We are about 11 days away from the conclusion of the Apostles Fast. Of course, unlike any other fasting season on the Calendar, 11 days doesn’t really have meaning since this is the one fast that does not have a set number of days. This year, the Apostles Fast began toward the end of May, so 11 days means that we are over halfway done and there isn’t much left to it. Of course, in some years, this fast only lasts 2 days, and others have been longer than Lent.
It concludes on the Feast of Peter and Paul on June 29th. But outside of that, it is really a mystery. Unlike Nativity, Dormition, or Lent, this fasting season doesn’t exactly end on a day of any particular significance. In fact, it is not even one of the 12 solemn feasts. It is a day of Obligation for those in the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Church of Pittsburg, and it may be in other Greek Catholic sui iuris churches as well, but if you look at the Eastern Orthodox, the fast just ends on that feast day.
It is a mysterious fast, because unlike Nativity or Lent, this fast doesn’t come from pious preparation for a major feast. Yet, early Christian texts show that this was indeed one of the original fasts celebrated. And the reason? “After feasting from Pascha to Pentecost, it is only proper that we fast while our bodies are refreshed.”
Yet, upon further research, I found that the Apostles fast used to not end on June 29, but actually on August 15. Yes, the Apostles Fast and the Dormition Fast were originally 1 long fast. For whatever reason, it was decided to cut July out and just have it as a regular season.
SOOO, WHAT ARE YOU SAYING, CANTOR?
I know that previous section seems to provide information without really providing anything else, but one thing to take away from this is that the Early Christians thought it was important enough to have a post-pentecostal fast, and that the Church Fathers for over 1500 years decided that it was worth keeping on the Calendar. Yet, for some reason, this seems to be one of the most unpopular fasts. By unpopular, I am not saying that people don’t like it. Rather, people don’t even care enough about it to even do it.
No one really knows why they are fasting during this time period, as it is not in penance or in preparation. It is essentially a fast for the sake of fasting. But despite what some may be thinking, that actually is NOT a pointless endeavor. In fact, we fast every Friday from meat as a minimum. Why? The western mentality is that they are fasting because that is the day Christ died on the Cross, and they are crucifying themselves with Christ. I assure you that despite what you may think, that is not the reason. The cross is actually not something to take sorrow over but is actually our victory over sin and death.
Rather we fast on Wednesday and Friday because the Pharisees fasted on Monday and Thursday, and the Christians while not wanting to fast with the Jews, wanted to continue the practice. Wednesday was chosen because it was the day Judas betrayed Jesus, and Friday was chosen because it was the day of the Crucifixion.
“But I thought you said we didn’t fast because of the crucifixion.”
We do fast in penitence as well as better equipping our bodies to resist sin. We, however, do not fast as a way of beating ourselves up for being the ones responsible for making Jesus die on the cross.
Likewise, the apostles fast should be for us a means of turning away from sin, not because we are preparing for a feast, but because we have feasted and are thus better equipped to fast for the sake of our souls.