Later today (good Lord willing) I'm planning a biggish post about the pope's foot-washing thing; I wasn't going to write about it, as so many people have already done a great job on this, but I have a few insights to offer and will do so in case anybody's still worried about this one.
In the meantime, I'd rather discuss a pretty interesting rumor that's going around that Pope Francis is working hard to continue Pope Benedict XVI's work of reuniting the Eastern and Western Church, and that one big change is coming for Lent next year for us Roman Catholics.
I know, I know. It's the day after Easter. You still have Peeps(tm)-related carnage in your candy basket. You don't want to think about fasting. But if this thing gets confirmed in a few days, we may all have to think about it long before next year rolls around.
There's a big divide between Eastern and Western approaches to fasting. We in the West fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (though other Lenten days of fasting are highly recommended), and our fast is all about limiting the amount of food. In the East--well, here's an Orthodox website explaining things:
In answer to numerous requests from readers, the rule of fasting is given for each day of the year. Where no indication of fast is given, and during "fast-free weeks," all foods may be eaten (except during Cheese-fare Week, when meat alone is forbidden every day). Where "fast day" is indicated alone, the fast is a strict one, with no meat, eggs, dairy products, fish, wine or oil to be eaten. Where, underneath "fast day," is indicated "wine and oil allowed," the fast is relaxed for the sake of a feast day or vigil, to allow eating of these foods. Where "fish, wine and oil allowed" is indicated, then all three of these foods may be eaten.[...]
While most Orthodox Christians are perhaps aware of the general rule of fasting for Great Lent and the Dormition Fast (wine and oil allowed only on Saturdays and Sundays, except for a few feast days and vigils), many are probably not familiar with the precise rule governing the less severe fast of the Nativity and Apostles' Fast. Therefore, we shall quote this rule, from Chapter 33 of the Typicon:
"It should be noted that in the Fast of the Holy Apostles and of the Nativity of Christ, on Tuesday and Thursday we do not eat fish, but only oil and wine. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we eat neither oil nor wine... On Saturday and Sunday we eat fish. If there occurs on Tuesday or Thursday a saint who has a Doxology, we eat fish; if on Monday, the same; but if on Wednesday or Friday, we allow only oil and wine. If it be a saint who has a Vigil on Wednesday or Friday, or the saint whose temple it is, we allow oil and wine and fish... But from the 20th of December until the 25th, even if it be Saturday or Sunday, we do not allow fish."
A bit complicated, yes? But you'll notice there's nothing about "one full meal--two smaller meals..." etc.
So, what's going to happen? Rumor has it that the pope will point out that fish is now a luxury food in many parts of the world, that it's important to unify Christian practice on fasting, and that the first step in doing so will be to require Catholics to adopt a mostly-vegan diet during next year's Lent. This will also fit in with recent popes' concerns about the environment, given that heavy meat-eating and non-sustainable fishing practices are damaging the planet...
...and if you've believed any of this up to now....
Happy April Fool's Day!!! ;)
NOTE: Yes, this whole post is a joke. I am not responsible if anybody reads the first few lines and then sends it out in outrage over alleged Vatican veganism.