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.[1] Traditionally, the Black Fast was undertaken during Lent and 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
  • During Holy Week, the meal consisted exclusively of bread, salt, herbs, and water

Some Eastern Catholics perform the 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.

The term "Black Fast" has a different connotation within the Pentecostal Churches. A Black fast is complete abstinence from food or water and nothing is consumed in its duration. A Normal Fast or "Complete Fast" consists of eating nothing but drinking pure water. A Partial Fast (or Daniel Fast) consists of eliminating all but one type of food or eliminating just one type of food. The Black Fast is observed on rare occasions in Pentecostal circles while the Normal Fast is most usually undertaken.


  1. The Black Fast - Catholic Encyclopedia article

This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

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