Apostles' Fast

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The Apostles Fast, also called the Fast of the Holy Apostles, the Fast of Peter and Paul, or sometimes St. Peter's Fast, [1] is a fast observed by Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, and Reformed Orthodox Christians. In the Byzantine tradition, the Fast begins on the second Monday after Pentecost (the day after All Saints' Sunday), whereas in the Coptic and old Syriac traditions, the Fast begins on the first Monday after Pentecost. It continues until the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29. Its duration varies from eight to forty-two days because of the moveable nature of Pascha (Easter).

Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast or dry fasting is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period. Other fasts may be partially restrictive, limiting only particular foods or substances, or be intermittent.

Pentecost Christian holy day commemorating the New Testament account of Holy Spirits descent upon the Apostles

The Christian holy day of Pentecost, which is celebrated fifty days after Easter Sunday, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles.

Trinity Sunday calendar date

Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday after Pentecost in the Western Christian liturgical calendar, and the Sunday of Pentecost in Eastern Christianity. Trinity Sunday celebrates the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, the three Persons of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


13th century icon of Ss. Peter and Paul (Belozersk). Peter and Paul icon Belozersk.jpg
13th century icon of Ss. Peter and Paul (Belozersk).

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.

Easter Major Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus

Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day after his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

Missionary member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism

A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to promote their faith or perform ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care, and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin missionem, meaning "act of sending" or mittere, meaning "to send". The word was used in light of its biblical usage; in the Latin translation of the Bible, Christ uses the word when sending the disciples to preach The gospel in his name. The term is most commonly used for Christian missions, but can be used for any creed or ideology.

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." [2] 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.

Synoptic Gospels A way to describe the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke collectively

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in a similar sequence and in similar or sometimes identical wording. They stand in contrast to John, whose content is largely distinct. The term synoptic comes via Latin from the Greek σύνοψις, synopsis, i.e. "(a) seeing all together, synopsis"; the sense of the word in English, the one specifically applied to these three gospels, of "giving an account of the events from the same point of view or under the same general aspect" is a modern one.

The Pharisees were a social movement and a school of thought in the Holy Land during the time of Second Temple Judaism. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic beliefs became the foundational, liturgical and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism.

Great Commission words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19–20: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”

In Christianity, the Great Commission is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples to spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. The most famous version of the Great Commission is in Matthew 28:16–20, where on a mountain in Galilee Jesus calls on his followers to make disciples of and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The tradition of the Fast has existed at least since Pope Leo I (461 AD), as is evidenced by his homilies, [3] 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.

Pope Leo I Pope from 440 to 461

Pope Leo I, also known as Saint Leo the Great, was Bishop of Rome from 29 September 440 and died in 461. Pope Benedict XVI said that Leo's papacy "...was undoubtedly one of the most important in the Church's history."


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. For many Orthodox, fish, wine and oil are allowed on all days except Wednesdays and Fridays. [4] Some other Orthodox, such as the Antiochians [5] , have slightly more strict rules, with fish only allowed on certain weekends. These fasting rules are much the same as those observed during the Nativity Fast.

Great Lent observance in Eastern Christianity

Great Lent, or the Great Fast, is the most important fasting season in the church year in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Byzantine Rite Lutheran Churches and the Eastern Catholic Churches, which prepares Christians for the greatest feast of the church year, Pascha (Easter).

Red meat

In gastronomy, red meat is commonly red when raw and a dark color after it is cooked, in contrast to white meat, which is pale in color before and after cooking. In culinary terms, only flesh from mammals or fowl is classified as red or white.

Poultry domesticated birds kept by humans for their eggs, their meat or their feathers. These birds are most typically members of the superorder Galloanserae (fowl), especially the order Galliformes

Poultry are domesticated birds kept by humans for their eggs, their meat or their feathers. These birds are most typically members of the superorder Galloanserae (fowl), especially the order Galliformes.

As with the three other fasting seasons of the church year, there is a Great Feast that falls during the Apostles Fast; in this case, the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24).

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). 8 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 42 days in duration. The Apostles Fast may not be observed at all in certain years for those Orthodox using the new calendar as the second Monday after Pentecost may fall on or after June 29, but it is always observed by the Orthodox using the traditional calendar. For those who follow the traditional Julian calendar, June 29 falls on the Gregorian calendar date of July 12.

The Fast in Oriental traditions

The Coptic Orthodox Church fasts from the first Monday after Pentecost until 4th Epip according to the Coptic Calendar, after which follows the Apostles' Feast day which is equivalent to 29th June on the Julian Calendar.

The Syriac Orthodox Church also fasted from the first Monday after Pentecost until June 29, but the Council of Homs, held in 1946, shortened the fast by starting it on June 26.

In the Maronite Church, the duration of the fast has also been shortened as centuries passed by. Since the Maronite Church is an Oriental Church belonging to the Syriac tradition, we may suppose that in ancient times the fast used to start on first Monday after Pentecost. However, already in the 16th century, Maronites fasted approximately 30 days, even less in some regions. [6] In 1598, the Synod of Dai'at Mussa shortened the fast to 14 days, making it start on June 15 (canon 30). [7] This decision was renewed at the Synod of Hrash, in 1644 (chapter 9, canon 5). [8] Finally, the Lebanese Synod, held in 1736, shortened the fast to 4 days, starting it on June 25 (part 1, chapter 4, canon 2). Maronites used to abstain from all animal products, including fish and sea products, and from wine, but did not abstain from oil. [9]

See also


  1. Bulgakov, Sergei, Handbook for Church Servers, Movable Feasts and Other Church Seasons, (Kharkov, Ukraine, 1900),
  2. Matthew 9:15 (cf. Mark 2:19-20, Luke 5:34-35).
  3. Pope Leo I of Rome, Sermon 78: On the Whitsuntide Fast
  4. Kfouf, Fr. Ayman. "The Fast of the Holy Apostles". Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
  5. http://ww1.antiochian.org/2018-fasting-calendar
  6. Feghali, Joseph. Histoire du droit de l'Église maronite. Tome I - Les conciles des XVIe et XVIIe siècles. Paris, Letouzey et Ané, 1962, p. 265.
  7. Feghali, Joseph. Histoire du droit de l'Église maronite. Tome I - Les conciles des XVIe et XVIIe siècles. Paris, Letouzey et Ané, 1962, p. 265.
  8. Feghali, Joseph. Histoire du droit de l'Église maronite. Tome I - Les conciles des XVIe et XVIIe siècles. Paris, Letouzey et Ané, 1962, p. 294.
  9. Feghali, Joseph. Histoire du droit de l'Église maronite. Tome I - Les conciles des XVIe et XVIIe siècles. Paris, Letouzey et Ané, 1962, p. 265.


  1. Kfouf, Archpriest Ayman. "The Fast of the Holy Apostles".

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