Abstaining from Abstinence

I was raised in a strictly Catholic environment but strange enough, I’m the only one who seriously practices abstinence in our clan (as far as I am aware of) during the Lenten season. I would at all costs avoid meat touch my mouth during Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all those six Fridays in between them. I’ve started this practice since age nine and while I’m not really a fan of seafood (and veggies, but that’s off-topic), I learned to appreciate eating canned tuna (to the point of me thinking to extend my abstinence habit to ALL FRIDAYS of the year, as it was practiced in olden times, says my Christian Living teacher). That has been 13 days of my life during those 46 (counting Holy Week up to Black Saturday) days of total gloominess before the Easter tide.

And they say that 13 is an unlucky number. Heck, an extremely corrupt President of the Philippines was ousted just on his way to his third of six years in service. But again, that’s off-topic.

This Ash Wednesday and the Friday right after it, I’ve went on with this Lenten habit. The succeeding Fridays however, things did not proceed as dictated by my habits. Three weeks ago, I was invited as a speaker in front of many students and I willingly ate meat. Last week, I downed a can of corned beef and a whole chicken with one of my best friends during a sleep over. And just yesterday, I ate another helping of meat at my niece’s house.

Compared to when I was younger, I felt no guilt at all eating meat during those Fridays. I simply love to eat. That’s no sin from God, right? Yes PETA, it’s not a sin to eat animals. That’s part of the natural balance of our ecosystem called “food chain.” Okay, off-topic again.

Come to think of it, during the two occasions I graduated from college, I happily ate meaty dinners with my family. One of them was a buffet actually. Oh, and both happened on Fridays of Lent. (Last year’s was even Viernes Dolores, if I am not mistaken.)

I’ve been very vocal with my campaign of our Church letting go of traditional Christian practices, and I think it’s time to add one to my book. Sometimes, traditions for the sake of tradition is really based on zero meaning. Now, I am not saying that the practice of abstinence is improper in this contemporary age, I actually think it’s still a wonderful sacrificial discipline. What I’m trying to air out however is that abstinence can be done in many other ways today. Not just meat.

I actually salute those who have disciplined themselves of not using Facebook and/or Twitter over these forty days of Lent. I also would like to commend those who have sacrificed their material means of happiness — be it in terms of Coke, Twister Fries, whatever. Truth be told, I haven’t been really following faithfully my sacrifice list. While I have been religious with my oath of spending only a total of PhP 500 per week, my credit card has been tortured just over two consecutive days. I may have to learn a lot.

There are LOTS of things one can abstain (and fast) from, not just meat. But that’s been a two-millennia old tradition. As we move on with the third, it’s about time to shift some gears a bit. Maybe all we just need is to let go of some stuff, and just embrace the simplicity of life as it is. And that is God’s grandest gift to us — the joy of living.

Whenever I ask my mother why she doesn’t abstain, she just responds with that teaching of Jesus. Not by what comes in one’s mouth does one become impure, but by those which come OUT from one’s mouth.

Viernes Dolores and Good Friday in the next copule of weeks. I’ll try not to eat meat but I won’t be a hypocrite in doing such. From this time on, I’ll abstain from abstinence. No more traditions for traditions’ sake, just plain action.


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