Fasting vs. Abstinence

Difference Between Fasting and Abstinence

Fasting and Abstinence are two very similar terms that are often used in place of the other. Fasting is going without food completely. Abstinence also refers to refraining from eating certain types of food for a specified period. It does not mean completely abstaining from food or drink. This is the main difference between fasting and abstinence.

According to Christian beliefs and the teachings of the Lord, the Church requires the devotees to fast on certain days and abstain from meat and some other foods on some specific days. This can even include dairy products.

According to the Catholic Church, fasting is recommended on the First Day of Lent and Good Friday. In contrast, Catholics should abstain on every Friday and on some other days. The extra days on which Catholics are supposed to abstain from meat include the Beheading of St. John the Baptist on August 29, Christmas Eve December 24, the eve of Theophany, which is on 5th January, and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the 14th of September. Since it is not easy to remember the days of fasting and abstinence, the Catholic calendar mentions all these dates clearly. On fast days, rigid Catholics do not eat meat or dairy products, but have only one small meal.

Thus, while fasting is an absolute concept, abstinence is only a partial restriction.


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