I know I said I was going to take Triduum off from blogging, and I know that this comes rather late in the day, but in case it’ll help anybody, here goes. . . .
You often hear it said that the law of fast allows one full meal per day and two smaller meals provided that the two smaller meals do not add up to a second full meal.
I’ve even said that myself.
But this is false. At least in the United States.
If you check the legal sources, the bit about the two smaller meals not adding up to a second one is not to be found.
First, here’s what the Church’s universal law–found in the 1966 Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini–says:
The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom [Norms, III:2].
So there’s nothing in that about the two smaller meals (which aren’t even called meals, just "some food," with the implication htat it’s less than the "one full meal" that’s allowed) adding up to anything.
So if that requirement is not found in universal law, then it must be found in the particular law of the United States if it is to be binding here. So let’s check the complimentary norms issued by the USCCB.
If you read that, all it does is say that the norms established in the U.S. bishop’s 1966 document On Penance and Abstinence are still in force.
If you do that, you’ll see that the bishops didn’t address the subject there, either.
Therefore, while it may be customary in some places to try to calculate whether the two snacks add up to a second meal, this is not a requirement that has force of law in the United States.
Personally, I’ve always found the adding up of the two snacks to be really problematic, because my meals vary in size considerably, and I don’t have a fixed meal size. And how is that supposed to be measured, anyway? In calories? In food volume?
The good news is that this need not be a point of scrupulosity for people. You can have one full meal a day and two snacks, but you don’t need to scruple about what the two snacks add up to.