Black Fast

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.

Description and practice

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.

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
  • Flesh meat, eggs, butter, cheese, and milk are forbidden
  • The meal was not allowed until after sunset
  • Alcohol is forbidden
  • During Holy Week, the meal consists exclusively of bread, salt, herbs, and water

    Cross during Easter

Anglican Communion

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”.

Romanian Orthodox Church

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 movement

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. 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. 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.” 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 Catholicism

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

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