The Friday Fast is a Christian practice of abstaining from animal meat on Fridays, or holding a fast on Fridays, that is found most frequently in the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Methodist traditions. According to Pope Peter of Alexandria, the Friday fast is done in commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. Abstinence is colloquially referred to as "fasting" although it does not necessarily involve a reduction in the quantity of food.
In Catholicism, specific regulations are passed by individual episcopates. In the United States in 1966, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops passed Norms II and IV that bound all persons from age fourteen to abstain 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, but that some form of penance shall be observed on Friday in commemoration of the day of the week of the Lord's Crucifixion.
Most episcopal conferences have not allowed to substitute a different penance for Fridays of Lent, though e. g. the German one has; no episcopal conference has lifted either fasting or abstinence for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Abstinence on all Fridays is still the preferred practice among many Catholics.
Current practice of fast and abstinence is regulated by Canons 1250–1253 of the 1983 code. They specify that all Fridays throughout the year, and the time of Lent are penitential times throughout the entire Church. All adults (those who have attained the 'age of majority', which is 18 years in canon law) are bound by law to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday until the beginning of their sixtieth year. All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence on all Fridays unless they are solemnities, and again on Ash Wednesday; but in practice this requirement has been greatly reduced by the Episcopal Conferences because under Canon 1253, it is these Conferences that have the authority to set down the local norms for fasting and abstinence in their territories. (However, the precept to both fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday is usually not dispensed from.)
Absent any specification of the nature of "fasting" in the current Canon Law, the traditional definition is obviously applicable here which is that on the days of mandatory fasting, Catholics may eat only one full meal during the day. Additionally, they may eat up to two small meals or snacks, known as "collations". Church requirements on fasting only relate to solid food, not to drink, so Church law does not restrict the amount of water or other beverages – even alcoholic drinks – which may be consumed.
"The General Rules of the Methodist Church," written by the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, wrote that "It is expected of all who desire to continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation, by attending upon all the ordinances of God, such are: the public worship of God; the ministry of the Word, either read or expounded; the Supper of the Lord; family and private prayer; searching the Scriptures; and fasting or abstinence." The Directions Given to Band Societies (25 December 1744) mandated fasting and abstinence from meat on all Fridays of the year, a practice that was reemphasized by Phoebe Palmer and became standard in the Methodist churches of the holiness movement. The Methodist tradition encourages its adherents to fast on Fridays, especially on those during the Lenten season.
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".
John Wesley, in his Journal, wrote on Friday, August 17, 1739, that "many of our society met, as we had appointed, at one in the afternoon and agreed that all members of our society should obey the Church to which we belong by observing 'all Fridays in the year' as 'days of fasting and abstinence.'
Principles which underlie our Wesleyan/holiness heritage include such commitments as unquestioned scriptural authority; classical orthodox theology; identity with the one holy and apostolic church; warmhearted evangelical experience; love perfected in sanctifying grace; careful, disciplined living; structured spiritual formation, fidelity to the means of grace; and responsible witness both in public and in private—all of which converge in holiness of heart and life, which for us Methodists will always be the “central idea of Christianity.” These are bedrock essentials, and without them we shall have no heritage at all. Though we may neglect them, these principles never change. But our prudentials often do. Granted, some of these are so basic to our DNA that to give them up would be to alter the character of our movement. John Wesley, for example, believed that the prudentials of early Methodism were so necessary to guard its principles that to lose the first would be also to lose the second. His immediate followers should have listened to his caution, as should we. For throughout our history, foolish men have often imperiled our treasure by their brutal assault against the walls which our founders raised to contain them. Having said this, we must add that we have had many other prudentials less significant to our common life which have come and gone throughout our history. For instance, weekly class meetings, quarterly love feasts, and Friday fast days were once practiced universally among us, as was the appointment of circuit-riding ministers assisted by “exhorters” and “local preachers.”