Moving toward the Great Fast: Meat-fare Sunday
As the daylight increases we move closer to Holy Pascha. There is a cosmic connection here. But before we meet the Risen Lord in the Mysteries of Pascha we have a period of more intense prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The three go together otherwise it the Christian practice is bizarre. As one person said, fasting without prayer is a diet.
What is meat-fare Sunday? It is the day we say “good bye to meat” for Lent. The Church teaches us that “In the fasting practice common to all Byzantine Churches Meatfare Sunday is the last day on which meat would be eaten until Pascha. This is the first step towards the fuller discipline of the Great Fast when dairy products would not be eaten as well. This is why next Sunday is called Cheese-fare Sunday (good-bye to dairy products).” We do this fast together; we help each other do what we can to refrain from meat not because of some vapid moralism but to open our body, mind and soul to God’s grace. Fasting, and therefore meat-fare Sunday is fitting because it “warns us against a false subjectivism or individualism in the coming Fast.”
The great bishop of Constantinople, St John Chrysostom tells us:
The value of fasting consists not only of avoiding certain foods, but in giving up sinful practices. The one who limits his fast only to abstaining meat mocks it! … For a true fast, you cannot fast only with your mouth. You must fast with your eyes, your ears, your feet, your hands, and all parts of your body… For what good is it if you don’t eat meat or poultry, and yet you bite and devour the flesh of your neighbor?
The gospel reflection and the Resurrectional troparion for this Sunday of Meat-fare is here.