Saturday, 9 April 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 40.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

Christ in the Wilderness - Ivan Kramskoy

Q. Which is the second precept of the church?

A. Fasting.

Q. What is fasting, and how many sorts of fasting are there ?

A. Fasting is abstaining from nourishment. But there are several ways of fasting, viz.: Fasting from sin, which is the end of all fasting. Natural fasting, which is abstaining from all meat and drink, which the church requires from those who go to communion. Ecclesiastical fasting, which is abstaining from all flesh-meats, and eating but one meal in the four and twenty hours, on such days as the church commands.

Q. Is there any precept of the law of nature or divine law for fasting ?

A. The law of nature obliges all persons to abstain from all such nourishments, that are prejudicial to the body or soul, by committing excess. There was a precept of fasting when the fruit was forbidden to our first parents; Gen. ii. 17. God gave several precepts of fasting in the law of Moses; both as to distinction of meats, and the time when they were to abstain. The gospel advises fasting, and commands it in general; but the distinction of meats, time, and manner, are only a precept of the church ; 2 Par. xx. Joel, i. 2. Jona. iii. Luke ii. 37. Matt. xvii. 20. MatC vi. 17.

Q. Does not the apostle St. Paul say, that the distinction of meats is the doctrine of devils?

A. Yes, and so do we call it a doctrine of devils, in the sense of the Manichees, and other heretics, who taught that certain meats were created by the devil, and consequently bad in themselves. But the meats we abstain from, we know to be from God, and good in themselves; (See Tilemot. Tom. ii. p. 231. et 28a) we eat them with thanksgiving the day before, and the day after the fast; we take them to be the most substantial and nourishing food; for which reason we abstain from them in order to subdue the lust of the flesh, or do penance for our sins: and neither this great apostle, nor any one that understands and follows him, ever said, that this laudable and pious distinction is the doctrine of devils; it being manifest that every one can, for the good of his soul or body, lawfully abstain from what meat he pleases; nay, the same apostle says, "wherefore, if meat scandalize my brother, I will never eat flesh, lest I should scandalize my brother." i Cor. vii. 13. Besides, if all distinction of meats were unlawful, the great St. John Baptist had been guilty of the doctrine of devils; for he drank neither wine nor strong drink; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Matt. Hi. 4. Matt. xi. 18. The prophet Daniel had been guilty, for he says of himself, " flesh and wine entered not into my mouth for three weeks." Dan. x. 3.

Q. But does not our Saviour Christ himself say, that what enters into the mouth does not defile a man ?

A. Yes, these indeed are his words, but do not belong to this point; for no one surely will urge this text, which may seem to be against fasting in general, except libertines and impious persons, who give full scope to their evil inclinations, and would fain discredit all restraining and mortification of the flesh; who impose upon ignorant and weak people, and manifestly profane the word of God, in pretending to prove that Christ declared fasting to be an idle and useless action. When even our Saviour commends St. John Baptist's rigorous abstinence and other austerities; and fasted himself forty days and forty nights for our instruction; Matt. xi. Matt. iv. 2, when also he tells us that certain devils, "cannot be overcome but by prayer and fasting;" Mark ix. 28. And that the children or companions of the bridegroom, that is, his own disciples or followers, should fast when he was gone from them; Luke v. 35, which they undoubtedly did: witness what St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, says of himself, and the preachers of the gospel, 2 Cor. vi. 5. In a word, the body of the Scripture, the practice of the servants of God, nay, even the liturgy, or common prayer-book of the modern church of England, will rise in judgment against these loose livers, "whose God is their belly, and whose end is perdition," Phil. iii. 19. To explain now the meaning of our Saviour's words, it must be observed that the Scribes and Pharisees, were very careful to wash their hands, their dishes, and cups, before they eat or drank, lest they should be defiled; although they were inwardly full of uncleanness and iniquity: they saw our Saviour's disciples eat bread without washing their hands, and therefore they boldly reproached him for it, upon which he answered them, saying: u what enters into the mouth does not defile a man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, and comes from the heart, defiles a man; for from the heart proceeds evil thoughts," etc. Mat. xv. n. Now it is plain, that our Saviour says nothing here against fasting ; for even after Christ had spoken the aforesaid words, eating of hog's-flesh would have defiled the souls of the apostles, and of the whole Jewish nation ; the primitive Christians would have been defiled by eating blood or strangled meat, which was forbid; and though all meats are clean in themselves, yet to eat meat that is forbidden, doth defile the soul, as the apple defiled Adam's, and as taking of drink to excess defiles the drunkard; not that it was the forbidden fruit, but the sin of disobedience that defiled Adam, nor is it the wine or strong liquor, but intemperance or drunkenness that defiles the drunkard.

Q. Now, although I clearly see, that it is both lawful and laudable to fast, yet I do not well see that the church can command us to fast.

A. The Jewish church often ordained fasts. The people of Nineveh ordered an universal fast. The church of England do sometimes proclaim and order a general fast; it is therefore manifest that the Catholic church, can more warrantably oblige us to fast, after the example of the apostles, who commanded the primitive Christians to abstain from blood and strangled meat, i Esdr. viii. 21. 2 Chron. xxii. 2. Jer. xxxvi. 9. Jona. iii. 5. Acts xv. 20.

Q. Why is fasting commanded by the church, and what are the benefits ?

A. There are several inducements for fasting, i viz.: First, out of obedience to God and his church. Secondly, as is a part of religion, hence it is recommended in the Scriptures as a token of humiliation, a bridle to the concupiscence of the flesh, a part of prayer, a means to obtain grace, and the remission of sins, appeasing God's anger, casting out the devil, and in satisfaction for sin.

Q. Is it not a Jewish ceremony, and only a mere outward performance?

A. So it is made by some who fast only out of policy and interest, viz.: (See an Act of Parliament of the 5th of Q. Eliz. Chap. v.) To increase the breed of cattle, to promote the fishing trade, in order to establish a nursery of sailors, and for the manning of the fleet. But it was always practiced in the old law; and since Christianity was established, as a religious duty, and had the same effect as prayer, alms, and other outward practices, when accompanied with due dispositions, as intention, attention, and good motives: for certainly fasting in order to chastise the flesh, and keep it in subjection to the spirit, and promote virtue, is as much a religious performance as prayer, and alms, though when proper dispositions are wanting, both prayer, alms, and all other outward practices are vain, and hypocritical; hence there are three sorts of fasting, viz.: Politic, hypocritical, and religious.

Q. In what manner is fasting commanded by the church ?

A. By abstaining from certain meats upon certain days.

Q. What sorts of meats are forbidden on days of fasting?

A. Chiefly flesh, and sometimes eggs, and white-meats, as milk, butter, cheese, etc.

Q. Are not all meats good, and where is there any example, or precept in the Scriptures, to make a distinction of meats ?

A. All meats are good in themselves, but bad when they are abused, viz.: When they are used with excess, the law of nature forbids them, and when they are made use of, contrary to the law of God or his church (which we ought to obey) they are bad, because they are forbidden. Was not the forbidden fruit good in itself, were not unclean beasts good of themselves, were not blood and strangled meats good though forbidden by the apostles ? Hence we have both examples and precepts for distinction of meats. Acts xv. 20.

Q. On which days is fasting chiefly commanded ?

A. The forty days of Lent: the vigils or eves of several particular feasts. The ember-days, and Fridays by the custom of England; with abstinence from flesh on the rogation days, and Saturdays: and other times according to the custom of nations or laws of the universal church.

Q. By whom was Lent instituted, and why do you fast those forty days ?

A. The fast of Lent is supposed to be of apostolical institution ; according to St. Augustine, Tertullian, St. Jerom, and other ancient fathers of the church.* But be this as it will, it is certainly of a very ancient date; for it appears from the fifth canon of the first general council of Nice, that in the fourth century the Lenten fast was well established both in the East and West. We fast the forty days of Lent, that we may in some sort imitate the forty days' fast of our Saviour Christ, and that all may do penance, and obtain pardon of God for their sins: that all may be duly disposed for a worthy celebrating Christ's passion, and receiving the blessed sacrament at Easter; and that thereby we may partake of the merits of Christ's sufferings; and that we may rise from sin, and live united to Christ by his holy grace, obtained by the worthy fruits of penance.

* See St. Aug. Epis. xxxvi. alias lxxxvi. ad Casu. Chap. xL N. xxv. Tert. L. de jeju. paulo post initi. St. Jer. Eps. liv. ad Marceltas.

Q. Why do you fast on vigils ?

A. That mortifying our appetites, and doing penance thereon for our sins, we may better prepare ourselves for a devout celebrating the feasts that follow, and recommend to God, by fasting and prayer, the present necessities of the faithful.

Q. Why are ember-days made fasts, and why so called?

A. They are so called from embers, or ashes, used formerly on days of public penance, to humble and put us in mind, that dust we are, and into dust we must return. There are three of them, at the four seasons of the year viz.: Spring, summer, autumn and winter, being the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, of the first week in Lent, of Whitsun week, of the third week in September, and of the third week in Advent. They are commanded to be kept in prayer and fasting, according to the example of the apostles. Acts xiii. 2, 3. First, in order to prevail with Almighty God to provide the flock of Christ with able and virtuous pastors, and to beseech him, that he would permit none (who are ordained at those times) to enter into the sacred order of priesthood, but such as are called by him to the ministry of his church. Secondly, to thank and beseech God for the received and expected fruits of the earth, to satisfy him for the abuses of his gifts, and to do penance for the sins committed within these seasons.

Q. Why on Fridays in England ?

A. In memory that Christ suffered for us on a Friday: and to move us to do penance for our sins, which was the cause of his sufferings : and this custom, agreeably to our ancient canons, has the force of a law.

Q. Why do you abstain from flesh on the rogation days; which be they, and why so called ?

A. The rogation days, are the three days immediately following the fifth Sunday after Easter; and they are so called from the Latin word rogo which signifies to ask or request. These days are solemnized throughout the whole church with. abstinence from flesh, and public prayers for the fruits of the earth, on which also, in Catholic countries, a procession is made, that the whole church, both laity and clergy, may be represented as present to acknowledged God's goodness, and providence over us, and to pray for the continuance thereof.

Q. Why do you abstain from flesh on Saturdays ?

A. To prepare ourselves for a devout keeping of the Sunday.

Q. Why is the Litany read, procession, and abstinence made on St. Mark's day ?

A. To supplicate and beseech God to preserve us from all pestilential distempers.

Q. In what manner is fasting performed on the aforesaid days ?

A. Sometimes by only eating one meal a day, and abstaining from flesh. Other times by abstaining only from flesh, but with liberty of eating more meals than one; and these are called days of abstinence.

Q. Is it allowed to take a collation at night ? When is the one meal to be eaten ? Is it allowed to drink any time of the day ?

A. A moderate collation, viz: A crust of bread, or the like, at night, is allowed, by a general custom of the church. The meal is to be eaten about noon, and not sooner, unless in case of a journey, or some other good reason. As for drinking, it is the more common opinion, that it is no breach of the fast to take a little drink when very dry or thirsty, or for some other real necessity; yet it is not supposed that it is allowed to sit tippling, for the sake of company, or through a love or desire of drink, and the reason is, because strong drink excites and inflames the inordinate desires of the flesh, as much or more than meat; besides, as I have already said, fasting was instituted by the church, in order to subdue our disorderly passions, to do penance, and make satisfaction for our sins.

Q. How is the obligation to be understood of eating but one meal ?

A. It is to be understood so, that after once eating or breaking the fast, it is a new sin as often as a person eats.

Q. In what cases are persons excused in eating flesh, and more meals than one on fasting days?

A. The cases are reduced to these three, in general, viz.: Incapacity, necessity, and labor.

Q. What sort of incapacity does excuse, and what necessity ?

A. As to one meal a day, young people, till they arrive at the age of one and twenty, are excused; though, as they advance in years, they are advised to accustom themselves to the usage of the church more or less. Also old persons, who are very weak or feeble, are excused : but it is to be observed, that no persons, how old soever, are exempt, unless a considerable weakness does accompany their age; for, by all that I can find, the notion of people being exempt from fasting when arrived at the age of sixty-three, is groundless; as may be seen in a book entitled a Treatise of Tasting, by R. P. Thomas, Cong. Orat. Part the i st, Cap. xvii. (Et ex St Basil. Horn. ii. de jeju.) Also infirm persons, breeding women, and those who give suck, are excused ; as likewise common beggars, and such as are not in a capacity to make one full meal, by reason of their poverty.

Q. What sort of labor will excuse to eat more than one meal ?

A. When the labor is hard, and impairs their strength, for instance, laboring men and tradesmen, as smiths, carpenters, and all such as are forced to gain their living by the sweat of their bodies; as also all such as are upon tedious and necessary journeys.

Q. Are persons in the aforesaid cases permitted to eat flesh ?

A. No, they are not, unless their case requires it, and then they are in all cases to observe the rules of the church, in order to obtain a dispensation.

Q. What are the methods, in order to obtain a dispensation ?

A. They are to advise with, and have the consent both of their physician and spiritual director, and observe their orders, both as to the substance and manner.

Q. What if the case be evident or doubtful, and access cannot be had either to the physician or director ?

A. If the case is evident, and access cannot be had to the persons aforesaid, in that case a person is to follow his own conscience, with the advice of some knowing religious person. If doubtful, he must wait till he can consult his physician or director, and not incline to favor himself.

Q. Is a person dispensed with at liberty to eat flesh, etc., as often as he pleases ?

A. No; that is to be specified in particular.

Q. Who are to grant dispensations?

A. The pope, for the whole church; bishops, for their diocese ; and pastors, to particular persons under their charge.