Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Fasting, prolonged abstinence from food and drink, or, as in modern Christian fasting, from certain kinds of food. Such prolonged abstinences are often practised at certain times of life (especially at the beginning of manhood) by various savage races: perhaps originally because abstinence is favourable to the production of hallucination or "seeing spirits." But as moral ideas arise, the notions of self-discipline and self-sacrifice become dominant, and the fast a natural preparation for and counterbalance to the feast. Among Hindus and Mohammedans [Ramadan] fasting is an important religious observance. It was so at Nineveh and Babylon, in ancient Egypt (in the mysteries of Isis and Osiris), and to some extent in the Hellenic and Roman religions. The Hebrew race had one annual fast prescribed to them by the Law (Leviticus xvi. 29, 34), but the zeal of later days multiplied occasions of fasting, and the practice is frequently alluded to in the Gospels. Though there is no express Scriptural command on the subject, fasting has from the first been an ordinary Christian observance. The Greek Church is very strict, both as to the length and the severity of its fasts. The Roman Catholic Church lays down precise rules, the Anglican appoints certain days but leaves considerable freedom, and though the Presbyterian Church of Scotland recognises fast: days, the practice is generally omitted in Protestant churches. Two of the Tracts for the Times by Dr. Pusey contended for its revival, which has become very general among the High Church party during the' last- half century. There has been much controversy as to its value as a spiritual discipline.