Monday, October 13, 2014

Syncretism and other nonsense.

We have a very interesting non-Catholic who has been commenting on Catholic Debate Forum accusing the Church of pagan roots. 

First, he said that the Church got its practice of eating fish on Friday from pagans who ate fish on Friday in honor of Freya.  Freya was a Scandinavian goddess that was never an influence on Christianity or its customs.  Beside the fact that the Scandinavian peoples ate fish on a regular basis, not just on Friday.  He also mentioned a couple of other gods who were supposedly honored by fish consumption.  Even if that were true, what has that to do with the Christian practice of eating fish on Fridays?  Nothing whatsoever.

The practice of the Catholic Church is to not eat meat on Fridays.  The Church observed this custom from early in its existence (its founding by Christ in the first century).  It is a custom in consideration of the poor.  The poor could rarely afford to eat meat.  European poor often ate bread, porridge, and vegetables on a regular basis.  If they were fortunate, they lived near rivers, the Mediterranean or other seas in which obtaining fish only cost time and ingenuity.

Fish became a customary alternative to meat not only because the poor usually ate fish, when they could afford it (usually much more often than they could afford meat), but fish was not considered to be meat.  Fish are cold blooded and that in itself made people think that their flesh was not the same as meat.

Another point about eating fish is that Jesus called His followers to be "fishers of men." Jesus chose Peter and Andrew, James and John to be apostles.  Both sets of brothers were fishermen by trade.  Thus, His call to be "fishers of men" was not lost on them.

And, the early church used the fish rather than the cross as a secret code that they were Christians.  The illustration above shows how the word fish in Greek can, ironically, be used as an acronym for Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior.  The early Christians saw this as an affirmation of their faith in Christ.

Colors of Mardi Gras
This silly person then tried again to link Catholicism with paganism by saying that "carnival/Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday" was another syncretism (which he erroneously considers the custom of eating fish on Friday to be) to make it "easier to join the Church."  It is quite obvious to anyone who actually knows anything about history that Mardi Gras comes from the Church's practice to rid their houses of any luxury food items such as meat, fats, sugar, eggs, milk, etc. the day before (thus fat Tuesday which is what mardi gras means in French, by the way) Ash Wednesday.  Thus, it was called Mardi Gras in French or Fat Tuesday in English, because they would consume all these items on that day.  It was the practice of many parts of the Church until modern times to not eat these items, including meat, for the entire 40 days of Lent.  They would then have a grand celebration on Easter Sunday with any of the items they could afford from which they had abstained during Lent.

Carnival actually comes from the Latin carne vale which is roughly translated "farewell to flesh" also has its roots in the Church celebration before Lent.  It is not a pagan custom adapted to Christian practice; it is quite the opposite.  The Christian practice was adapted and customized by the cultures (such as Rome) around the Church.  In Rio, carnivale has become a huge party with drinking and costumes.  Mardi Gras in New Orleans came there by the French and Spanish Catholics who settled there (also where the cajun language came from).  These customs has been taken too far in some places  and seriously misrepresent the Church's intent before the celebration of the holy days of Lent.  The roots of the celebration, wherever it is, came from the Church, not the other way around. The accusation that these customs have their roots in paganism or that the Church is pagan comes from ignorant anti-Catholics from the 19th century on that attempted and still attempt to discredit Christ's Church.

Even if this (mardi gras or eating fish) were syncretisms to "make it easier to join the Church" what would be the harm in that?  We should make it easy for those seeking the truth to embrace and love the Lord through the Church He Himself established.  We welcome one and all--the sinner as well as the saint.  Christ said that the physician is called to heal the sick.  What better nurse to the Great Physician than His Church?

By the way, the traditional colors of Mardi Gras represent justice (purple), faith (green), and power (gold).  Very Christian indeed.

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