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The practice was common among Jews around the first century BC. Usually Wednesdays and Fridays where meatless days and at times other days depending on the season and festivals. In the Early Church people abstained from meat on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. While most people did not have kitchens with ovens and stoves in the days of the Apostles, they did have communal ovens for baking bread, and there where stands that sold meat, (outside of Jerusalem) it was usually meat from animals that had been sacrificed to Pagan gods. That is why the issue came up in Acts.
As Lent and Advent became a season to prepare for the great mysteries of the Incarnation and the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord, Meat, oil, eggs, and seafood where all forbidden. Eastern Chrisitans included Sunday, Latin Christians excluded Sunday from abstaining. Today Eastern Chrisitans still maintain the older rules, and in the West is is only retained pm Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent.
Should it be dropped? In my opinion, no. If some people don’t understand it or abuse it, I don’t think that is a good reason. Explaining why we do it is better. Meat is usually not a big issue for me. I gave up eating red meat, pork and lamb after I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer, I rarely eat it. However last night I got in very late, walked the dogs, and was very hungry. It being Friday (until midnight) I looked in the fridge. I had some beef which I still buy (along with chicken) when it is on sale for the dogs. Well it looked so good, that at 10:40 PM I put one of the big cuts into a frying pan and started to cook it, all the while having the intent to not eat it until after midnight. I thought, well this won’t be that hard. An hour later when it was well cooked and tender, I took it out of the pan, and started to slice it, so the dogs could share in my little indulgence. I fed them a few pieces, as they don’t have the obligation to abstain. Each morsel looked so good, and it was tempting to not wait until midnight. Looking at the meat, it made me reflect on the Temptation of Jesus in the desert, his passion, from the Agony in the Garden to the Cross, and why we really do abstain. I’ve considered it before, but never to the extent that I did last night.
As an aside. when I was a kid and most of the Catholic world abstained every Friday, some Wednesday and Saturdays (called Ember Days) military families who where stationed on a military base where exempt from the abstinence because military men (and women) had to keep up their strength. As it would pose a difficulty for the family to cook one meal for the military person and another for the family, they where given an indult, or special permission outside of lent to eat meat. Active combat soldiers where always exempt (except I think Good Friday) Children under 7 persons over 65 and people with illnesses that required that the eat or drink meat broth to regain their health where also exempt. The Church tries to lead us, and imposes practices for our spiritual good, but knows that sometimes it would be harmful and alway seeks the good of the soul, without harm to the body.
Edited after I saw spelling errors.