I listen to the Catholic Channel on Sirius/XM a lot and yesterday a priest who is usually fairly reliable made the comment that it is a sin to fast during the Octave of Easter. My wife started fasting certain days during Lent and found it benefited her spiritually, she has continued to a lesser degree even after Lent ended. Is it wrong to do this at a time when the Church says we should feast to celebrate the resurrection?
A sin? No, I wouldn’t say that it is a sin to fast during the Octave of Easter. Also, since I didn’t hear the broadcast, I wonder what the priest really said. We can sometimes use words that have technical meanings but in a less technical way. For example, “It would be a sin to leave that last piece of key lime pie go to waste. Father? A third piece?”
It is true that the Octave is a mysterious period resembling the eschatological 8th day, the time of outside of time after the 7 day cycle of creation and rest, foreshadowing the time after the end of the world and remaking of the cosmos. It is true that during the Octave we continue to observe the celebration of Easter so that we can view it from different angles and take in more about the mystery of the resurrection. It is true that, liturgically, the days of the Easter Octave outweigh many other liturgical points.
On the other hand, Easter Friday this year is a 1st Friday and Friday is… well… Friday. It may be in the Octave of Easter, but it also remains the day when we give special consideration to the Passion of the Lord. We are not bound by law to fast on any day but two during the year and we are bound to do penance/abstain on all Fridays except when exempted by law, such as when the day is a solemnity.
On Easter Friday we may not want to have bread and water, but neither are we obliged to have the second … or third… piece of key lime pie.
I think we are capable of observing moments of joyful penance, or penitential joy, such as on the Sundays of Lent. Each Sunday is like Easter, but Lent is still Lent. So too Friday of the Easter Octave is still Friday though it is the continuation of Easter. Moreover, there are other ways to do penance than fasting.
Is it a sin to fast during the Easter Octave? No, I wouldn’t say it is a sin. But I would not want to see anyone completely ignore the Octave as if Good Friday were continuing for all those days. That would go against the Catholic grain.
Furthermore, in the ancient Church people didn’t fast simply for themselves, but for the sake of giving what they didn’t eat to the poor as an act of mercy. Acts of mercy can be personal mortifications at times but they are surely permitted on great feasts and solemnities.
And who are any of us to oblige a person to eat more than she wants to eat or needs to eat? So long as she maintains her heath and energy to fulfill the duties of her state in life, who are we to oblige her to eat more than she chooses?
Common sense applies.
Happy 1st Friday.
PS: Please don’t send me key lime pies. I like that sort of pie once in while but there are others I prefer.
UPDATE 14:39 GMT:
I saw on the blog of my friend His Hermeueticalness, the Dean of Bexeley, the P.P. of Blackfen, Fr. Tim Finigan, a very good entry about this very matter: Abstinence and Friday of the Easter Octave.
After my own heart, he looks at the Latin of the law in question and argues that Friday of the Easter Octave is celebrated as if it were a solemnity, even though technically it isn’t.
So what should I answer to the question “Should we abstain on the Friday of the Easter Octave?” I suppose, unhelpfully, we just have to say that there are two legitimate interpretations of an ambiguous provision in the calendar.
However I will certainly be abstaining from meat tomorrow. (Let’s be honest, it’s not that hard.)
And, in the hope of saving some time, let me quote a part of the short article:
Doubtless some will consider this all very nitpicking and legalistic, and protest that we should be concerned with the “spirit” of fasting rather than calendrical minutiae. Yet the point of days of fasting and penance prescribed by the Church is so that we can share together, as a communion in Christ, in a common practice of penance. Observing canon law does not prevent us from prayerfully fulfilling the spirit of penance as well.
Read the whole, useful entry over at his fine blog.