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a ban for a certain period of time prescribed by some religions against eating any food or certain types of food, particularly meat, fish, and dairy products. The origin of fasts is connected with restrictions dictated by the cult in the very early class societies. The roots of the practice go back to remote antiquity, when insufficient food demanded self-restrictions in eating, which acquired the form of a ban, or taboo, sanctified by custom.
In modern religions, fasting is based on the doctrine of the preeminence of the spirit over the flesh. In Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, fasting serves to reinforce the piety of the believers.
In Eastern Orthodoxy, four lengthy periods of fasting are prescribed. Lent, or the Great Fast, lasts seven weeks; St. Peter’s Fast continues from one to five weeks, depending on when Easter is observed; the Assumption fast lasts two weeks; and the Christmas fast extends over six weeks. In addition, there are one-day fasts on Wednesday and Friday of each week and on certain other days, such as the vigil of the Epiphany and Holy Cross Day. During a fast, meat and dairy foods are excluded. In all, the Eastern Orthodox Church sanctions about 200 days of fasting per year.
There are no prolonged fasts in Catholicism. Fasts are observed on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the vigils of Assumption and Christmas. With the exception of the Anglican Church, obligatory fasts are unknown in Protestantism.
In Islam, the main fast is the uraza, during which, throughout the entire month of Ramadan, eating, drinking, and smoking are forbidden each day from sunrise to sunset. There also exist individual fasts, practiced in fulfillment of vows or for “redemption” with regard to violations by the believer of the precepts of the Koran and the sharia.
In Judaism, there are both public fasts, prescribed as a sign of mourning, on days of repentance, and in memory of various events in the history of the people, and individual fasts in fulfillment of a vow.
In present-day circumstances, when for the sake of strengthening the shaky position of religion various churches have modernized their dogmas and liturgies, a more flexible approach has been taken toward fasts, which are not required to be as strictly observed.
A. V. BELOV, L. I. KLIMOVICH, and M. S. BELEN’KII