The primitive Church took
over the custom of fasting from Judaism. Jesus
did not oppose the practise which he found prevalent (see above); he condemned only the ostentatious fasting
of the Pharisees
Jews had observed Monday and Thurs
x. Weekly day as fast-days, and whoever wished
Fasts. to fast did so on those two days, though
there was no general command to fast.
There were also optional fast-days. The Gentile
Christian Churches appointed Wednesday and Fri
day. That from the
beginning two days were thus
distinguished shows the dependence, on Judaism,
although a protest is also evidenced by the change
of days. In the time of Paul no definite Christian
custom seems to have'existed
The conception of fasting was the one generally customary in antiquity. It was considered an exercise of piety, not directly required by God but pleasing to him, like almsgiving and z. The Con- prayer. Mechanical formalism was ception of occasionally opposed by the remark Fasting. that a devout life is more important than frequent fasting (Shepherd of Hernias, Similitudo, v.). How accurately the per formance was balanced may be seen from the linguistic distinction between statio, "a half-fast," jejunium,"a complete fast," and superpositio, "an additional fast " (till the next day). And how strictly the rule was adhered to may be seen from the fact that it was even thought necessary to abstain from the Lord's Supper on fast-days (Ter tullian, De orations, xix.). Every personal misfor tune induced pious Christians to abstain from food and drink, and in a general calamity, such as a persecution, the bishops usually appointed a fast-day for the Church; in both cases the regular days were usually chosen. The length to which some went is seen from the prohibition of fasting on holy days, on Sunday, and in the time between Easter and Pentecost, on the ground that fasting is a sign of sorrow and consequently incompati ble with festal seasons. The connection between alms and fasting was early emphasized by the custom of giving to the poor provisions saved on fast-days.
Abstinence from eating and drinking before religious rites and sacred festivals springs from another conception. It is a very old and widespread belief that with food demons enter into the body of man. Hence he who wishes to have intercourse with God, must be abstemious in order to become a pure vessel of the Spirit.3. The Fast For this reason the prophet prepares before himself by fasting for the revelation Easter. (Shepherd of Hermas, Visio, ii. 2, iii. 1, 10); and concerning exorcism it is written (
(Syriac Didascalia, xxi.).
In the course of the third century the fast was extended to the six days of Holy
Week, but the innovation was combined with the
ancient custom by making the fasting
on the last
two days stricter. At the beginning of the fourth
century, in the time of the great persecution, the
forty days' fast was introduced, on the analogy of
the forty days' fast of Jesus
From the middle of the fourth century the birth of Jesus was celebrated on Dec. 25, first in Rome, and before the end of the century in the East also. It was but natural that, like Easter, the new high festival should also be preceded by a forty days'fast. The reckoning of the forty days 4. The differed in the East and the West, ac Advent cording as Saturday was considered Fast. a holy day or a fast-day. Milan and the entire territory of the Galiican lit- urgy followed the East. The fast commenced there with St. Martin's day, Nov. 11, and Advent was therefore called Quadragesima Martini; nowadays Advent commences in the East on Nov. 15. The Roman custom appointed a shorter time and
afterward reduced the original time still further to the present four weeks.
In the Greek Church there is another season of fasting preparatory to the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul on June 29. This also was originally intended to be a period of forty days; but since that would have conflicted with the feast of Pentecost, its beginning was fixed for the Monday after the octave of that feast, which reduces it in some years to only nine days. There is evidence of a fast after the long festal season from Easter to Pentecost from the end of the fourth century in different parts of the Church, Western as well as Eastern, apparently connected to some extent with the feast of the apostles, though no trace of it now remains in the West beyond the single day's vigil. A fast before Epiphany was customary in the fourth century within the domain of the Gallican liturgy, in northern Italy, France, Spain, so far as the ecclesiastical power of Milan theng. Other reached. It seems to owe its origin Fasts. to a rivalry with the Roman Christ mas festival; as the latter had its fast, so it was thought necessary that the older Epiphany festival on Jan. 6 must have its fast too. The fast of the Virgin is the most recent of the four great fasts of the Greeks. The festival of the death of Mary, Aug. 15, was introduced by the Emperor Maurice (582-602); the fast lasts from Aug. 1 to Aug. 15. On the other hand the ember fast is a Roman custom. The quattuor tempora, according to Leo I., occur before Easter, before Pentecost, in September and in December. The exact date has been differently fixed; since Urban II. (1095), they fall in the weeks after the first Sunday in Lent, Pentecost, the Exaltation of the Cross (Sept. 14), and St. Lucy's day (Dec. 13). They are observed by fasting on Wednesday, Fri day, and Saturday, the three ancient Roman fast days. The meaning seems to have been originally that of supplication for a blessing on the fruits of the earth. In some countries the second ember season was referred to the corn-harvest, the third to the vintage, the fourth to the olive-harvest, and the first was omitted.
The mode of observing the fasts was various even in the oldest times. In considering the large number of fast-lays observed in the first Christian centuries, it must not be forgotten that the population of the South, and especially that of the East is satisfied with meager and primitive food, and hardly knows any regular times for meals. None the less, the requirement of fasting during the whole of Lent seemed too difficult, and even in the6. Mode of fourth century all Christians were not
Observance. enjoined to fast during the whole forty days. Most fasted two or three weeks (Chrysostom, Hom. xvi. ad popul. Antiochen.). By fasting was generally understood abstinence from all food till evening, or one meal a day; and this was to be as simple as possible. In the first centuries only bread, salt, and water was allowed. Afterward fruits and eggs, sometimes fish and even poultry were allowed, so that the fasting was finally limited to a prohibition of flesh and wine (Socrates, Hist. eccl., v. 22). To limit
thus the enjoyment of food to the barest necessities, or to refrain from certain designated articles of food constitutes "abstinence" in the technical sense. The injunctions were at first only of local or provincial authority. During the Middle Ages a vast system of casuistry developed in the Roman Church touching upon questions of permitted and forbidden food, indulgences and dispensations. In the fourth century (canons 1., li. of the Council of Laodicea, c. 360) ecclesiastical legislation made Lent a tempus clausum, by prohibiting anniversaries of martyrs, weddings, and birthday celebrations.
At present the laws of the Greek Church are stricter than those of the Roman. It still observes, besides the four great seasons of fasting, also the vigils of the Epiphany, St. John
7. The Baptist's day and Holy Cross dp,y, Present and the weekly fast on WednesdayPractise. and Friday; so that half of the year is spent in fasting. The people are said as a rule to observe the fasts with strictness, but the educated classes have in large measure emanci pated themselves from these regulations, and even the clergy are not enthusiastic advocates of their observance. In the Roman Catholic Church the influence of changed social conditions and climate has brought about a mitigation of the law of fasting. Advent has partially lost its character as a season of fasting, and the rules for Lent are generally very lenient. The ember-days are still observed. Of the three weekly fast-days Friday is retained, though as a day not of strict fasting but of absti nence from meat. The Church of Rome cares less for the amount of fasting than for the act of obedience performed by its members in observing its rules on this point. [These vary considerably in different places. Speaking generally, the obli gation of fasting is not imposed upon any persons under twenty-one or over sixty; and those who are bound to fast are allowed to take, besides the one meal a day of the older use, a small piece of bread with tea or coffee in the morning, and a light meal or collation in the evening. The fast before com munion, on the other hand, is absolute, not allow ing even a drop of water from the preceding mid night.]
In the Lutheran Church the fast-seasons are continued in days appointed for penance and prayer (see Fast-day). They are generally observed about the time of the old fast-days, e.g., the ember-days, or are specially appointed on account of public calamities, great wars, destructive storms, and the like. Lent is still spoken of as a season of fasting, and is considered by stricter Protestants as a time in which music, dancing, games, public amusements, and weddings are prohibited. In many places the people still abstain from eating and drinking before receiving the Lord's Supper; otherwise fasting is considered a Roman Catholic practise. [Calvin, whose views were generally adopted by the Reformed churches, commends the practise of fasting, if guarded against superstition; and the Westminster Confession says that " solemn fastings " are " in their times and seasons " to be used in a holy and religious manner.
Bibliography: Benzinger, Archäologie, pp. 165 464, 477; Nowack, Archäologie, ii. 270 sqq.; Sch&er, Geschichte, ii. 489-491 and consult the indexes of original and of Eng. transl.; Smith, Rel. of Sem., pp. 433-434; BD, i. 854 855; EB, ii. 1505-08; KL, iv. 1251-52.II. A list of early treatises, mostly in Latin, is in Hauck-Herzog, RE, v. 770, and in J. E. Volbeding, In dex diasertationu -120, Le pp. 119 ipsic, 1849. The beat treatment of the subject is L. Duchesne, Christian Worship, Eng. transl., London, 1904. Consult: Bingham, Origines, book xxi.; J. C. W. Augusti. Denkwfirdigkeiten, x. 309 420; H. Liemke, Die Quadragesim°l-Fasten der Kirche, Munich, 1853; J. H. Blunt, Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology, pp. 270-275 London, 1870; A. Lin senmayr, Entwicklung der kirchlichen Fadendiaziplin, Munich, 1877; F. X. Funk, in Kirchengeschichtlichen Abhandlungem pp. 241-278, Paderborn, 1897; T. Zahn, Skizzen Gus deco Leben der alten Kirche, pp. 359-360, 368 373, Erlangen, 1898; W. E. Addis and T. Arnold, Catho lic Dictionary, pp. 371-373; DCA. i. 661-665; KL, iv. 1241-51.
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