As Pope Saint John Paul II said: “Fasting is to reaffirm to oneself what Jesus answered Satan when he tempted him at the end of his 40 days of fasting in the wilderness: ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”

While not common today, a rigorous form of fasting known as the Black Fast in imitation of Christ’s fast in the desert was once a popular practice for pious Catholics.

The rules of the fast, dating back to before the tenth century, prescribe the following conditions:

    • No more than one meal per day is permitted
    • Meat, eggs, butter, cheese, and milk are forbidden
    • No eating until after sunset
    • Alcohol is forbidden
    • During Holy Week, the meal consists exclusively of bread, salt, herbs, and water

In the Roman Church, the Black Fast was widely practiced by “kings and princes, clergy and laity, rich and poor.” Traditionally it was kept during the Lenten season and also prior to one’s ordination. The Black Fast is still permissible, but waned in popularity with the advent of theĀ collation, two light meals on fast days.

Today, the Black Fast is practiced by some Eastern Catholics on Fridays during the Lenten season, especially Black Friday.

The Black Fast is also practiced by Eastern Orthodox devout Christians and monks during Great Lent and the three other fasting periods of the year – the Dormition Fast, Nativity Fast, and the Apostles’ Fast.

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Comments

4 COMMENTS

  1. Saint Joseph, terror of demons, cleanse this site from insensitive mischievous abuse. Saints Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, Louis-Marie de Montfort, Anthony of Padua, Gemma Galgani, pray for us. Amen.

    My four children and myself do our own version of the Black Fast on Good Friday every year. Beginning after our final meal on Holy Thursday, we count 24 hours until we eat anything again. Only water or black coffee or tea. We have a small snack after the 24 hour timeline is finished, before bed, followed by a substantial breakfast first thing on Holy Saturday. My dad did this my whole life, and I do it with my own kids. so I didn’t realiize it had gone out of fashion. My kids are in their 20s now and still do it on their own wherever they are. Great self-discipline practice.

  2. So disheartening to see spam posts here.

    Fasting has been an act of contrition for time immemorial.
    Jesus’ instruction for same is a wonderful example of self control.

  3. I do not think it is responsible to spread articles like this without the ever-important qualifier that you need to follow the guidance of your religious superior if you’re going to try fasts like this.

    These kinds of fasts are not requirements, so if you fast in this way it should under the consultation and guidance of your proper spiritual director or staretz.

    Otherwise the fast is likely being done out of pride. The Desert Fathers write time and again about the temptation to fast from food out of vainglory instead of obedience. You can avoid that temptation by listening to your spiritual director.

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