The Apostles' Fast, also called the Fast of the Holy Apostles, the Fast of Peter and Paul, or sometimes St. Peter's Fast, is a fast observed by Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians. The fast begins on the second Monday after Pentecost (the day after All Saints' Sunday) and continues until the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, according to the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar.
Having rejoiced for fifty days following Pascha (Easter), the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostles began to prepare for their departure from Jerusalem to spread Christ's message. According to Sacred Tradition, as part of their preparation, they began a fast with prayer to ask God to strengthen their resolve and to be with them in their missionary undertakings.
The scriptural foundation for the Fast is found in the Synoptic Gospels, when the Pharisees criticized the apostles for not fasting, Jesus said to them, "Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the Bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast." In the immediate sense, Christ was referring to his being taken to be crucified; but in the wider sense it is understood in terms of his Ascension into heaven, and his commission to preach the Gospel, which can only be accomplished with prayer and fasting.
The tradition of the Fast has existed at least since Pope Leo I (461 AD), as is evidenced by his homilies, though it has subsequently been forgotten in the West. The Fast is thought to have been instituted out of thanksgiving to God for the witness of the apostles of Christ. With this Fast, believers express their thanks for the apostles' endurance of persecution during their mission.
The Apostles' Fast is not as severe as Great Lent or the Dormition Fast, but entails fasting from red meat, poultry, meat products, eggs, dairy products, fish, oil, and wine. Fish, wine and oil are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays, and oil and wine are allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These fasting rules are much the same as those observed during the Nativity Fast.
In some places, the services on weekdays during the Apostles' Fast are similar to the services during Great Lent (with some variations). Many churches and monasteries in the Russian tradition will perform the lenten services on at least the first day of the Apostles' Fast.
Duration of the Fast
The length of the Fast is variable, being determined by the date of Pascha (Easter). Eight weeks after Pascha comes the Sunday of All Saints. The next day, Monday, the Fast of the Holy Apostles begins. The Fast lasts until June 29, the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. In other words, depending on the date of Pascha, the Apostles' Fast can begin as early as May 18 or as late as June 21. Thus, it may be as short as eight days or as long as forty-two days in duration.
For those churches which follow the Revised Julian Calendar rather than the traditional calendar, the Fast is truncated by 13 days. In 1924, the Church of Greece and the Church of Constantinople, and later some other local churches, changed to a different calendar from other Orthodox Churches. Pascha often falls very late on the New Calendar, which can obliterate the Fast of the Holy Apostles entirely.
- Bulgakov, Sergei, Handbook for Church Servers, Movable Feasts and Other Church Seasons, (Kharkov, Ukraine, 1900),
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