I ran across the term "Black Fast" and looked it up. The articles I'm finding indicate that it's extreme, and give some information about the types of foods allowed during it, but I keep expecting to find information on when it was performed and why. In my experience, in Catholic tradition, there is a detailed reason and circumstance for just about everything, and I'm just not finding it.

Also, based on the restrictions, this looks to be something that is intended to be something done for an extended period of time, not just a few days...

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

No more than one meal per day would be hard for a few days, but doable, so I have to assume that this fast is meant for extended periods.

The closest I could come to a "how long" answer was a blurb in Wikipedia, but it it about how the Eastern Orthodox Church practices it today.

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.

So, if anyone can fill in the blanks, and explain when it is done, why it is done, and for how long it is done, I'd greatly appreciate it.

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    I'll refrain from posting a real answer, b/c I'm not certain there's no occasion when a Black Fast is still required and/or normal. But, to the point about a detailed reason and circumstance for just about everything, there are a lot of things that are practiced with precision. But, I'd say quite a lot of Catholicism is actually extracurricular. There are no mandates to pray the rosary, honor St. So-and-so, to say novena X, etc.. A good variety of recommendations from various people though. It's probably most often done per the recommendation of a spiritual advisor. – svidgen Jan 26 '13 at 3:45
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    OK. I hope you don't think I'm trying to be hostile. I just think it's high time I started trying to really understand Catholicism. I'm really good with Protestant perspectives, but a lot of Catholic teachings go over my head simply because I never paid attention. I think that as I start to get more experience and learn the language I'll get better. – David Stratton Jan 26 '13 at 3:50
  • No hostility detected. – svidgen Jan 26 '13 at 3:53

You are right. Eastern Orthodox still practice this in a way, though it is not called the "Black Fast". As I am an Orthodox Christian I can tell you that we do fast every Wednesday and Friday, though not as strictly as the Black Fast. It's more like eat vegan, basically the same as you listed, but we get 3 meals at the regular times, though some people may do it more strictly including monastics. Also don't eat as much.

Then we also have as we call it the Great Fast, or Great Lent, that starts 40 days before Holy Week. Basically we eat the same as on Wednesdays and Fridays, also trying more then normal to abstain from sin (that's the whole goal right?). Then during Holy Week the rules change and it is a little more strict, namely maybe 1 meal a day, on special days (Holy Friday: the crucifixion) eating nothing at all. Check out wikipedia for more info.

We also have fasts before the Dormition (two weeks long called the Dormition Fast), a fast called the Apostles Fast, and A fast before Christmas, called Advent. According to Wikipedia, Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25, which is the Sunday between November 27 and December 3. According to my Orthodox Calendar, this year it will start on November 15.

Also I forgot to mention, that on the first week of Great Lent we have a strict fast from Monday to Wednesday, thats a strict fast meaning no food at all. For the weak, (Children, Elderly, Pregnant) there are exceptions.

Of course thats not all the fasts that we do. Check this link for more info.

OK, just checked back at your question and saw that you asked why it is done. Um, kind of for the whole going to heaven thing that we're doing as Christians. Depriving the body of food is supposed to help with repentance and to humble the body to the Spirits will.

Hope that answers your question! If not I can say even more.

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  • This is Eastern Orthodox position, but AFAIK Greek Catholic Church has the same fasting system as Orthodox Church, and it used to be very similar in the past (I don't know until when exactly, 10th or 11th century seems plausible). – Pavel Jan 31 '13 at 13:39
  • yes @Pavel when you speak of 10th and 11th century you probably mean the Great Schism (1054). Also thanks for catching that glaring mistake. OOPS! – Byzantine Jan 31 '13 at 15:54
  • @Byzantine can you please comment or answer this question: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/19936/… – Matthew Moisen Mar 9 '14 at 8:49
  • @MatthewMoisen Sorry I didn't reply sooner; I will try to answer, but I am kind of busy over the next few days/weeks. Not sure when I could have time. – Byzantine Mar 26 '14 at 5:07

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