Feasting and Fasting
a feasting timeline
— 30s Christians begin celebrating the first day of the week with prayer and a meal in honor of Christ’s Resurrection.
— c. 53 Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians contains the first canonical reference to the Last Supper and agape meals (1 Cor. 11:17–34).
— c. 100s The Didache and Justin Martyr’s First Apology contain some of our earliest extrabiblical descriptions of Communion practices; a homily attributed to Melito of Sardis is one of our first known references to the celebration of Easter, or Pascha.
— 325 Council of Nicaea sets rules for determining the date of Easter.
— 336 A celebration of Christmas on December 25 is first recorded in Rome; it is introduced into Constantinople around 378.
— 340 Synod of Gangra condemns Manichean practices including the requiring of vegetarianism.
— c. 360s Western Christians adopt the celebration of Epiphany on January 6 from Eastern Christians.
— 386 John Chrysostom preaches the earliest known sermon for the Feast of Christmas.
— 398 Fourth Council of Carthage rejects the practice of fasting on the Lord’s Day. — c. 550 Benedict writes his Rule for monks, which among other things urges them to receive guests as though they were receiving Christ.
— 567 Second Council of Tours forbids fasting between Christmas and Epiphany.
— 1000 Shrovetide is first referred to in Theodolphus’s Ecclesiastical Institutes; it becomes known as a period of feasting and carnival on the Tuesday before Lent.
— 1522 Christoph Froschauer and Huldrych Zwingli eat sausages on a Friday during Lent in Zurich, helping spark the Protestant Reformation there.
— 1700s Pietists such as the Moravians and Brethren reintroduce the custom of agape meals, calling them love feasts.
— 1737 John Wesley attends his first Moravian love feast; these meals will later become a central feature of early Methodist practice.
— 1942 Clarence Jordan founds Koinonia Farms, an intentional Christian farming community.
— 1965 Catholic Church publishes a rite for receiving both bread and wine at Communion as part of the reforms of Vatican II.
— 1967 Robert Farrar Capon blends spirituality and culinary delight in The Supper of the Lamb.
— 1969 Wendell Berry publishes his first set of essays on food and the environment.
a fasting timeline
— c. 40s Apostles reject Jewish dietary restrictions, but remain concerned about eating meat sacrificed to idols (Acts 15:29, I Cor. 8).
— c. 207 First references to fasting before receiving Communion and to Wednesday and Friday fasting appear in the writings of Tertullian.
— 325 Council of Nicea includes first reference to the Lenten fast as being 40 days long.
— 364 Council of Laodicea forbids celebrating agape meals in church.
— 511 First Council of Orléans sets Lent definitively at 40 days.
— c. 550 Benedict’s Rule forbids healthy monks from consuming meat other than fish or fowl.
— c. 750 Gelasian Sacramentary contains first mention of Ash Wednesday.
— 1050 Council of Coyanza commands Friday fasting year-round.
— 1562 Council of Trent codifies long-standing Catholic practice of offering only bread to the laity at Communion.
— 1809 William Cowherd founds the Bible Christian Church in England, a vegetarian church.
— 1829 Presbyterian pastor Sylvester Graham begins preaching the “Graham diet,” a vegetarian whole-foods diet.
— 1869 T. B. Welch discovers a way to pasteurize grape juice, enabling alcohol-free Communion.
— 1874 Female temperance advocates found Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
— 1863 Ellen G. White and other leaders form the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which practices various dietary restrictions.
— 1878 John Harvey Kellogg invents cornflakes to serve as part of a wholesome Christian diet.
— 1917 Catholic canon law relaxes requirements on pre-Eucharistic fasting for the sick.
— 1920 United States adopts national Prohibition, repealing it in 1933.
— 1957 Charles Shedd publishes Pray Your Weight Away.
— 1966 Pope Paul VI permits Catholic jurisdictions to exempt believers from Friday fasting requirements.
— 1976 Mennonite Central Committee publishes More-with-Less cookbook.
By Jennifer Woodruff Tait
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #125 in 2018]
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