]

  8. skull kid says:

    I ate two clementines after midnight here in Ireland.


  9. Fr. Basil says:

    \\matt1618: This would be too long to explain here, but there is a long tradition that the Crucifixion took place on the same day as the Annunciation.\\

    I’ve heard that, too.

    It’s tied in with the Jewish belief that holy people die on the anniversary of their conception. [I had never heard that before. Interesting.]

  10. APX says:

    Aww, I had a rack of short ribs in my freezer, but I gave them to my parents when they came to visit me on he weekend so I wouldn’t get tempted for a Sprinter-time bbq. :(

  11. Andy Milam says:

    As the illustrious Tim Ferguson said earlier today….I don’t care that your calendar has a fish on it….I will eat mammal.

    Or something to that effect.

  12. capchoirgirl says:

    Re: Stations of the Cross–> my parish is having a Holy Hour instead. Back to Stations next week. And we’re offering chicken at the fish fry, so it’s chicken/fish. :) I’m really excited!

  13. muckemdanno says:

    This just shows the paradox of the “two forms – one rite” mentality. Is March 25 a fast day or a feast day for Catholics?

    Are the Sundays before Ash Wednesday penitential days (purple) or joyful days (green)?

    The two forms – one rite idea just does not work. How do you build a unified Catholic culture when some are feasting and some are fasting? Am I the only one who sees a problem here? [Did you read the top entry? Perhaps not.]

  14. Sword40 says:

    I have to drive 98 miles to a celebration of Stations and a low Mass, but at least I found one. [Blessings on you.] None of the local 8 parishes are celebrating a Mass of the Annunciation. I stand corrected; there is a 9:00 am Mass at one of the 8. But its an OF done in “just plain vanilla”. So I’ll drive the 98 miles. Thank you Jesus for this wonderful priest.

  15. uptoncp says:

    Forgive my ignorance, but what do the older rules say about a Double of the First Class falling on a Lenten Friday? [Whatever they say, the 1983 Code applies now.]

  16. Ioannes Andreades says:

    It’s not a question of extraordinary form vs. ordinary form of the mass, it’s a question of canon law. The old (1917) code stated: [The 1917 Code IS NOT IN FORCE NOW. The 1983 Code is now in force. Why is this hard for people to grasp? Even if you don’t like the new Code, it is still the Code NOW.]
    1252 § 4. Diebus dominicis vel festis de praecepto lex abstinentiae, vel abstinentiae et ieiunii, vel ieiunii tantum cessat, EXCEPTO FESTO TEMPORE QUADRAGESIMAE, nec pervigilia anticipantur; item cessat Sabbato Sancto post meridiem.
    Thus, even feasts during lent were not excepted from fast. I think that this is why it was a long custom to eat vegetarian minestrone soup even on the feast of St. Joseph.

  17. moon1234 says:

    If your following the older form, just stick with the plan. The Blessed Mother will not be mad that you are taking time to honor her son in a special way. When the feast of the Annunciation in the old calendar comes around, you can make a special devotion to our lady. SP allowed us to observe the older calendar and so I choose that option. The timing of the older calendar seems to fit more logically.

    The new calendar seems to be more of a throw the holy day dart at the wall calendar and see where it sticks.

  18. moon1234 says:

    delete that last comment. I need to go to bed. I have my feasts all mnixed up.

  19. Brooklyn says:

    Thank you, Father, for explaining this. The Church recognizes this day as one of the great Feast days. That has certainly not changed and that is what is most important. We are free to observe it however we may choose, whether feasting or fasting with the one caveat that we not judge one another. Sounds good to me!

  20. Banjo pickin girl says:

    capchoirgirl, I am having the chicken at our parish if I make it tonight after work.

  21. frjim4321 says:

    This is interesting and helpful. I am getting together with some classmates this evening and I will enjoy a steak.

  22. jrotond2 says:

    Fast with the Church, Feast with the Church. Today is a major Feast Day no matter which calendar one follows; in my opinion, the 1983 Code is an improvement regarding the proper recognition which should be shown to major Feast Days. The beauty of the new code is that one can choose to follow the 1962 calendar in a more liturgically precise fashion – e.g. suspending fasting on 1st. class feasts or after First Vespers on Saturday evenings, etc. so long as it doesn’t contradict what is mandated.

    I find that there is often too much emphasis on the dour and penitential (give Lent 110%) but never an equal and opposite rejoicing on the major feasts and during the festive seasons. Today is a Catholic holiday; celebrate it.

  23. Fr. Basil says:

    \\ Is March 25 a fast day or a feast day for Catholics?\\

    Yes. For most Byzantine-rite Catholics, there is no fast today, and fish is permitted.

    \\The two forms – one rite idea just does not work. How do you build a unified Catholic culture when some are feasting and some are fasting? \\

    Why doesn’t it work? Unity does not mean uniformity. Even in the Latin Church, there were variations in practice and observance in different places.

  24. Centristian says:

    No solemnity had better try to get between me and my Friday fish fry, honey, ’cause it ain’t gonna be pretty. *snap*

    For the life of me I’ll never understand how seafood is a penance.

  25. wolfeken says:

    How about a little charity and tolerance toward traditionalists who adhere to the discipline in place during the missal of 1962?

    The feast of the Annunciation is not a day of precept, therefore traditionally the 40-day Lenten fast and the regular Friday abstinence was not waived.

    I hear lots of praise for those eating meat today, but I also see a lot of downright disdain toward those of us who voluntarily choose to adhere to all (not just the missal and sacraments) of the disciplines in place before that wonderful Second Vatican Council. No one is saying it’s mandatory to follow the regulations in place in 1962 — but can we knock off the near-mocking of traditionalists who do this?

  26. Bryan Boyle says:

    @Centristian: Agree entirely. Seafood is not a penance. FWIW, even the local ‘Chick-fil-a’ has a ‘Lenten Menu’ (which would figure, since the founder is a public and practicing Christian…sadly not Catholic, but…all of them are closed on Sunday in the entire chain…) that’s pretty tasty for a chain restaurant.

  27. In the early early Church, when Lent practices were all over the map, some people fasted from fish (the happy post-resurrection food!) and ate flesh (earthiness and flesh and sorrow!) on Friday. The point is not whether fish is penitential in taste; it’s that both fish and flesh have symbolic meanings which point to penitence for us.

    There is no intrinsically penitential food. All food is good and made by God. If you’re eating burned crusts and drinking muddy water, you should embrace their intrinsic tastiness and be thankful. There are people who’d be grateful to have that much.

  28. capchoirgirl says:

    Banjo: Hope the fried chicken is good. :) Although I love fish, so I could go for either!

  29. Ed the Roman says:

    I seem to have missed where anybody was busting the chops of traditionalists gernerally, rather than those traditionalists who seem to talk as if the 1917 Codex was binding today on ANYBODY at ALL.

    And they need to be corrected about that. If they want to do penance according to both sets of law for maximal strictness, nobody will stop them. But implications that 1917 binds are off base.

  30. FarNorthPriest says:

    The obedience of our will is a sacrifice acceptable to Almighty God, whether we like sea food or not. The reason for abstaining from flesh meat on Friday is to call to mind the Saving Work of Christ in our Redemption by His giving up His flesh for us on the Cross, not to mention the fact that a humble and contrite soul undertakes this penance because the Church has so directed.
    Fr. Timothy Johnson

  31. everett says:

    There’s nothing wrong with choosing to continue to abstain/do penance today, but doing it because that’s what the old code said is the wrong reason. That code is no longer in force. If you want to do it, go ahead, but do it because you feel that fasting/penance is appropriate for you.

  32. Henry Edwards says:

    It seems to me that voluntary penance by conscious decision may be more sacrificial than mandatory (and hence somewhat routine or mechanical) penance required by law. And hence that abstinence on a Friday that happens to be a solemnity may be more meritorious than on an ordinary Friday. Is this wrong?

  33. Brooklyn says:

    jrotond2 – I would disagree with you that “there is often too much emphasis on the dour and penitential.” I think the big problem today is that there is too little emphasis on penance and mortification. I am not making a case that we need to follow the 1917 Code on this particular Feast Day. As Father Z says, that is no longer binding on us. But, I do think that because the Church has left it up to individuals to decide how much and what kind of penance they want to do and when, and the fact that there are only two obligatory fast days in the year, human nature has kicked in. None of us like to do penance, no one enjoys mortifying the senses. So for too many of us, if we aren’t pushed, we won’t do it. And thus, for the last few decades, there has been very little emphasis “on the dour and penitential.”

  34. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf,

    I was just answering a question from another reader.
    Read carefully; I was not saying that the old canon was still in effect.
    Honestly, Father, how about a little charity!

  35. Centristian says:

    “There is no intrinsically penitential food.”

    Obviously you’ve never tried canned beets.

  36. Jenny says:


    You should read up on the old belief about dying on your conception date as it relates to Easter and Christmas. It is really quite an interesting take and really different than the old standard view that Christians placed Christmas in December to compete with the pagans.

    In a nutshell, there was some argument about when Good Friday actually was. Was it this year or that year? There were competing dates on which to celebrate Easter. Nine months after these respective dates are Dec 25 and Jan 6. And then the Easter celebration was attached to the lunar moon cycles, but Christmas and Epiphany retained their fixed dates.

  37. jrotond2 says:


    I was thinking of traditionalists in particular when I said “too much emphasis on the dour and penitential..”. And I am a Trad who was once in the SSPX . Looking at the whole Church, I would agree with you, but I would also say that the generic NO crowd not only doesn’t pay enough heed to the penitential side but also equally ignores the festive; it’s all bland and vanilla on both ends. Such blandness is sadly a testament of the Protestant/Puritanical culture of the US.

    My point was more so that we who observe the fasts do not feast in equal proportion for our real, Catholic holidays in contrast to our observance of the fasts.

  38. MichaelJ says:

    I agree (not that my agreement means much) that the 1917 code is no longer binding. Does this mean though, that it is now worthless? Is everything it said now irrelevant and not worthy of consideration? Can it offer no guidance and insight to the modern man where the 1982 code is silent or perhaps not as clear as it could be?

    Not that I’ve seen it here, but it seems that the only use a modern Catholic has for the 1917 code is as a way to smugly proclaim our superior enlightenment over our Fathers

  39. Brooklyn says:

    jrotond2 – could you explain that further? What, in your opinion, constitutes “too much emphasis on the dour and penitential.” There is definitely a time for feasting, and believe me, I am looking forward to Easter when it will truly be a time to feast. But I think that the only way fasting can be “too much” is if you are doing it not to glorify God, but to glorify yourself and prove how “spiritual” you are. And fasting can also be wrong if it is harmful to your health.

    I do definitely agree with you that too much of the Church today pays no need to much of anything going on in the Church. Bland and vanilla is a good way of describing it.

  40. wolfeken says:

    One example of the illogical modern calendar and discipline is that Lenten/vigil/Ember Day fasting and Friday abstinence from meat has almost disappeared (really, two days of fasting and seven days of abstinence all year?), yet the Octave Day of Easter (!) is now dedicated to divine mercy “for the sake of His sorrowful passion.”

    It’s like a bad dream.

  41. QMJ says:

    Centristian, you are hilarious. Thanks for the laughs and God bless you.

  42. jrotond2 says:

    What I mean to convey, Brooklyn, is that there are those who will follow the strictest fasting laws beyond what is obligatory today (and this is, of itself, a good thing) but would never allow for any exception such as today to relax from that regimen. All the emphasis is placed on the penitential and never on the joyous, so by too much emphasis, I mean to say emphasis out of proportion to and without equal emphasis given to feasting.

    Fine if some want to fast today (we can choose either), but trumping up the 1917 code as being the standard doesn’t fly…the 1917 code, itself, relaxed previous disciplines such as abstinence from eggs and butter. Where to draw the line? I think the 1983 code allows one to follow the 1962 calendar in a more liturgically precise fashion (i.e. to feast on First Class feasts in Lent, to cease fasting after First Vespers of Sunday on Saturday evenings, etc.). And what of all those random, 4th. class Ferial Days from June-November? Those make for plentiful fast days which more than overcompensate for the relaxation of two fast days in Lent. I’ll reiterate what I said in my first comment – Fast with the Church; Feast with the Church.

  43. QMJ says:


    I disagree. I have found it much more difficult to do the penances the Church requires (even week after week) because it requires obedience. Doing something on a voluntary basis, while still sacrificial and meritorious, does not involve the virtue of obedience and it is not something done universally in communion with the whole Church. I think this can also apply in some instances when the Church does not require, but does suggest a particular practice. This is not to say, however, that I think eating meat today is more meritorious than abstaining.

  44. Brooklyn says:

    jrotond2 – I gotta say, I don’t know too many people who will follow the strictest fasting laws. Maybe you run with a different crowd. It is my experience that most people think they are doing a big thing by fasting one hour before communion. Many of the saints did extensive fasting in their lives. St. John Vianney ate little more than a a little bread and a potato now and then, usually only once a day. When he would try to eat more when dining with others, he would get sick because his stomach was not use to it. Certainly I am not saying anyone should do that, but fasting can be one of our most powerful spiritual tools, and it is extremely under utilized.

  45. jrotond2 says:

    Brooklyn, I was in the SSPX for 10 years as a teenager but even after leaving them 11 years ago, I remain a traditionalist and am a member of an all -Traditional Liturgy diocesan parish. My “crowd” has historically been mostly Trads who do follow the old rules; however, not everyone in my current parish necessarily follows every rule under the old Code, but we adopt what is best for our use. Certainly, more obligatory fasting under the pain of obedience is needed in our day, but not today!!!

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