In our Orthodox Tradition, there are four major fast periods throughout the year; the Nativity Fast which begins on November 15, Great Lent which begins on Clean Monday, The Dormition Fast which begins on August 1, and the Apostles Fast which begins on the Monday after the Sunday of All Saints (which this year is on June 12), and ends on June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
Of the fasts mentioned above, the Apostles Fast is unique. Whereas the other fasts are a fixed number of days in length, the Apostles Fast varies in length. In some years it can be as long as five weeks and in other years it may only be one or two days in length, or not occur at all. This is because this fast begins on the Monday after the Sunday of All Saints. The Sunday of All Saints is dependent on Pentecost, which is a movable feast, celebrated on a different Sunday every year. Another characteristic of the Apostles Fast, which distinguishes it from the other three, is that this fast is not as strict. Fish, wine and oil can be consumed throughout the fast, except on Wednesday’s and Friday’s which are strict fast days.
To understand the purpose of the Apostles Fast we are invited to remember that both Saints Peter and Paul worked diligently to establish our Lord’s Church. The focus of the Book of Acts is on the ministry of these two holy men as they preached our Lord crucified and resurrected. Hence, the Orthodox Church has always acknowledged Saints Peter and Paul as pillars of the Church, and especially Saint Paul, as a stellar example of what it means to be a missionary.
Hence the Apostles Fast invites us to remember in prayer the missionaries of our Church, those who are serving the Lord, by working diligently to establish Churches in conditions that are, at times, difficult. This period of fasting also reminds us that we too have an obligation to be a missionary for our Lord. Jesus invites us when He says to us “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19)
While we are all called to be missionaries, we are not all called to be missionaries in foreign lands. How then are we invited to be missionaries? The answer is simple. Perhaps our faith has helped us through a difficult time or perhaps we are simply thankful for all of the blessings we have. Both are powerful witnesses to those who may be searching. As Saint Peter states, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15). Hence, we are invited through the Apostles Fast to prayerfully think through our own testimony and to ask our Lord to help us share it whenever He gives us the opportunity. All around us are people who need Christ; our families, our friends, our neighbors, the people we work with. Perhaps our witness will open the door of their hearts to the grace of our Lord. Finally, when we are all united in heaven, we may discover that our witness played a role in their salvation.
As we walk the journey of the Apostles Fast we are reminded that each of us can make an impact for our Lord through our witness. We not only pray for our missionaries in foreign lands, we pray and ask for strength that we may share the joy of our faith with others. Through our witness our own faith is strengthened. In this way we become Christ’s light in this broken and confused world so that our Father in heaven may be praised by all.
~ Rev. Father Dean Kouldukis, Proistamenos
Assumption Greek Orthodox Church - Seattle, WA