The rules of Lent are easy to remember: pray, fast, and give alms. Their interpretation, however, varies among Christian denominations. As an example: “Can I eat meat during Lent?” is a commonly asked question. The answer will vary depending on your denomination.
Catholics, for example, don’t eat meat on Fridays from Ash Wednesday to Easter — unless, of course, you’re talking about this year.
That’s right. There’s a Lenten loophole this year, and it means that the requirement to abstain from meat is suspended today.
March 25 is a special day in the Catholic Church.
According to the Church, Catholics are free to enjoy a cheeseburger or a juicy steak today — guilt-free.
Why? Because March 25 is what’s known as a solemnity. A solemnity is a special feast day of the highest importance.
Among the best-known solemnities are Easter, Pentecost, All Saints’ Day, and Christmas. Another is the Solemnity of the Annunciation, which is always on March 25. This year, it’s also on a Lenten Friday.
The rules of Lent are different this year.
The unique combination of a solemnity and a Lenten Friday caused some confusion among clergy and parishioners. Is meat allowed on this particular Friday? The answer was unclear. Typically, breaking a codified religious law requires a special dispensation from a Bishop.
However, according to Canon Law, the Solemnity of the Annunciation makes the requirement to avoid meat mute. “Abstinence from meat,” it states, “is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday.”
What is the Solemnity of the Annunciation?
Today’s solemnity celebrates the angel Gabriel telling Mary that she would conceive and give birth to Jesus. The Diocese defines it as the liturgical celebration of the incarnation.
This year, it also coincides with another historic religious event — the consecration of Pope Francis.
This Lenten Friday is an exception.
It’s rare that a Lenten Friday and a solemnity share the same day. If you’re Catholic, it’s important to note that abstaining from meat on Fridays throughout Lent resumes tomorrow.
Whatever your faith, you’re allowed to enjoy a cheeseburger today — but only if you want to.