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Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness (Jésus tenté dans le désert), James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

A Black Fast is a severe form of Christian fasting. It is the most rigorous in the history of Church legislation and is marked by austerity regarding the quantity and quality of food permitted on fasting days as well as the time when such food is legitimately taken.[1]


Description and practiceEdit

Traditionally, the Black Fast was undertaken during Lent and for a prescribed period of time preceding ordination. In some localities, such as in India and Pakistan, many Christians continue observing the Black Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with some fasting in this manner throughout the whole season of Lent.[2]

The details of the fast, as they were prior to the tenth century, are as follows:

  • No more than one meal per day is permitted[3]
  • Flesh meat, eggs, butter, cheese, and milk are forbidden[3]
  • The meal was not allowed until after sunset[4][5]
  • Alcohol is forbidden[3]
  • During Holy Week, the meal consists exclusively of bread, salt, herbs, and water

Anglican CommunionEdit

The Black Fast was widely practiced by the faithful of the Anglican Communion in the 19th century, on "the two great Prayer Book fast days, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday".[6]

Eastern Orthodoxy and Eastern CatholicismEdit

Some Eastern Catholics perform the Black Fast on Fridays during Lent, especially on Good Friday.

The Black Fast is still observed by the Eastern Orthodox throughout Great Lent, and the three other fasting periods of the year (the Dormition Fast, Nativity Fast, and the Apostles' Fast).[7][8]

Romanian Orthodox ChurchEdit

The term "Black Fast" has a different connotation within the Romanian Orthodox Church, which defines it somewhat similar to the definition given by those within the realms of the Classical Pentecostal movement (see below).

Pentecostal movementEdit

The term "Black Fast" has a different connotation with writers within Classical Pentecostalism. A Black Fast is complete abstinence from food or water and nothing is consumed in its duration. Dr. Curtis Ward teaches that the Black Fast should never extend beyond three days because of ketosis, possible kidney damage, and dehydration.[9] He further states that nothing in the New Testament says that they extended this type of fast beyond that limitation and that Christ's fast included water because "he was afterward an hungred" and was offered bread.[10] If he had abstained from water he would have obviously craved water first and foremost. Dr. Ward states that the Black Fast, Hebrew Fast, and the Absolute Fast are synonymous terms.

The former Arthur Wallis coined the term "Absolute Fast" in 1968 in his book "God's Chosen Fast." [11] A Normal Fast or "Complete Fast" consists of eating nothing but drinking pure water. A Partial Fast (or Daniel Fast) consists of eliminating all but one type of food or eliminating just one type of food. The Black Fast is observed on rare occasions in Pentecostal circles while the Normal Fast is most usually undertaken.

Roman CatholicismEdit

The Black Fast was widely practiced by the faithful during the Lenten season by "kings and princes, clergy and laity, rich and poor".[12] In addition, the Black Fast was kept on the days preceding one's ordination.[12] When fasting today, Roman Catholics have the liberty to fast in this manner, or in the modern fashion in which a collation is permitted.[13]


  1. ^ The Black Fast - Catholic Encyclopedia article
  2. ^ "Some Christians observe Lenten fast the Islamic way". Union of Catholic Asian News. 27 February 2002. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Stravinskas, Peter M. J.; Shaw, Russell B. (1 September 1998). Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia. Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 9780879736699. The so-called black fast refers to a day or days of penance on which only one meal is allowed, and that in the evening. The prescription of this type of fast not only forbids the partaking of meats but also of all dairy products, such as eggs, butter, cheese and milk. Wine and other alcoholic beverages are forbidden as well. In short, only bread, water and vegetables form part of the diet for one following such a fast.
  4. ^ Cléir, Síle de (5 October 2017). Popular Catholicism in 20th-Century Ireland: Locality, Identity and Culture. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 101. ISBN 9781350020603. Catherine Bell outlines the details of fasting and abstinence in a historical context, stating that the Advent fast was usually less severe than that carried out in Lent, which originally involved just one meal a day, not to be eaten until after sunset.
  5. ^ Guéranger, Prosper; Fromage, Lucien (1912). The Liturgical Year: Lent. Burns, Oates & Washbourne. p. 8. St. Benedict's rule prescribed a great many fasts, over and above the ecclesiastical fast of Lent; but it made this great distinction between the two: that whilst Lent obliged the monks, as well as the rest of the faithful, to abstain from food till sunset, these monastic fasts allowed the repast to be taken at the hour of None.
  6. ^ Armentrout, Don S. (1 January 2000). An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User-Friendly Reference for Episcopalians. Church Publishing, Inc. p. 139. ISBN 9780898697018.
  7. ^ "Great Lent".
  8. ^ "Calendar of Eating during Great Lent". Argumenty i Fakty.
  9. ^ Johnson, William, The Fasting Movement, Bethesda Books, 2003
  10. ^ Matthew 4:3
  11. ^ Wallis, Arthur, God's Chosen Fast, Christian Literature Crusade
  12. ^ a b Herbermann, Charles George (1913). The Catholic Encyclopedia. Encyclopedia Press. p. 590. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  13. ^ "Information on Fasting". USCCB. 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2018.

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "article name needed". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.