Fasting According to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer

The canonical rules stated in 1928 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church are that Anglicans are required to fast not only on Fridays, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but that the Church requires “a measure of abstinence as is more especially suited to extraordinary acts and exercises of devotion” on the following days:

I.   The Forty Days of Lent
II. The Ember Days at the Four Seasons, being the WednesdayFriday, and Saturday after the First Sunday in Lent, the Feast of Pentecost, September 14, and December 13.
III. All the Fridays in the Year, except Christmas Day, and The Epiphany, or any Friday which may intervene between these Feasts.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer, still officially established in the Church of England and many other parts of the communion, and considered theologically more Protestant than the 1928, recommends a more exacting set of rules connected to fasting and abstinence. There should be fasting on the Evens and Vigils before the following feasts:

The Nativity of our Lord
The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin
Easter Day
Ascension Day
Pentecost
S. Matthias
S. John the Baptist
S. Peter
S. James
S. Bartholomew
S. Matthew
S. Simon and S. Jude
S. Andrew
S. Thomas
All Saints

Additionally, the full Days of Fasting, or Abstinence are:

I.   The Forty Days of Lent
II. The Ember Days at the Four Season, being the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after

1. The first Sunday in Lent
2. The Feast of Pentecost
3. September 14
4. December 13.

III. The three Rogation days, being the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Holy Thursday, or the Ascension of our Lord.

IV. All the Fridays in the Year, except Christmas Day.

This is a very tough schedule of abstinence and fasting. The Reformers kept these because they had been established and handed down from the time of the early Church. It is great pity that Anglicans unknowingly ignore their own Reformed heritage in neglecting the requirements set down in the Book of Common Prayer to such a degree that fasting on Fridays is thought to be a mark of identity for Roman Catholics. Indeed, most Anglicans and Episcopalians have no idea of what the BCP rubrics require of them, and that fasting and abstinence, not just on Fridays, but before all important feast days, is entirely Protestant, Reformed and Catholic.

Fasting was encouraged because the Reformers knew that it is only by prayer and abstinence on the part of each individual that they will manage to order their thoughts, words, and deeds in obedience to the Lord. Fasting is Scriptural, as one discovers in the Gospels and Epistles. It also prepares us to take the Sacrament of his Body and Blood, and it is part of the rhythm of Christian life by which we shape our lives in remembrance of Christ’s ministry here on earth — his fasting, teaching, death and resurrection — which are remembered and celebrated on the appropriate feasts and fasts of the Liturgical Year.