The term collation originates in Western Christianity, where it refers to the two small meals allowed on days of fasting, with or without abstinence. Traditionally, the reading in Benedictine monasteries of excerpts from Collationes patrum in scetica eremo, written by John Cassian, was followed by a light meal. Historically, an evening collation was defined as being less than eight ounces of food.
The traditional Black Fast of Western Christianity, which was broken after sunset, did not permit a collation. After the 14th century AD, taking a collation became a part of Christian fasting practices in many localities.
Today, on Christian fasting days of Lent (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday), the Catholic Church prescribes "one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal". Similarly, an Evangelical Lutheran publication delineating fasting guidelines states that "On fasting days, two ¼ meals are eaten, and one regular meal in the evening". The Traditional Saint Augustine's Prayer Book: A Book of Devotion for Members of the Anglican Communion defines "Fasting, usually meaning not more than a light breakfast, one full meal, and one half meal, on the forty days of Lent."
The French court of Louis XIV used the term collation to refer to light meals in general. In British English today, a collation is likewise a light meal, offered to guests when there is insufficient time for fuller entertainment. It is often rendered cold collation in reference to the usual lack of hot or cooked food. The Polish word kolacja ("supper") is a derivation.
In modern Italian, the two small meals are the prima colazione (breakfast) and seconda colazione (lunch). The word "colazione" itself in the general language now means "breakfast" (whereas the English "break their fast" for breakfast; lunch is pranzo in Italian).
- Briggs, John H. Y. (1 November 2009). A Dictionary of European Baptist Life and Thought. Wipf & Stock Publishers. p. 201. ISBN 9781608991655.
- Anglican Theological Review. Anglican Theological Review. 1952. p. 96.
In practice, however, these fasts are relieved by “collations,” or what might be called an occasional snack. “Abstinence” usually involves abstention from flesh meat. In Anglican 'usage, the terms fasting and abstinence have become synonymous, probably because traditional fast days have been days of abstinence as well.
- "Lent", Catholic Encyclopedia
- Addis, William E.; Press, Aeterna (1961). A Catholic Dictionary. Aeterna Press. p. 699.
St. Benedict in his rule requires his religious to assemble after supper and before compline and listen to “collations”—i.e. conferences (of Cassian), the Lives of the Fathers, or other edifying books which were then read aloud by one of their number.
- Prange, Joel (24 January 1977). "A Study of Fasting in the Scriptures and the Life of the Church" (PDF). Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. p. 5. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
- Ferm, Vergilius (1 June 1962). Encyclopedia of Religion. Philosophical Library. p. 79. ISBN 9780802204905.
Gradually the black fast disappeared as the practice arose of taking a small breakfast and an evening collation on fast days.
- Stravinskas, Peter M. J.; Shaw, Russell B. (1 September 1998). Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia. Our Sunday Visitor. ISBN 9780879736699.
The so-called black fast refers to a day or days of penance on which only one meal is allowed, and that in the evening. The prescription of this type of fast not only forbids the partaking of meats but also of all dairy products, such as eggs, butter, cheese and milk. Wine and other alcoholic beverages are forbidden as well. In short, only bread, water and vegetables form part of the diet for one following such a fast.
- Franciscan Message, Volume 2. Franciscan Fathers. 1948. p. 282.
The Black Fast continued until the tenth century when the custom of taking one daily meal was advanced to mid-afternoon, followed in the fourteenth century to mid-day. Shortly thereafter, an evening collation was permitted tbe faithful.
- "Fast & Abstinence". USCCB. 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
- "Fasting Guidelines" (PDF). Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
- Gavitt, Loren Nichols (1991). Traditional Saint Augustine's Prayer Book: A Book of Devotion for Members of the Anglican Communion. Holy Cross Publications.
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