Xerophagy is their general rule for penitential practices. The law of abstaining from meat admits no relaxation. The greater solemnities entitle them to use fish, eggs, milk, oil, and wine. Feasts of minor solemnity, falling on days other than Wednesday or Friday, admit fish, eggs, milk, oil, and wine, otherwise wine and oil only. Finally, simple feasts admit the use of oil and wine. The obligation of xerophagy on Wednesdays and Fridays dates its origin to apostolic tradition (cf. Teaching of the Apostles, viii, I; Clement of Alexandria, Strom. VI, lxxv; Tertullian, De jejunio, xiv). The xerophagy of Major Lent is likewise of ancient growth. There is strong reason to think that the question was mooted in the second century, when the Easter controversy waxed strong. Writings of the fourth century afford frequent references to this season. According to the Pilgrimage of Etheria (Duchesne, op. cit., 555), the end of the fourth century witnessed Jerusalem devoting forty days (a period of eight weeks) to fasting and abstinence. The season comprised eight weeks because Orientals keep both Saturday (save Holy Saturday) and Sunday as days of rejoicing, and not of penance. There are several noteworthy evidences of those forty days thus appointed by the Greeks for abstinence and fasting (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Procatech., no. 4, and Catech., iv, 3, ap. Migne, P. G., XXXIII, 341, 347; Eusebius, De solemnitate pascuali, no. 4, Migne, P. G., XXIV, 697; Apostolic Canons, can. lxviii, ap. Hefele, op. cit., I, 485). The canons of Greek councils show no traces of legislation regarding their Christmas Lent etc. prior to the eighth century. No doubt the practice of keeping xerophagy during these seasons originated in monasteries and thence passed to the laity. In the beginning of the ninth century St. Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople, states that all are obliged to observe xerophagy during those seasons (Pitra, Juris Ecclesiastici Graeci Historia et Monumenta, Rome, 1868, II, 327). It is scarcely necessary to note here that the Greek Church has legislated nearly half of the year into days of fasting or abstinence or both. Nevertheless, many Oriental writers protest against a lessening of this number. In point of fact, however, many Greeks claim that many days of this kind scarcely win proper recognition from the faithful.
The Russian Church.—The legislation of the Russian church relating to abstinence consists of an elaborate program specifying days of penance whereon various sorts of food are forbidden, and indicating several festivals whereon the rigor of the law is tempered to a greater or lesser degree according to the grade of solemnity characterizing the fast. Good Friday is signalized by their most severe form of exterior penance, namely complete abstinence. During their Major Lent cold, dried fare is prescribed for Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, as well as for the first three days of Holy Week. On Saturdays and Sundays during this period fish is prohibited, and crustaceans are allowed. On Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year, as well as on the vigil of Christmas, baked fare and fruit are enjoined. Oil is prohibited, and wine allowed, on Holy Saturday, on Thursday of the Major Canon (Thursday of the fifth week in Lent), and on Good Friday, whenever the Annunciation coincides therewith. Fish is interdicted, but fish eggs are permitted on the Saturday preceding Palm Sunday, and on the feast of St. Lazarus. Wine and oil are allowed on Holy Thursday. During their Christmas Lent, Mary's Lent, and the Apostles' Lent meat is prohibited, but wine and oil are allowed on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The same regulation applies to 14 September, 29 August, and 5 January. During Mary's Lent milk diet is interdicted; fish diet is permitted on Saturdays and Sundays. During the other two minor Lents the same injunction holds on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The same regulation binds on Palm Sunday, as well as on Wednesdays and Fridays of Paschaltide. Finally, the feasts of the Transfiguration, Mary's Nativity, Annunciation, Purification, Presentation, and Assumption, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Commemoration of St. John the Baptist, 7 January, occurring during Lent, or on Wednesday or Friday, are marked by this same degree of abstinence. Meat diet is under the ban, except during the whole of carnival week. Russian monks are obliged to observe this part of the program during the whole year. The Russian Church suspends the obligation of abstinence during Christmastide (25 December to 6 January, minus the vigil of Epiphany), during Eastertide, and during the octave of Pentecost.
Syrian Church.—All branches of the Syrian Church abstain on Wednesdays and Fridays and during Lent, in keeping with the Apostolic Canons (Can. lxviii, Hefele, loc. cit). The Council of Laodicea (can. 1), recognized by all Syrians, enjoins xerophagy for Lent (Hefele, op. cit., II, 320). Nevertheless, changes and abuses have been gradually introduced into various portions of the Syrian Church.
Jacobites.—(a) Among the laity all adults are obliged to abstain on all Wednesdays and Fridays. On those days eggs, milk, and cheese are interdicted. During Lent their rigorous regime excludes the use of eggs, milk, butter, cheese, fish, and wine. The Apostles' Lent is observed from Pentecost to 29 June. Abstinence is then recommended, not imposed. Mary's Lent lasts fifteen days. The Christmas Lent is kept by monks forty days longer than by laics. During these periods a less rigorous regime is in vogue. Finally, their ninivitic, or rogation, abstinence continues for three days. (b) Following the example of James of Edessa, the Jacobite monks and nuns observe alternately seven weeks of fasting and abstinence, with seven other weeks wherein such obligations apply on Wednesdays and Fridays only. Some eat no meat during the entire Year. Sozomen (Hist. Eccl., VI; Migne, P.G., LXVII, col. 393) speaks of Syrian anchorites who live on herbs without eating even so much as bread, or drinking wine. Rabulas, Bishop of Edessa (d. 435), and the Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (420) (Hefele, op. cit., II, 449 sq.) forbade monks and nuns to eat meat.
Nestorians.—As a general rule, the laity follow the same regime as the Jacobites. With them Lent begins on Quinquagesima Sunday. Contrary to their ancient discipline, they abstain on Saturdays and Sundays. They observe the same minor penitential seasons as the Jacobites. Their ninivitic, or rogation, season is kept on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the third week before Lent. The canonical regulations for monks and nuns prescribe fasting and abstinence as observed in other branches of the Syrian Church. Nevertheless, at various periods, innovations and relaxations have found their way into Nestorian communities of men and women (Vacant, op. cit., I, 268).
Maronites.—Lent for the laity commences on Monday of Quinquagesima week and continues until Holy Saturday. Saturdays and Sundays (Holy Saturday excepted), together with obligatory feasts occurring during Lent, are not fasting days, but even then meat and milk diet are strictly forbidden. Their Christmas Lent begins on 5 December and ends on 24 December. Mary's Lent begins on 1 August and ends on 14 August; 6 August is not included therein. The Apostles' Lent begins 15 June and ends 28 June, although 24 June is not therein included. Meat, eggs, and milk diet are interdicted on all Wednesdays and Fridays except such as occur