Spiritual Significance of the Apostles Fast
“But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”
The roots of the Apostles Fast go back to the first century of Christianity. After the Lord’s Ascension, His disciples lived a lifestyle of continuous fasting and prayer until the day the Holy Spirit descended—the day of Pentecost. After Pentecost, the Apostles also fasted, but this time, the reason was a little bit different. It was the fast of thanksgiving for the gifts of the Holy Spirit that they received. Another reason was to get well prepared for their mission of preaching and spreading the Gospel throughout the world.
The Orthodox Apostles Fast was officially established during the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. It was decided that the Fast must start on the second Monday after the Feast of Pentecost (after the Sunday of All Saints) and lasts right until the day when we commemorate the martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Each year the Fast starts and ends on different dates and even in different months. This means that its length is not set, but determined by the day of the Resurrection or simply Pascha. For example, in 2022 the Apostles Fast will last for three weeks. In general, the Holy Apostles Fast may last from 8 to 49 days.
The Fast is nowhere near as strict as the Great Lent. However, there is a list of products that are prohibited for Christians to consume during the Fast:
- red meat
Such products as oil, fish and wine are prohibited on Wednesdays and Fridays of the Apostles Fast.
It is a tradition in the Russian Orthodox Church to serve the Lenten services on the first day or even the first week of the Fast. Such services help the faithful to prepare mentally and spiritually for the journey ahead.
Just as Christ fasted forty days after the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, the Apostles also fasted after the day of Pentecost. As we know, the Holy Spirit is now upon us as well. So it makes sense for us to fast the Fast of thanksgiving to God. With the Apostles Fast, we meditate on the Glory of God and worship the Holy Trinity—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Fast is also a great instrument for any Christian to get closer to God and grow spiritually.
—St. Elisabeth Convent, Minsk