Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/97

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

that it was instituted to imitate the Apostles and Disciples of Christ, who, together with the Holy Women, mourned the death of Christ even on the seventh day; while others claim that it owes its origin to the conduct of St. Peter, who passed Saturday in prayer, abstinence, and fasting, to prepare to meet Simon Magus on the following day (Acts, viii, 18 sq.; cf. Migne, P. L. XLIX, coll. 147, 148). Though the Roman Pontiffs have constantly refused to abrogate the law of abstaining on Saturday, special indults dispensing with the obligation have been granted to the faithful in many parts of the world.

(3) Lent.—In point of duration, as well as in point of penitential practices, Lent has been the subject of many vicissitudes. In the days of St. Irenæus (177–202) the season of penance preceding Easter was of rather short duration. Some fasted and therefore abstained from flesh meat etc. for one day, others for two days, and others again for a greater number of days. No distinct traces of the quadragesimal observance are discernible until the fourth century. The decrees of the Council of Nicæa in 325 (can. v, ap. Hefele, op. cit., I, 387) contain the earliest mention of Lent. Thenceforward ecclesiastical history contains numerous allusions to those forty days. Nevertheless, the earliest references to the quadragesimal season indicate that it was then usually considered a time of preparation for baptism, or for the absolution of penitents, or a season of retreat and recollection for people living in the world. True, fasting and abstinence formed part of the duties characterizing this season, but there was little or no uniformity in the manner of observance. On the contrary, different countries adopted a different regime. At Rome it was customary to spend but three weeks, immediately before Easter, in abstinence, fasting, and praying (Socrates, H. E., V, 22). Many attempts were made to include Holy Week in Quadragesima. The attempt succeeded at Rome, so that thenceforward the Lenten season consisted of six weeks. During these six weeks Sundays were the only days not reached by the law of fasting, but the obligation to abstain was not withdrawn from Sundays. As a consequence, the Lenten season numbered no more than thirty-six days. Hence St. Ambrose (Serm. xxxiv, de Quadrag.) notes that the beginning of Lent and the first Sunday of Lent were simultaneous prior to the reign of Gregory I. In the seventh century four days were added. Some claim that this change was the work of Gregory I; others ascribe it to Gregory II (Layman, loc. cit.). Duchesne (op. cit., 244) says that it is impossible to tell who added four days to the thirty-six previously comprised in the Lenten season. It is likely, at all events, that the change was made so as to have forty days in which to commemorate Christ's forty days in the desert. Be this as it may, the Church has never deviated from the ordinance of the seventh century whereby the Lenten season comprises forty days over and above Sundays.

(4) Ember Days.—The beginning of the four seasons of the year is marked by Ember Week, during which Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are days of fasting and abstinence. Ember Week occurs after the first Sunday of Lent, after Pentecost, after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and after the third Sunday in Advent. According to some writers the Ember Days in December were introduced by the Apostles as a preparation for the ordinations which occurred during that month (Layman, loc. cit.). The scriptural basis for this practice is to be found in Acts, xiii, 2 sq. The summer Ember Days were observed during the octave of Pentecost (St. Leo I, Sermo ii, de Pentecost.), and the autumn Ember Days in September (Idem, Sermo viii, De jejunio septimi mensis). In the False Decretals (c. 840–50) Pope Callistus (217–22) is made to add a fourth week. We decree, he says, that the fast which you have learned to keep three times yearly, shall henceforward be made four times a year (Epist., Decr. lxxvi, cap., i; Migne, P. G., X, 121). St. Jerome, in his commentary on the eighth chapter of Zachary, believes that the Ember Days were instituted after the example of the Jews, who fasted and abstained four times during the year, as noted in the preceding paragraph. St. Leo I (Sermo vii, De jej. sept. mensis) considers that the purpose of penance during Ember Week is to urge the faithful to special efforts in the cause of continency. The two views are entirely compatible.

(5) Advent.—Radulphus de Rivo (Kalendarium eccles. seu de observations canonum, Prop. xvi) and Innocent III (De observ. jej., cap. ii) testify that the Roman Church appointed a period of fasting and abstinence as a preparation for the solemnization of Christmas. Traces of this custom are still to be found in the Roman Breviary indicating the recitation of ferial prayers during Advent just as on days of fasting and abstinence. Radulphus de Rivo (loc. cit.) remarks that the Roman Church appointed the first Sunday after St. Catharine's feast as the beginning of Advent.

(6) Vigils.—In former times the clergy assembled in church, on the eves of great festivals, and chanted the divine office. In like manner the laity also repaired to their churches and passed the time in watching and praying. Hence the term vigil. Innocent III (op. cit., i) mentions the vigils of Christmas, the Assumption, and the Apostles (28 June). It is likely that the obligation of abstaining on the vigils of Pentecost, St. John Baptist, St. Lawrence, and All Saints was introduced by custom (cf. Azor., op. cit., VII, xiii), for, according to Duchesne (op. cit., 287), the element of antiquity is not the fasting, but the vigil. Formerly, the obligation of abstaining on vigils was anticipated as often as a vigil fell on Sunday. This practice is still in vogue.

(7) Rogation Days.—These days occur on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday preceding the Ascension. Mamertus, Bishop of Vienne, introduced (some time before 474) the custom of reciting the Litanies on these days. He also prescribed fasting and abstinence thereon. This practice was extended to the whole of Frankish Gaul in 511 by the first Council of Orléans (can. xxvii). About the beginning of the ninth century Leo III introduced the Rogation Days into Rome (Duchesne op. cit., 289). An almost similar observance characterizes the feast of St. Mark, and dates from about the year 589 (Duchesne, op. cit., 288).

Application of the Law in the United States.—Diversity in customs, in climate, and in prices of food have gradually paved the way for modifications of the law of abstinence. Throughout the United States the ordinary Saturday is no longer a day of abstinence. During Lent, in virtue of an indult, the faithful are allowed to eat meat at their principal meal on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, the second and last Saturdays excepted. The use of meat on such days is not restricted to the principal meal for such as are exempt from fasting by reason of ill health, age, or laborious occupations. Eggs, milk, butter, and cheese, formerly prohibited, are now permitted without restriction as far as the day of the week is concerned The use of lard or dripping in preparing fish and vegetables at all meals and on all days is allowed by an indult issued 3 August, 1887. It is never lawful to take fish with flesh, at the same meal, during Lent, Sundays included (Benedict XIV, Litt. ad Archiep. Compostel., 10 June, 1745, ap. Bucceroni, Enchiridion Morale, 147). At other times this is not prohibited (Bucceroni, ib.). On Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as on the second and last Saturdays of Lent,