The Friday Fast is a Roman Catholic and Anglican practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays. Abstinence is colloquially referred to as "fasting" although it does not necessary involve a reduction in the quantity of food.

The Friday fast is done in commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. After the Second Vatican Council it has not been widely followed by Roman Catholics apart from Good Friday itself.

Specific regulations are passed by individual episcopates. In the US in 1966 the USCCB passed Norms II and IV that bound all persons from age fourteen to be bound to abstinence from meat on Fridays of Lent, and through the year. In September 1983, Canons 1252 and 1253 expressed this same rule, and added that Bishops may permit substitution of other penitential practices on Fridays outside of Lent only, but that some form of penance shall be observed on Friday in commemoration of the day of the week of the Lord's Crucifixion.[1]

Abstinence is not optional for Catholics on Fridays during Lent. Abstinence on all Fridays is still the preferred practice among many Catholics.

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" [2]

The practice of fasting on Fridays, specifically on Good Friday, has probably been derived from the Jewish tradition of fasting before Passover.[3] The day preceding Passover, Jews fasted without eating until nightfall and then broke their fast with the celebration of the Passover meal. Early Christians extended this fast before Easter through the time in which Jews rejoiced over their Passover meal. Therefore, the fast continued until cockcrow (around 3 A.M.) the next morning. Although some churches later fasted on Saturdays, most early Christians did not fast on the Jewish Shabbat as a sign of respect, and therefore fasted only on Good Friday, which also held significance as the day of Jesus’ death.

See also


  1. Penitential Practices for Today's Catholics. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Accessed 2007-12-07.
  2. 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.
  3. Talley, Thomas. The Origins of the Liturgical Year. Pueblo Publishing Company: New York, 1986.

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