Fast of the 12 Disciples
The Apostles’ Fast is a feast celebrated by Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, and Reformed Orthodox Christians. It is also known as the Fast of the Holy Apostles, the Fast of Peter and Paul, or occasionally St. Peter’s Fast.
The fast starts on the second Monday after Pentecost (the day following All Saints’ Sunday) in the Byzantine tradition. In contrast, it begins on the first Monday after Pentecost in the Coptic and ancient Syriac traditions.
It will be held until the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29. Because of the temporary character of Pascha, its length has traditionally ranged from eight to forty-two days.
However, in Eastern Orthodox churches that use the Revised Julian calendar, the fast might last up to 29 days or may not occur.
After celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ for fifty days, the Apostles started to prepare for their departure from Jerusalem to preach Christ’s message.
According to Sacred Tradition, they started a fast with a prayer to ask God to strengthen their determination and be with them in their missionary endeavors as part of their preparation.
The fast’s biblical roots may be found in the Synoptic Gospels. When the Pharisees chastised the apostles for not fasting, Jesus remarked to them,
“Can the bridechamber’s children weep as long as the bridegroom is present? But there will come a time when the bridegroom will be snatched from them, and they will fast.”
In the immediate sense, Christ was alluding to his crucifixion; nevertheless, in the broader meaning, it is interpreted in terms of his Ascension into heaven and his charge to proclaim the Gospel, which can only be done by prayer and fasting
The Fast is considered to have been started to express gratitude to God for the testimony of Christ’s apostles. With this Fast, Christians show gratitude for the apostles’ perseverance in the face of adversity throughout their mission.
The Apostles Fast is not as severe as Great Lent or the Dormition Fast, but it does include abstaining from red meat, chicken, meat products, eggs, dairy products, fish, oil, and alcohol.
For many Orthodox, fish, wine, and oil are permitted on all days save Wednesdays and Fridays.
Other Orthodox groups, such as the Antiochians, have significantly stricter prohibitions, with fish only permitted on specific Saturdays.
These fasting guidelines are similar to those practiced during the Nativity Fast.
Like the other three fasting seasons of the church year, The Apostles Fast has a Great Feast that occurs during it; in this instance, the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24)
Daily services during the Apostles Fast are comparable to those held throughout Great Lent (with some variations) in some regions. Many Russian churches and monasteries will have Lenten services on at least the first day of the Apostles Fast.
The Fast’s Duration
The fast’s duration varies according to the day of Pascha (Easter). The Sunday of All Saints falls eight weeks following Pascha.
The Fast of the Holy Apostles continues the next day, Monday. The fast will be observed until June 29, the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. In other words, the Apostles Fast may begin as early as May 18 or as late as June 21, depending on the date of Pascha.
As a result, it might last as little as eight days or as long as 42 days. The Apostles Fast may not be commemorated for those Orthodox who follow the new calendar since the second Monday following Pentecost may occur on or after June 29.
Still, it is always observed by those who follow the old calendar. June 29 corresponds to July 12 on the Gregorian calendar for those who use the traditional Julian calendar.
Fasting in Oriental Traditions
The Coptic Orthodox Church fasts from the first Monday following Pentecost to the fourth Epip according to the Coptic Calendar, followed by the Apostles’ Feast day, which corresponds to June 29 on the Julian Calendar.
The Syriac Orthodox Church also fasted from the first Monday following Pentecost to June 29, but the 1946 Council of Homs reduced the fast by beginning on June 26.
The last time Maronite Church has likewise been reduced throughout the years. Because the Maronite Church is an Oriental Church of the Syriac tradition, we might assume that the fast began on the first Monday following Pentecost in ancient times.
However, as early as the 16th century, Maronites fasted for around 30 days or fewer in certain areas. The fast was reduced to 14 days by the Synod of Dai’at Mussa in 1598, with the fast beginning on June 15.
This judgment was repeated in 1644 at the Synod of Hyrash.
Finally, in 1736, the Lebanese Synod reduced the fast to four days, beginning on June 25. Maronites used to refrain from all animal products, including fish and sea items and alcohol but did not abstain from oil.
The usual start of the fast has also been postponed in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. The fast starts on June 17, according to Byzantine Daily Worship. The fast starts on June 19, according to the liturgical calendars of New Zealand, Australia, and the United States eparchies.
The Nativity Fast
The Nativity Fast, also known as the Fast of the Prophets in Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, is a period of abstinence and penance observed by the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, and Catholic Church in preparation for Jesus’ Nativity on December 25.
Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches begin the season on November 24 and complete it on January 7, the day of Ethiopian Christmas.
Advent is the term given to the comparable Western season of preparation for Christmas, which has also been known as the Nativity Fast and St. Martin’s Lent.
The Eastern fast lasts 40 days rather than four (in the Roman Rite) or six weeks (in the Ambrosian Rite) and concentrates on the proclamation and glory of God’s Incarnation.
At the same time, the Western Advent focuses on Jesus Christ’s two comings (or advents): his birth and his Second Coming, or Parousia.
From November 15 to December 24, the Byzantine fast is observed. These dates pertain to Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches that use the Revised Julian calendar, which presently corresponds to the Gregorian calendar.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Georgian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Macedonian Orthodox Church, Mount Athos, the Portuguese Orthodox Church, and all Old Calendarists, as well as some parishes of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Polish Orthodox Church, and the Orthodox Church of America, continue to use the Julian calendar.
From December 1 to December 25, the Ancient Church of the East observes a dawn-to-dusk fast.
The fast is also known as Philip’s Fast (or the Philippian Fast) since it customarily starts the day after St. Philip the Apostle’s Feast (November 14).
Some denominations, such as the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, have shortened the fast to begin on December 10, after Saint Anne of the Most Holy Theotokos’ Feast of the Conception.
The Goal of Fasting
When combined with prayer, repentance, and almsgiving, fasting moderates the physiological craving for food and other passions.
The mind might orient more away from worldly wants and more towards spiritual needs.
This practice allows one to get closer to Christ and participate in the ongoing and synergistic process of becoming more Christ-like.
While fasting is done with the body, it is vital to remember that the spiritual aspect of the fast is prioritized above physical hardship.
The Byzantine Rite is typical for fasting from red meat, poultry, meat products, eggs, dairy goods, fish, oil, and alcohol.
Fish, wine, and oil are permitted on Saturdays and Sundays and most Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, except in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
Oil and wine are permitted on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Fish, wine, and oil are also permitted on particular feast days that occur during the fast: Evangelist Matthew (November 16), Apostle Andrew (November 30), Great-martyr Barbara (December 4), St. Nicholas (December 6), St. Spiridon and St. Herman (December 12), St. Ignatius (December 20), and so on.
The Nativity Fast is less difficult than Great Lent or the Dormition Fast.
People who are unwell, extremely young, or old, and nursing mothers are spared from fasting, as is usually the case with Byzantine fasting restrictions.
Each person must communicate with their confessor about exemptions from the fasting requirements but should never put themselves at bodily risk.
There has been considerable confusion over whether the fish limitation refers to the admission of invertebrate fish or all fish.
Even on days when fish is prohibited, shellfish may be ingested. More exact limits differ by jurisdiction, but the regulations specify unequivocally that no fish may be consumed from December 20 to December 24 (inclusively).
The Eve of Nativity (December 24) is a stringent fast day known as Paramony (lit. “preparation”), during which no solid food should be consumed until Sirius is visible in the evening sky (or at the very least, until after the Vesperal Divine Liturgy that day).
If Paramony occurs on a Saturday or Sunday, the day is not for fasting, but a supper with wine and oil is permitted after the Divine Liturgy, held in the morning.
Conclusion Fast of the 12 Disciples
The Apostles’ fast has existed since the beginning of Christianity. It is revered and maintained in the Church as a part of our Holy Tradition.
Like other Orthodox Church Fasts, the Holy Apostles’ Fast attempts to help us put on the “armor of light” to protect us from the enemy’s assaults on our spiritual path to become joined with God by His grace.
There are no better words to express the significance of fasting in our lives than those of St. Abba Isaac the Syrian, who says, that fasting is a weapon established by God.
The human race had no victory before fasting, and our nature never defeated the devil as it is: but this weapon has indeed deprived the devil of the strength of the beginning.
When the devil sees someone with this weapon (fasting), terror immediately falls on him; he recalls and thinks of his defeat by the Saviour in the desert; his power is immediately broken, and the sight of the weapon given to us by our Supreme Leader burns him up. A man equipped with the sword of fasting is always zealous. He who stays there maintains his intellect firm and is ready to confront and resist any strong desires.