Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Thomas Aquinas Responds to the Carob/Chocolate Controversy
From last time.
Dear Communion of Saints,I resolved to give up chocolate for Lent and am having a hard time of it in this last week. I stopped by the local co-op and bought some carob to eat instead. Was this a sin? Or even a breaking of my Lenten fast?--Elizabeth
St. Thomas Aquinas responds:
And so, my sister, the primary question is...
Whether substituting carob for chocolate breaks a personal Lenten fast?
Objection #1: The practice of fasting from a particular substance usually demands some substitution for another substance. As Anselm argued in Cur Deus Homo, substitionary atonement was good enough for God, and therefore substitution in principle is good enough for humanity. Therefore it does not break the personal fast.
Objection #2: Carob is mentioned in the inter-testamental literature (The Works of Daniel and Esau) as a good and a delight, especially when mixed with dates and figs. Therefore it does not break the personal fast.
Objection #3: St. Paul argued it is better for man to marry than "to burn" (1 Corinthians 7). Analogically, it is better to unite with carob than to succumb to chocolate. Therefore it does not break the personal fast.
On the contrary, The Philosopher argues, "I think Socrates was forced to drink carob in his death potion." (Ars Rhetorica Duo, XXXVII.23)
I answer that, as all creation has its ordained place in the created order, and all share being, any substitution of a luxury food for a luxury food in a personal fast may be understood as partaking of the same being. Therefore ingesting carob does break a personal Lenten fast of chocolate.
Reply to objection #1: While substitution can be a good in principle, it is ordered to the greater good of sacrificial love for others. Eating carob is not oriented to any definition of love.
Reply to objection #2: The inter-testamental literature is not canonical, and is rife with apocalyptic fervor, which explains why they thought the carob/fig/date mix was attractive.
Reply to objection #3: It has been proven that no man wants to marry carob.
My sister in Christ, I encourage you to look at my earlier work for your second question, whether substituting carob is a sin. I deal with that question, albeit indirectly. Now go eat a dry crust of bread. God bless.