The Fast of the Apostles | June 16 – June 29 | On being sent into the world

Published by Jacob P Varghese on

The Apostles’ fast is one among the five canonical fasts in the Orthodox Churches. The fourth fast of our liturgical year, ‘The Apostles’ Fast’ (‘Pathimoonnu nombu’ or ‘Sleeha Nombu’ is from June 16 until June 28. The dates, days, duration, and intensity of the Apostles Fast vary in the differently, in various Oriental Orthodox Churches. Our Church prescribes a period of 13 days fasting in reverence to our Lord and Savior as well as His blessed 12 Apostles and St. Paul. This fast ends with the Feast of Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, June 29 followed by the Feast of the Holy Apostles on June 30th.

The fast of the holy Apostles is very ancient, dating back to the early centuries of Christianity and has existed ever since the apostolic times. We observe this fast, in the footsteps and memory of the Apostles, which they followed and practiced, honored, and preserved in the Church as a part of our Holy Tradition. “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13: 7). Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, fasted, and taught us to fast. The apostles and the saints all fasted, so fasting and abstinence is part of our Orthodox Christian life. They observed this to fulfil the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, “how can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast” (Matt. (9: 15). The oldest testimony regarding the Apostles Fast is given to us by St. Athanasius the Great (AD 373). Thus, the Apostles fast has emerged since the early days of Christianity. St. John Chrysostom in one of his sermons on the Holy Spirit reminds of this fast that is attributed to the holy apostles and urges them to preserve it and observe it too.

The Apostles’ Fast is one that was engaged in, by the Disciples of Christ following the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Having rejoiced throughout the forty days following the Resurrection of our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the apostles did not fast, as the bridegroom was with them. Jesus said, days shall come when the bridegroom will be taken from them and then they shall fast (Lk 5: 34-35). We also do not fast during the days from Resurrection to Pentecost since our Lord Himself was present amongst us during those days. Christ’s presence was like nourishing food for the Christians. He asked his disciples to use fasting, coupled with prayer, to achieve spiritual victories (Matt. 17:21; Mk. 9:29; Lk. 2: 37), and the Lord’s example was followed by the disciples in their apostolic ministry and instruction to the early Christians (Acts 14: 23; 27:9; 1 Cor. 7: 5; 2 Cor. 6: 5, 11: 27).

The holy Apostles prepared themselves for the coming of the Holy Spirit with prayer. The Apostles began to prepare for their departure from Jerusalem to carry Christ’s message to the far corners of the world. 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 apostles themselves exercised the prayer and fasting while ministering the Lord While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. So, after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13: 2-3). After prayer and fasting they ordained new presbyters for apostolic work, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. “And when they had ordained to them priests in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they believed” (Acts 14: 23). The Church, in turn, has observed this fast and preserved it because it is included in her holy Tradition and faith. St. John Chrysostom said, “The Apostles almost always fasted.”

The Holy Church from earliest times has prepared her faithful with prayer and fasting for the great feast of the Major Apostles, St. Peter & St. Paul on June 29, along with the Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles the following day. The Apostles did great work to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and His Church, as did their successors, the Bishops. They, chosen and sent by God proclaimed the Gospel to the Gentiles. It is this fast that we ourselves participate in when we observe the Apostles’ Fast. The Apostles’ Fast is therefore something which should be undertaken with an apostolic vision on our part. We do this by way of preparing ourselves to be sent as missionaries into our world to reflect and radiate Christ to those around us. The Apostles went and preached, through the world the Gospel of Grace. Let us resound their proclamation saying, Blessed are those who receive and believe God’s Kingdom and rule.

The Apostles’ Fast honors the sacrifices, teachings, and accomplishments of the Apostles. Holy Church continues the prayerful fasts of twelve Apostles, who fasted and prayed together on several occasions. The Fast of the Apostles should be an occasion for reflection upon the lives and example of the Holy Apostles. The fast should help us to reform our inner self by the help of the Holy Spirit that has been given to us through Holy Baptism. The Holy Spirit will provide us with wisdom. The fearful apostles who were poor fishermen turned into the most powerful and courageous teachers of the world, with the power to distinguish good from evil, and the strength to oppose evil. We are to preach the gospel to the world just as the apostles did. The Fast of the Apostles should be a time to humble and pray for genuine love and unity in the Church around the world. St. Athanasius the Great said “Let us love fasting exceedingly, for fasting cures diseases, casts out demons, drives away evil thoughts, renders the mind brighter, the heart pure, the body sanctified and presents man to the throne of God”.  

This fast is observed to become aware of the responsibility of the faithful in the Church and missionary activities. 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. Let this be a time to humble ourselves and pray for genuine love and unity in the Church around the world. When Christ becomes the center of life, then we can present real worship, which is the offering of every moment and every action to God. Let us pray to God to have a Christ centred life.

Let the prayers and intercessions of the blessed Apostles be a fortress of protection for us!
May the Almighty God bless us, by the intercession of the Holy Apostles!!
May this fast become a means for our repentance, edification, and transformation to true disciples of Jesus Christ!!!

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