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The term collation refers to one or two light meals allowed on days of fasting, especially in Western Christianity. It originally derives from the rule dating from the mid-6th century AD in Benedictine monasteries, that the usual evening meal was to be followed by the reading of excerpts from Collationes patrum in Scetica eremo[1] written by John Cassian in around 420.[2] However, according to the strict Rule of Saint Benedict, on days of fasting there would be no evening meal: Vespers was directly followed by the readings from the Collationes or the Lives of the Fathers, and then Compline.[3]

By the 9th century AD the strict rules about fasting in Western Christianity became more relaxed, following the lead of e.g. Thomas Aquinas, it became allowed to have a light evening snack or 'collation' on fast days.[4] This grew to apply to the indulgence of two small meals allowed on days of fasting, with or without abstinence.[5][6][7]

Historically, an evening collation was leniently defined by the Catholic Church as being less than eight ounces of food, and even a single "hearty meal" at lunchtime is allowed when fasting.[8]

The traditional Black Fast of Western Christianity, which was broken after sunset, did not permit a collation if strictly observed.[9][10] After the 14th century AD, taking a collation became a part of Christian fasting practices in many localities.[9][11]

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".[12] 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".[13] 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."[14]

Other uses

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).


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  1. ^ Lit. 'Conferences with the fathers of Scetis in the desert'), usually translated as Conferences with the Desert Fathers,)
  2. ^ .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}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. the Conferences (of Cassian), the Lives of the Fathers, or other edifying books which were then read aloud by one of their number.
  3. ^ St. Benedict. "Chapter XLII: That No One Speak after Compline". The Holy Rule of St. Benedict. Catholic First. Translated by Boniface Verheyen. (1949 ed.). Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Lent", Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 9 March 2019
  5. ^ Briggs, John H. Y. (1 November 2009). A Dictionary of European Baptist Life and Thought. Wipf & Stock Publishers. p. 201. ISBN 9781608991655.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Lent", Catholic Encyclopedia
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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 the faithful.
  12. ^ "Fast & Abstinence". USCCB. 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Fasting Guidelines" (PDF). Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  14. ^ 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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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.