I greatly respect the spiritual goals of Lent, but I was curious about the origins of the tradition of avoiding beef.
Now, I usually am one who prefers the time-tested wisdom of the ancients to flash-in-the-pan modern experts. But I’m not sure Saint Thomas Aquinas’ explanation of this fasting tradition is the best example of that sagacity. He explains that beefy animals are more like humans, which makes them more, well — cough, cough — arousing.
In Summa Theologica, the great Aquinas writes:
“Fasting was instituted by the Church in order to bridle the concupiscences of the flesh, which regard pleasures of touch in connection with food and sex. Wherefore the Church forbade those who fast to partake of those foods which both afford most pleasure to the palate, and besides are a very great incentive to lust. Such are the flesh of animals that take their rest on the earth, and of those that breathe the air and their products, such as milk from those that walk on the earth, and eggs from birds.
For, since such like animals are more like man in body, they afford greater pleasure as food, and greater nourishment to the human body, so that from their consumption there results a greater surplus available for seminal matter, which when abundant becomes a great incentive to lust. Hence the Church has bidden those who fast to abstain especially from these foods.”
I’m very glad Aquinas didn’t weigh in on why we give up Chocolate for Lent.