The Friday Fast is a Christian practice of abstaining from animal meat, lacticinia as well as alcohol, on Fridays, or holding a fast on Fridays, that is found most frequently in the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist traditions. The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, written in the first century A.D., directed Christians to fast on both Wednesdays (the fourth day of the week) and Fridays (the sixth day of the week). The Wednesday fast is done in remembrance of the betrayal of Christ by Judas on Spy Wednesday, while the Friday fast is done in commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. As such, all Fridays of the year have been historically kept in many parts of Christendom as a day of strict fasting and abstinence from alcohol, meat and lacticinia. In Orthodox Christianity, in addition to fasting from food until sundown, the faithful are enjoined to abstain from sexual relations on Fridays as well.
Orthodox Christians are required to fast on Fridays (and Wednesdays), which means not consuming food until evening (sundown). The supper that is eaten after the fast is broken in the evening must not include shellfish. Additionally, Orthodox Christians abstain from sexual relations on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year, as with the entirety of Lent, the Nativity Fast and the fifteen days before the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.
Main article: Fasting and abstinence in the Catholic Church
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 1983 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 solemnity, 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.
John Wesley required fasting on both Wednesdays (in remembrance of the Betrayal of Christ) and Fridays (in remembrance of His crucifixion and death) for those seeking holy orders.
A Handbook for the Discipline of Lent delineates the following Lutheran fasting guidelines:
- Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with only one simple meal during the day, usually without meat.
- Refrain from eating meat (bloody foods) on all Fridays in Lent, substituting fish for example.
- Eliminate a food or food group for the entire season. Especially consider saving rich and fatty foods for Easter.
- Consider not eating before receiving Communion in Lent.
- Abstain from or limit a favorite activity (television, movies, etc.) for the entire season, and spend more time in prayer, Bible study, and reading devotional material.
It is the practice of many Lutherans to abstain from alcohol and meat on the Fridays of Lent; a Black Fast has been historically kept by Lutherans on Good Friday.
Anglican formularies, particularly the Book of Common Prayer, have generally required abstinence from meat on Fridays; the wording in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America 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".
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.'
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.”
The Good Friday fast became the principal fast in the calendar, and even after the Reformation in Germany many Lutherans who observed no other fast scrupulously kept Good Friday with strict fasting.
By many Lutherans Good Friday is observed as a strict fast. The lessons on Ash Wednesday emphasize the proper idea of the fast. The Sundays in Lent receive their names from the first words of their Introits in the Latin service, Invocavit, Reminiscere, Oculi, Lcetare, Judica.