“Fish on Fridays!” Why do we as Catholic promote eating fish on Fridays? Seems every parish has some sort of fish fry on Fridays during Lent, why? Well, the reasons are many, not only for the opportunity of a great social gathering and doing some form of penance by abstaining from meat on Lenten Fridays, I believe there are also other, more significant reasons for us doing this. One reason is that the symbol of a fish is actually an ancient symbol for Christianity. In fact, the symbol of the fish predates our modern symbol of a cross, which today is the predominant sign of our faith.
The first appearances of a fish symbol used in Christian art and literature began already in the 2nd century and was wide spread by the 3rd and 4th centuries. One reason for the fish predating the cross could be because of the stories of the Gospel about Jesus who multiplied the loaves and the fishes. Loaves and fish then became a sign of the Eucharist the reason why Christians gather and worship. There are many other stories in our Gospels which mention fish, including the great catch of fish in their nets by Peter and the rest of the apostles as they were called. The list goes on, yet the most important understanding of the fish symbol for Christianity, seems to me, has to do with its connection to Jesus himself!
The Greek word for fish is: “ICHTHYS.” This was understood as an acronym which read: Jesus (I) Christ (CH) God’s (TH) Son(Y) Savior (S). Put in more common terms it reads: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” These letters were often placed inside the fish symbol itself to identify our common belief in who this Jesus is. It reminds people of the two-fold nature of Christ who is both human and divine and our relationship with him. I’ve also been told that in the ancient Roman times (1-3rd cent. A.D.) when Christianity was not allowed and Christians were often persecuted and put to death, this symbol was used as a secret code so they could identify one another and so feel safe to speak about what they believe.
This said, chances are there are many other reasons the symbol of a fish and eating fish is associated with our Faith as Catholics and as Christians. Fish, after all was also the food of common people who are poor and who could not afford more expensive food like meat for themselves. Jesus often reached out to the poor and outcast of our society, still another reason we eat fish.
So, the next time you attend one of those delicious fish fries on Fridays during Lent, do so not just for the food and social gathering, but also pray, meditate and expand your understanding of how in eating and sharing this meal, we are also witnessing out our great faith in Christ!
One final note: I want to thank all those who participated in the baked fish dinner that was hosted at the Church of St. Paul on March 6th and the fish fry held at St. Joseph, Waite Park this past Friday, March 13th. Special thanks to all those who helped put these together and those who came to support these wonderful events. There is still time for you to attend our last Fish Fry within our ACC held at St. Joseph, WP on Friday, March 27th serving from 4:30 – 8:00 pm. See you there as we not only abstain from meat of Lenten Fridays, but also in a mysterious way give witness to our faith in Christ who always gathered God’s Holy People around a table for a meal! Peace,