The Apostles’ Fast, also called the Fast of the Holy Apostles, the Fast of Peter and Paul, or sometimes St. Peter’s Fast, is observed by the Orthodox beginning on the second Monday after the Feast of Pentecost, and continues to the Feast of Ss. Peter & Paul (June 29th).
Having rejoiced for fifty days following Pascha (Easter), the Apostles began to prepare for their departure from Jerusalem to spread Christ’s message. According to Holy 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 four Gospels, when the Pharisees criticized the apostles for not fasting, Jesus said to them, “Can the children of the bridal chamber 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. 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.
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.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. Continue …