Wednesday a penitential day?

In a homily a week or two ago, I heard a priest mention Wednesday as well as Friday as being a penitential day, on which fasting was encouraged. I was aware of Friday, but why Wednesday? What makes it special?

Are you sure he wasn’t just referring to this Wednesday (September 14th) since it was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross?

I’ve heard something similar about all Wednesdays, not just that one–that it’s a recommended day for fasting. Why, I don’t know.

[quote=Sgt Sweaters]In a homily a week or two ago, I heard a priest mention Wednesday as well as Friday as being a penitential day, on which fasting was encouraged. I was aware of Friday, but why Wednesday? What makes it special?
[/quote]

Wednesdays and Saturdays used to be days of penance in certain seasons - Lent, Ember Days, etc. They are sometimes especially recommended for voluntary penance but are no longer mandatory - except for Ash Wednesday.

One rational is that Wednesday is the Day Judas betrayed Jesus and Saturday is the day Jesus spent in the tomb. I have heard other rationales but my memory of them is too fuzzy to risk misleading people.

Found this online here that you might find interesting:

In the time of Christ’s Incarnation, practitioners of the Old Testament religion fasted or abstained on Mondays and Thursdays, but Christians opted to take Wednesdays and Fridays as their penitential days.

Wednesdays and Fridays are still days of penance in most Eastern Catholic Churches (and among the Orthodox), but in the Roman Church, only Fridays, as memorials to the day our Lord was crucified, remain as weekly penitential days on which abstinence from meat and other forms of penance are expected as the norm. Other penitential days are listed in the table below. We are only canonically bound by the 1983 Code, but traditional Catholics prefer the older practices and find them much more sanctifying. Both are included here.

Note that if any of the Fasting and/or Abstinence Days falls on a Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation, the requirements (except for the Eucharistic Fast) are totally abrogated. Those who need to be excused from the obligations of fasting and abstaining for medical reasons (pregnancy, the demands of extraordinarily hard labor, hypoglycemia, etc.) should speak with their priests for a dispensation. True charity trumps all law, and law exists to serve true charity!

Also found this here:

Voluntary days of fasting are highly recommended. Wednesdays and Fridays are the most important days of fast because it was on a Wednesday that the traitor Judas conspired with the chief priests against Christ, and it was on a Friday that Christ the Savior suffered and died for our salvation.

And there is also a paragraph on each of these topics there:
WHAT IS FASTING?

FASTING AND OUR LONGING FOR GOD

FASTING AS A SIGN OF REPENTANCE AND SELF-CONTROL

FASTING AS A MEANS FOR CHARITY TOWARDS OTHERS

OTHER KINDS OF FASTING

TRADITIONAL EASTERN CHRISTIAN MANNER OF FASTING

BYZANTINE CATHOLIC (USA) FASTING NORMS

WHO IS SUPPOSED TO FAST?

HOLY SCRIPTURE ON FASTING

Jonah 3:1-10
St. Matthew 6:16-18
St. Matthew 4:1-2

[quote=Pentecost2005]I’ve heard something similar about all Wednesdays, not just that one–that it’s a recommended day for fasting. Why, I don’t know.
[/quote]

In the Eastern Catholic Churches, it is required that the fast from meat is also followed. It is not new for us.

This response is culled from distant memory of something back from scripture studies. Remember the Pharisee who fasted twice a week? Good. He would have fasted Tuesdays and Thursdays. To distinguish themselves, early Christians are speculated to have fasted Wednesdays and Fridays.

Now since this is a cursory response based on a distant memory, my recollection should be cross checked to a documented source. So take it with that caution.

[quote=Forest-Pine]…In the time of Christ’s Incarnation, practitioners of the Old Testament religion fasted or abstained on Mondays and Thursdays, but Christians opted to take Wednesdays and Fridays as their penitential days.
[/quote]

I remember this from graduate scripture studies long, long ago. Remember the Pharisee who fasted twice weekly? Good. I did not know him personally, but he represents the group of Jews who would have observed those days. Christians (including those who were from the Pharisaic school) shifted the days to distinguish themselves. Not all Jews observed the fast days, and hence the self-righteousness of this particular Pharisee. The difference of fast days did not pass unnoticed, and hence, the question, “why do your disciples not fast?”

Forest Pine - Thank you. That was what I couldn’t remember.

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