Friday, 25 March 2016 19:13

Rite of Redemption: Good Friday and Restriction Of Eating Meat

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Celebrating Good Friday by Christians Celebrating Good Friday by Christians

The tradition of Easter ritual celebration is well known among Christians around the world. Good Friday and the rite to "Eat No Meat" or replace with fish is equally known but does not avoid being often questioned. Why do Christians, in particular Africa, stand to be restrained through reminders from eating meat on a special day called Good Friday?  

I submit this reflection as you will read below as a part of the ongoing conversation on the dogmatic vision on blood, meat and restriction in the Christian domain of food life. This comes down on a day we are in for today. Be it known that today incidentally is a Friday! But a distinguished Friday. A Good Friday it is called. A Holy Friday Saintly scented with Blood. The blood of Jesus Christ, the son of a Supernatural Force, God.

Good Friday in the Christian world refers to that Friday in history when Jesus Christ was killed by the Jews and his blood became redemptive and cleansed off human transgressions for the sake of God.

Indeed, only good God could send his good son to the sinful world to die so as to rescue and keep the world safe from iniquity, abuse and destruction. Who else other than God could have used Friday as a day of Sacrifice to change the world from bad to good?

The colonial missionaries came to Africa and elsewhere to deliver the faith and believe in the only one undying God. They preached God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit as life-builders and hope-makers. Moreover, they guranteed that in God all lives come and end. They prided and mouthed God as the Ebenezer and source of everlasting happiness.

To engage God and Christ his son with evangelism of the visited people needing redemption from conflicts, bad leaders, suffering, poverty and diseases, the missionaries took seriously the path to turn unbelievers to see the gospel of life and death of Jesus at Easter as a major event.

Good Friday is symbolic and real. It is symbolic because God surprised the world with a gift of life. Said whoever believes in him, the gift of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, will have everlasting hope and life. John's Gospel captured this.

Good Friday is real because Jesus Christ lived, preached the Gospel and in the end it led him to the forces of opposition - therefore Jewish leaders of his time - who suffered and crucified him to death. Under Pontus Pilate, the King of the Jews, Christ was handed over to his molesters and killers that finally nailed him to the Cross.

Christ was pierced with nails in his hands and feet onto the wooden cross. He was also crudly punctured with an arrow by his side to ensure he was empty upon death.

What happened was that Friday absorbed all of the painful noises on the streets dragging Christ to the hills of death and finally to descending him to the grave rolled over with heavy rocks to prevent entry and exit to the gate of hell.

Recounting the narratives of the scripture will be incomplete without this day Holy Friday when Jesus was crucified and interned.

One clear significance of Good Friday is it is a memorable day of blood. A red day of the week. Blood of sanctions against sin. Our sanctification, cleansing and rescue came through the shedding of blood, the highest sacrifice ever to restore humanity to God.

In order to remember this Good Friday, Catholic Christians keep Holy this Friday and made it a public rest day to pray and feel the power of attorney of spiritual deliverance.

Symbolically too, Good Friday is marked with abstaining from sin, heavy eating and partying. It is a sorrowful day. A bereavement moment in history of how an innocent Christ was humiliated and murdered just like that. He was even sold for a few silver coins by one of his own apostles - Judas.

Good Friday is remembered for the power of blood. Blood is life. Blood of Christ is explained to represent the kinship and community of Christians.

The colonial missionary educational authorities imposed a rite of remembrance of Good Friday through abstaining from eating and drinking with any food and meat containing blood. That is, in African churches, Christian Catholics are encouraged to avoid eating all forms of meat on a Good Friday.

Red meat is symbolized as the body of Christ shed on the cross with blood. But this is not a universal rite of passage. For instance, in some countries outside of Africa, it is ecumenical that if one cannot endure meat, the one could choose any other favourite food or snack item to avoid such as chocolate, in Belgium. The theology is to observe a sacrifice to imitate the humility and suffering of Christ who redeemed us.

But why is it only in Africa meat is not replaced with anything else? If one had made a mistake of eating meat on a Good Friday, the one needed to feel sorry for it, confess it and do penance.

One recalls that children who mistakingly ate related meat-meals cried their eyes out with the fear that they will miss going to heaven to play and enjoy God, the greatest Father.

Let us deeply on this day of Good Friday resonate with the significance of blood and life, Christ and death, resurrection and celebration of our redemption. God is good for his redemption and amazing grace.

Happy Easter!

Orji Uzor Kalu's photo.
Orji Uzor Kalu

GOOD FRIDAY is not just another Friday, it reminds us of the price Jesus Christ paid for our redemption.

As Christians all over the world celebrate today, I urge all to remain steadfast and committed in faith believing that with God, all things are possible.

Happy Celebrations. 

Cajetan Ebuziem
Cajetan Ebuziem Dr. Pat my Brother:
Thank you for giving us a food for thought this Good Friday! I want to contribute two points:
1. The theology of what happened on the first Good Friday when Christ was actually crucified on the Cross had been well explained by the Christian Medieval theologians and their views are regarded as traditional. Prominent among them was Anselm of Canterbury’s (1033-1109) view of atonement as satisfaction won through vicarious suffering in his famous book Cur Deus Homo? [Why God Became Man?] (c. 1094). Every other writing on this subject is either a commentary or re-appropriation to our present context. For instance, in the modern period, Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988), the Swiss erstwhile Jesuit theologian endorsed Anselm’s view through a Biblical route: “For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). It was God who acts on the cross because of our sin. We should look beyond Christ on the cross to our sin that the Son identifies himself with (Christ was obedient unto death, accepting death, death on the cross, see Phil. 2:6-8; Heb. 5:8-9).

However, Balthasar’s German contemporary, the Jesuit Karl Rahner (1903-1984) differed slightly by rejecting Anselm’s view of atonement and vicarious suffering of Christ. Rahner begins with presuppositions or assumptions of traditional theology that the human condition is unwholesome and pitiable, and that crucifixion is the cause of human salvation. However, Rahner argues that redemption through crucifixion is neither a quid pro quo nor legalistic. The best way is to see redemption as the saving will of God active every time and at all place, which took concrete historical form in the crucifixion. “What happened on the cross proceeded from God’s forgiving will as its effect, and did not determine that will.” Thus redemption is not a punishment of Jesus on our behalf but rather God’s show of goodwill and love throughout history to save humankind. In other words, “in Rahner’s scheme ‘man does not owe his redemption actually to Christ, but to the eternal saving will of God, which is made manifest to him in the life of Christ.’”

The difference between Balthasar and Rahner is a difference of point of departure: Balthasar’s Christology is from above (descending) and centers on the cross while emphasizing the divinity of Christ. Whereas Rahner’s is from below (ascending) and centers on redemption and focuses on the humanity of Christ. But for us the effect is the same. Christ was crucified on the cross, he bled, died and resurrected – all these gave us new life and we recognize with compassion and gratitude towards him. 

2. The replacement theology concerning “meat” has always been there, and that is “fish.” We are encouraged to eat fish in place of meat if necessary. But there is still exception for those who must eat meat as a medical remedy. The Belgians may like their chocolate but we replace with our “fish” which is multivalent provided it is not bloody in respect for Christ’s saving act.
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Patrick Iroegbu
Patrick Iroegbu @Fr. Dr. Cajetan Ebuziem,
Thank you so much for this insight. Your contribution should be read widely. 

I truly enjoyed the critical reflection and historical academic touch it brought to bear on the topic. I think the matter of fish on the second point you noted is contested as having blood as a living creature. Dry or fresh it is assumed that fish like meat is a bleeding food item. 

All said, it is reassuring that anyone can deny oneself some pleasure on a Good Friday to say "Thank You Jesus" for not only standing up for us but also laying down his life to secure our amazing grace of redemption.
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Cajetan Ebuziem
Cajetan Ebuziem Yes, I could not agree with you more Dr. Iroegbu regarding fish as an alternative. But that is where we are so far, at least in Africa. Since this matter belongs to alternative codes or particular norms left to National or Regional Episcopal Conferences to resolve locally, I think it requires progressive minds like Pope Francis in Africa to prescribe realistic alternative within our culture and context. But it seems our red cap Ecclesiastics in our continent think only conservatively and within the box. For instance, look at what happened yesterday that women and youths had their feet washed, thanks to the centrist pope. Let me borrow from the Protestant position, the church is always in need of reforms.
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Patrick Iroegbu
Patrick Iroegbu Wow! I guess someone should expand on this point and suggest to the powers that be to rethink the orthodoxy and dogmatic culture of Good Friday meals and restrictions.
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Patrick Iroegbu Ph.D

Patrick Iroegbu is a Social and Cultural (Medical) Anthropologist and lectures Anthropology in Canada. He is the author of Marrying Wealth, Marrying Poverty: Gender and Bridewealth Power in a Changing African Society: The Igbo of Nigeria (2007). He equally co-ordinates the Kpim Book Series Project of Father-Prof. Pantaleon Foundation based at Owerri, Nigeria. Research interests include gender and development, migration, race and ethnic relation issues, as well as Igbo Medicine, Social Mental Health and Cultural Studies.