- Black Fast
The Black Fast is a severe form of Catholic 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. [ [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02590c.htm The Black Fast] -
Catholic Encyclopediaarticle] Traditionally, the Black Fast was undertaken during Lentand for a prescribed period of time preceding ordination.
The details of the fast, as they were prior to the tenth century, are as follows:
* No more than one meal per day was permitted
* Flesh meat, eggs, butter, cheese and milk were forbidden
* The meal was not allowed until after sunset
* Alcohol was forbidden
Holy Week, the meal consisted exclusively of bread, salt, herbs, and water
Some Eastern Rites Catholics Black Fast on Fridays during Lent, and especially on Good Friday. The Black Fast is still observed by the Eastern Orthodox on Wednesdays and Fridays and during the 40 days of Lent and three other fasting periods of the year.
St Basil, St Ambrose, St John Chrysostomand Pope St Gregory I have offered unequivocal testimony concerning the benefits of the Black Fast. The keynote of their teaching is summed up by St Bernard of Clairvaux when he says, "hitherto we have fasted only until None [3 pm] whereas, now kings and princes, clergy and laity, rich and poor will fast until evening". In the tenth century, the custom of taking the only meal of the day at three o'clock was introduced. In the fourteenth century, the hour of taking this meal was changed to noon-day. Shortly afterwards, the practice of taking a snack in the evening began to gain ground. Finally, the custom of taking some bread and coffee in the morning was introduced in the early part of the nineteenth century. During the past century, owing to ever changing circumstances of time and place, the Church has gradually relaxed the severity of all penitential requirements, so that now little more than a vestige of the former rigour remains.
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