According to traditional Catholic rules (before Vatican the 2nd Council), as well as in Eastern Orthodox traditions, those who want to receive the Sacraments should fast, i.e. do not consume any food or liquids, from midnight until receiving Holy Communion.

Presumably, this rule is based on the Canon XLI of the Council of Carthage (419):

That by men who are fasting sacrifices are to be offered to God. THAT the Sacraments of the Altar are not to be celebrated except by those who are fasting, except on the one anniversary of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper; for if the commemoration of some of the dead, whether bishops or others, is to be made in the afternoon, let it be only with prayers, if those who officiate have already breakfasted.

At least, it is how this tradition is explained in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

But I don't see in this canon any mentioning of midnight. Why fasting is obliged to be from midnight?

  • Don't want other food in the belly when the "flesh of the Lord" gets there. That would be disrespecting the sanctity .
    – 007
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 22:01
  • @Kris: why it is FROM midnight? Why not form 23:55 or 00:10? Is midnight something magical??
    – Andremoniy
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 22:02
  • When do Catholics believe a new day begins ? If it is like most people the answer is midnight. If you want the first thing in your belly on a given day to be the Eucharist then you shouldn't eat anything from midnight until the Eucharist is consumed.
    – 007
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 22:19
  • It is not an answer. Sorry. I am looking for any documented source for this tradition, not just common thoughts from somebody's head. Thanks
    – Andremoniy
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 22:20
  • Correct it is a comment not an answer!
    – 007
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 22:21

1 Answer 1


Prior to the Council decision in 417 CE, Augustine opined in letter 54 in 400 CE that "for the honour of so great a sacrament, that the body of the Lord should take the precedence of all other food entering the mouth of a Christian;".

Augustine recognized that the Lord and apostles ate the Thanksgiving [Eucharist] after eating (Mat. 26:26, etc), but believed that the apostles or successors had the authority to make changes. This accounted for the variety of observances in churches.

But why midnight? Augustine says, "As to the question whether upon that day it is right to partake of food before either offering or partaking of the Eucharist,"

In the Roman time frame, a day began and ended at midnight. So, that day would start at midnight from which no food/water was taken until the sacrament. Centuries later, Aquinas confirms this understanding.

In addition, there are references to pagans fasting until midnight and then breaking their fasts with revelry. Christians apparently reacted against this practice not with revelry, but with beginning a fast at midnight. Again, this would account for the variety of observance as not all the same practices were found throughout the world.

Letter 54 of St. Augustine (A.D. 400)

Summa Theologiae (Question 80): The use or receiving of this sacrament in general

A History Of The Church, from the Edict of Milan, A. D. 313, to the Council of Chalcedon See page 185.

  • I don't see any connection between my question and your answer. I am asking about: why it is FROM midnight, you're answering me about why TILL midnight. Do you feel the difference? :)
    – Andremoniy
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 16:42
  • Of course there's a difference between FROM and UNTIL midnight. My answer was in regard to the canon you cited, as well as the Eastern Orthodox position, not directly to the Roman Catholic practice, unless one knows the background from where the midnight marker arose. See also orthodoxwiki.org/Pascha. Perhaps you could point out the word midnight in your canon citation? I apologize if I missed it, otherwise, perhaps there's some conflation going on in your question? But please clarify.
    – SLM
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 18:13
  • The canon I've cited has nothing to do with what you have written here. It is absolutely about different things.
    – Andremoniy
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 22:20
  • Your "PS" is much more relevant to my question, but you should expand this, removing all other irrelevant stuff, providing links to the Aquinas
    – Andremoniy
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 22:24
  • Changed the answer to align better with the OP.
    – SLM
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 18:39

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