Fast of the Holy Apostles

My beloved spiritual children In Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

FAST OF THE HOLY APOSTLES: June 8-29 (21 day fast)

Origins of the Fast of the Apostles

The Fast of the Holy Apostles is dated to early years of the Church. The first evidence of this fast is found in the writings of Saint Athanasius the Great (+373 AD). In his letter to Emperor Constantine, he writes: "During the week following Pentecost, the people who observed the fast went out to the cemetery to pray." Some 20 years later, Saint Ambrose (+3797 AD) writes: "On the days following his ascension into heaven, however, we again fast" (Sermon 61).

The famous pilgrim Egeria mentioned the Apostles' Fast also in her fourth-century writing which records that "on the day following the Feast of Pentecost, a period of fasting began." In the same period, the 4th century, the Apostolic Constitution prescribes: "After the feast of Pentecost, celebrate one week, then observe a fast, for justice demands rejoicing after the reception of the gifts of God and fasting after the body has been refreshed."

Until the second half of the 3rd century, the Fast of the Holy Apostles was linked to Pentecost and lasted only for one week (Apostolic Constitutions). Later on, after the martyrdom of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and following the development of the commemoration of their death around the year 258 AD, the Holy Apostles' Fast became linked to the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29th. Consequently, it became fasting period of preparation for the celebration of the Feast of the Great Apostles. Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki (+1429 AD) explains: "The fast of the Apostles is justly established in their honor, for through them we have received numerous benefits and for us they are examples and teachers of the fast...For one week after the descent of the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the Apostolic Constitution composed by Saint Clement, we celebrate, and then during the following week, we fast in honor of the Holy Apostles."

Subsequently, the duration of the Fast of the Holy Apostles changed from one week to a variable period depending on the date of the Feast of Pascha (Easter).

Duration of the Fast of the Apostles

The Fast of the Holy Apostles starts on the second Monday after Pentecost. The duration of this fast varies, depending on the date of Pascha. The rule is that the Fast starts on the second Monday after Pentecost and ends on June 29th, on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. According to the new calendar, the Apostles' Fast could last as short as 8 days and as long as 30 days (42 days according to the old calendar).

Fasting Rules of the Fast of the Holy Apostles

The Fast of the Holy Apostles is not as strict as the Fasts of Holy Pascha and the Nativity of Christ; rather it is more lenient in its duration and rules. The current rules of fasting, during the Apostles' Fast, were established first for the monks of the Monastery of the Kiev Caves by Metropolitan George of Kiev (1069-1072). These rules are still practiced today amongst most Orthodox Christians with minor variations, depending on the jurisdiction.

The rules are:

1. Red meat, poultry, and dairy products are not allowed during the entire fasting period in all weekdays.

2. Fish, wine, and oil are allowed on all days except on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Conclusion

The Apostles Fast has emerged since the very early days of Christianity. It is honored and preserved in the Church as a part of our Holy Tradition. Like all fasts in the Orthodox Church, the Holy Apostles' Fast aims to help us on the "armor of light" to guard against the attacks of the enemy (Satan) that may befall during our spiritual journey to become united with God through His grace. No better words may express the importance of fasting in our life like the words of Saint Abba the Syrian who says:

""...since fasting is weapon established by God...the human race knew no victory before fasting, and the devil was never defeated by our nature as it is: but this weapon has indeed deprived the devil of strength from the outset...As soon as the devil sees someone possessed of this weapon (fasting), fear straightway falls on this adversary and tormentor of ours, who remembers and thinks of his defeat by the Savior in the wilderness; his strength is at once destroyed and the sight of the weapon given us by our Supreme Leader burns him up. A man armed with the weapon of fasting is always afire with zeal. He who remains therein, keeps his mind steadfast and ready to meet and repel all violent passions." (Source: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese by Archpriest Ayman Kfoof)

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The Apostles' Fast

The Orthodox year has a rhythm, much like the tide coming in and going out--only this rhythm is an undulation between seasons of fasting and seasons (or a few days) of feasting. Every week, with few exceptions, is marked by the Wednesday and Friday fast, and every celebration of the Divine Liturgy is prepared for by eating nothing after midnight until we have received the Holy Sacrament.

It is a rhythm. Our modern world has lost most of its natural rhythm. The sun rises and sets but causes little fanfare in a world powered and lit by other sources. In America, virtually everything is always in season, even though the chemicals used to preserve this wonderful cornucopia are probably slowly poisoning our bodies.

The Holy Scripture speak of the rhythm of the world--"the sun to rule by day...the moon and stars to rule by night..."

The rhythm of the Church does not seek to make us slaves of the calendar nor does it treat certain foods as sinful. It simply calls us to a more human way of living. It's not properly human to eat anything you want, anytime you want. Even Adam and Eve in the Garden initially knew what it was to abstain from the fruit of a certain tree.

Orthodox do not starve when they fast--we simply abstain from certain foods and generally eat less.

At the same time we are taught to pray more, attend services more frequently, and to increase our generosity to others (alms or charity).

But it is a rhythm--fasts are followed by feasts. The Fast of the Holy Apostles begins on the Second Monday after Pentecost and concludes on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29th. Most of Christendom will know nothing of any of this--that Eastern Christians will have begun a Lenten period while the world begins to think of vacations.

The contemporary God is much the same as the contemporary diet--we want as much of Him as we want--anytime, anywhere. There is no rhythm to our desire, only the rise and fall of passions. There is no legalism in the Orthodox fast. I do not think God punishes those who fail to fast. I believe that they simply continue to become less and less human. We will not accept the limits and boundaries of our existence and thus find desire to be incessant and unruly. It makes us bestial.

For those who have begun the fast--may God give you grace! For those who know nothing of the fast--may God give you grace and preserve from a world that would devour you. May God give us all the mercies of His kindness and help us remember the work of His Blessed Apostles!

(Source: Orthodox Church in America)

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George