The Friday Fast is a Christian practice of abstaining from animal meat, other than fish, on Fridays, or holding a fast on Fridays, that is found most frequently in the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Methodist traditions. According to Pope Peter of Alexandria, the Friday fast is done in commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. Abstinence is colloquially referred to as "fasting" although it does not necessarily involve a reduction in the quantity of food.
In Catholicism, specific regulations are passed by individual episcopates. In the United States in 1966, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops passed Norms II and IV that bound all persons from age fourteen to abstain from meat on Fridays of Lent and through the year. Previously, the requirement to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year applied for those age seven or older. Canons 1252 and 1253 of the Code of Canon Law express this same rule, and added that Bishops may permit substitution of other penitential practices for Fridays outside of Lent, but that some form of penance shall be observed on all Fridays of the year in commemoration of the day of the week of the Lord's Crucifixion. Abstinence on all Fridays outside of Lent is still the preferred practice among many Catholics, who choose to maintain this tradition rather than substituting an alternative penance. Most episcopal conferences have not allowed the substitution of an alternative penance for Fridays of Lent. No episcopal conference has lifted the obligation for either fasting or abstinence for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
The Current practice of fast and abstinence is regulated by Canons 1250–1253 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. They specify that all Fridays throughout the year and the time of Lent are penitential times throughout the entire Church. All adults (those who have attained the 'age of majority', which is 18 years in canon law) are bound by ecclesial law to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday until the beginning of their sixtieth year. All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence on all Fridays unless the Friday is a solemnities, and again on Ash Wednesday; but in practice, this requirement has been greatly reduced by the Episcopal Conferences because under Canon 1253, it is these Conferences that have the authority to set down the local norms for fasting and abstinence in their territories. The precept to both fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday is usually not dispensed from.)
Catholics may eat only one full meal on a fast day. Additionally, they are permitted eat up to two small meals or snacks, known as collations. Church requirements on fasting only relate to solid food, not to drink, so Church law does not restrict the amount of water or other beverages – even alcoholic drinks – which may be consumed. Church law on fasting has changed over the centuries since fasting is a discipline which may be altered by legitimate Church authorities.
"The General Rules of the Methodist Church," written by the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, wrote that "It is expected of all who desire to continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation, by attending upon all the ordinances of God, such are: the public worship of God; the ministry of the Word, either read or expounded; the Supper of the Lord; family and private prayer; searching the Scriptures; and fasting or abstinence." The Directions Given to Band Societies (25 December 1744) mandated fasting and abstinence from meat on all Fridays of the year, a practice that was reemphasized by Phoebe Palmer and became standard in the Methodist churches of the holiness movement. The Methodist tradition encourages its adherents to fast on Fridays, especially on those during the Lenten season.
Anglican formularies, particularly the Book of Common Prayer, have generally required abstinence from meat on Fridays, though it is difficult to gauge how widely followed this practice has been among Anglicans. The wording in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church describes "All the Fridays in the Year, except Christmas Day and the Epiphany, or any Friday which may intervene between these Feasts" as days "on which the church requires such a measure of abstinence as is more especially suited to extraordinary acts and exercises of devotion".
- Concerning Fasting on Wednesday and Friday. Orthodox Christian Information Center. Accessed 2010-10-08.
- Crowther, Jonathan (1815). A Portraiture of Methodism: Or, The History of the Wesleyan Methodists. T. Blanshard. pp. 251, 257.
- Beard, Steve (30 January 2012). "The spiritual discipline of fasting". Good News Magazine. United Methodist Church.
- Penitential Practices for Today's Catholics. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Accessed 2007-12-07.
- McKnight, Scot (2010). Fasting: The Ancient Practices. Thomas Nelson. p. 88. ISBN 9781418576134.
John Wesley, in his Journal, wrote on Friday, August 17, 1739, that "many of our society met, as we had appointed, at one in the afternoon and agreed that all members of our society should obey the Church to which we belong by observing 'all Fridays in the year' as 'days of fasting and abstinence.'
- Synan, Vinson (25 August 1997). The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 24. ISBN 9780802841032.
- Smith, Larry D. (September 2008). "Progressive Sanctification" (PDF). God's Revivalist and Bible Advocate. God's Bible School and College. 120 (6).
Principles which underlie our Wesleyan/holiness heritage include such commitments as unquestioned scriptural authority; classical orthodox theology; identity with the one holy and apostolic church; warmhearted evangelical experience; love perfected in sanctifying grace; careful, disciplined living; structured spiritual formation, fidelity to the means of grace; and responsible witness both in public and in private—all of which converge in holiness of heart and life, which for us Methodists will always be the “central idea of Christianity.” These are bedrock essentials, and without them we shall have no heritage at all. Though we may neglect them, these principles never change. But our prudentials often do. Granted, some of these are so basic to our DNA that to give them up would be to alter the character of our movement. John Wesley, for example, believed that the prudentials of early Methodism were so necessary to guard its principles that to lose the first would be also to lose the second. His immediate followers should have listened to his caution, as should we. For throughout our history, foolish men have often imperiled our treasure by their brutal assault against the walls which our founders raised to contain them. Having said this, we must add that we have had many other prudentials less significant to our common life which have come and gone throughout our history. For instance, weekly class meetings, quarterly love feasts, and Friday fast days were once practiced universally among us, as was the appointment of circuit-riding ministers assisted by “exhorters” and “local preachers.”
- Tables and Rules for the Movable and Immovable Feasts,Together with the Days of Fasting and Abstinence, through the Whole Year, p. 3 of 6. The 1928 U.S. Book of Common Prayer. Accessed 2009-04-09.
- The Wesley Fast by Methodist Prayer