Friday Abstinence, the Octave of Easter and You

prime rib roastEach year during the Octave of Easter – and of Christmas – there is a Friday.  Fridays are days of penance, usually observed by abstinence from meat.

So, can one eat meat on Friday in the Octave of Easter?

The 1983 Code of Canon Law says in 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… (Can. 1251)

The General/Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar 24 says that:

The first eight days of the Easter season make up the octave of Easter and are celebrated as solemnities of the Lord.

It seems that on Friday in the Octave of Easter we are exempt from the obligation to abstain.

This is not, by the way, the case with Friday in the Octave of Christmas.  

That said, Fridays are penitential days.  I don’t think you sin if you maintain something of a penitential spirit, even when Friday is in the Octave of Easter.  Maybe a Santa Cristina could grace your dinner table rather than your usual 1990 Brunello di Montalcino and you might have three courses instead of your usual four.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Papabile says:

    Yeah…. I think I’ll just have a burger and a PBR.

  2. GrumpyYoungMan says:

    Meat Friday!!!

  3. Imrahil says:

    We may substitute in any case. I normally only do so for a reason (not saying I always arrive at it, but that’s what I try to do).

    So… I’ll eat meat today, without further reason. And pray a litany of the sorrows, or so, just in case.

  4. FrG says:

    Friday in the octave is Easter Day, as much Easter as last Sunday. It is one eight-day long day. There should be no scaling back of Easter celebration and joy.

    “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.”

  5. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    If the Church sings the Gloria, I just say, put more gravy on that meatloaf.

  6. Matt R says:

    Perhaps we could get the bishops to specifically exempt the Friday after Christmas…

    Anyways, the food service people here made fish, so I made a turkey sandwich…Sigh!

  7. Imrahil says:

    Well, the Church does sing the Gloria on the feast of St. Matthias which may fall on a Friday (and for those who still have the old date, even often into Lent), but is not a solemnity.

  8. (X)MCCLXIII says:


    Perhaps we could have caviar?

    I sometimes wonder whether those of us who particularly enjoy fish should perhaps eat meat as a penance. Certain meats, at least. Burgers, meatloaf, and, especially, turkey sandwiches seem to fall in that category.

  9. andia says:

    thanks for this. I was wondering what to do about it.

  10. Mary Jane says:

    My husband and I were just talking about this. Good to have the info.

  11. Mother says:

    (as always, adore the humour contained therein)

  12. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Imrahil: Grrrrr…

  13. FrG says:

    (X)MCCLXIII: There’s a larger point here re. the symbolism of meat. As one writer phrased it:

    “When we forgo animal flesh, we call to mind that day on which Christ offered His flesh for the life of the world. We recall that unless we eat His flesh we shall not have life (Jn. 6:54, 56). We join His sacrifice of the flesh, in a small but important way, by sacrificing flesh ourselves.

    Moreover, abstinence from flesh ought to turn one’s mind to man’s pre-fallen condition. In his state of original justice, man abstained from eating animals (Gen. 1:29); it was only after the cleansing flood that God gave man permission to eat animal flesh (Gen. 9:3). A harmony existed among creation that we strive to reclaim (Is. 11:1-10). When we abstain from meat, we not only respect that sixth day on which all animals (and man) were created, but we unite that sixth day to Calvary, to the New Adam — the cross alone can restore man’s fallen state and lead us to Paradise.”

  14. mrspi says:

    The Table of Precedence (in the front of my LOH) shows both the 8 days following Easter and the 8 days following Christmas as the same level liturgically speaking…Level II, right after the Triduum. Wouldn’t the argument about meat on the Friday after Easter apply to the Friday after Christmas?
    Thank you,

  15. JesusFreak84 says:

    So why does the Octave of Easter dispense from the obligation but Christmas does not??? I’ve operated for…years…thinking the latter did…

  16. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    Thank you, Father. Although I was mostly joking, your response is edifying. But I do sometimes wonder about the distinction we draw between the flesh of fish and of what we usually call (or used to) “flesh meat” especially as, often, the former is both a greater pleasure to eat (for me) and also more expesive to buy.

    Smoked salmon today!

  17. jacobi says:

    Have to hide this from Herself as she might decide serve up roast beef, and I much prefer tinned salmon (better not mention my favourite brand, but it used to come across the pond in my youth, and still does). Can’t stand the fresh stuff.

  18. Paul M. says:

    mrspi (ruthann) said: the 8 days following Christmas as the same level liturgically speaking…Level II . . . . . Wouldn’t the argument about meat on the Friday after Easter apply to the Friday after Christmas?

    Not necessarily. Liturgical precedence and solemnity are different but related concepts. Liturgical solemnity indicates the amount of festiveness a particular celebration has, with solemnities having the most festiveness, followed by feasts. Liturgical precedence does not indicate festiveness but instead indicates which liturgical day to observe when the days happen to coincide. (See General Norms for the Liturgical Year no. 60.)

    Although as a general rule the more solemnity given to a particular liturgical day implies a higher precedence, there are exceptions. For instance, Ash Wednesday is not a solemnity, but it has precedence over several solemnities: solemnities of the Lord, solemnities of the Blessed Virgin Mary, solemnities of saints listed in the General Calendar, and proper solemnities. This does not mean that Ash Wednesday is a more festive day than those solemnities. (It’s a day of penance, after all.) Instead, it means that, should one of those solemnities coincide on Ash Wednesday, Ash Wednesday is observed, not the solemnity.

    The days of the Paschal Octave are explicitly designated as “solemnities of the Lord.” (see General Norms for the Liturgical Year no. 24.) By contrast, the days of the Nativity Octave are not so designated, with many of them being feasts (e.g. Saint Stephen, Saint John, Holy Family, and Holy Innocents, as listed in no. 35). Thus, Easter Friday is not a day of penance, but the Friday in the Octave of Christmas could be a day of penance, depending on when Christmas falls.

  19. The Masked Chicken says:

    But, but…Think of the chickens :( There is no such thing as an Easter chicken. Save the chickens, save the…Well, you get my point.

    The Chicken

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  20. Mother says:

    To: FrG,

  21. Woody79 says:

    Never too old to learn! Thanks to all for the information.

  22. Mike says:

    I just had a tuna on toast sandwich for lunch. Dinner is going to be a bit different!

  23. Uxixu says:

    I had been playing to stay meatless but definitely not the fasting I did LAST Friday. Tuna sandwich was on the plan but the Office is the same today as it was for the whole last week… interesting.

  24. SimonDodd says:

    Just do fish friday every week of the year and you don’t have to worry about these technicalities. Lent? Abstain. Octave of Easter? Abstain. Ordinary time? Abstain. Solemnity following the second tuesday of the month in which the feast of your parish’s patron saint was celebrated? Abstain. Isn’t it funny how reforms that are intended to simplify end up breeding complexity?

  25. Susan G says:

    SimonDodd, while it’s certainly not wrong to abstain, it’s also important to keep the liturgical day in mind. Fr G’s comment seemed to sum up what I’ve heard best :)

  26. Uxixu says:

    It’s not just a legalism, though, SimonDodd, it’s about this being a day of celebration and not actually one of penance. The octaves are not just for show but an extension of the great celebration. He is risen! Alleluia!

    I have heard from a holy FSSP priest that when he was in a monastery (prior to his joining the Fraternity) that they always eat meat on the Fridays in the Octave of Easter. For perspective, these are the monks who would cut off all oil and dressings and what not at Septuagesima, cease all meat on Ash Wednesday, be down to bread & water at Passiontide, and not be eating much of anything by the time Holy Week started.

    I sort of have my heart set on seafood for lunch but think I will eat meat at dinner tonight.

  27. RJ Sciurus says:

    Can I keep the ’90 Brunello if I only open a 375ml instead of a 750ml?

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