The Apostles’ Fast, also called the Fast of the Holy Apostles, the Fast of Peter and Paul, or sometimes simply St. Peter’s Fast, is a fast observed by the faithful of the Eastern Churches (both Catholics and Orthodox). It is one of the four periods of fasting handed down through Holy Tradition. The others being the Great Lent Fast, the Nativity Fast and the Dormition Fast. The Apostles’ Fast begins on the second Monday after Pentecost (the day following All Saints’ Sunday) and continues until the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29.
Having rejoiced for fifty days following Pascha, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostles began to prepare for their departure from Jerusalem to spread Christ’s message throughout the world. According to Sacred Tradition, as part of their preparation, they began a fast with prayer to ask God to strengthen their resolve and to be with them during their missionary efforts as they spread the Gospel.
The Biblical foundation for the Fast is found in the Synoptic Gospels, when the Pharisees criticized the Apostles for not fasting, Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Our Lord, in this passage, was referring to his being taken to be crucified; but in the larger sense these words of the Lord are understood in terms of his Ascension into heaven, and his command to preach the Gospel, which can only be accomplished with prayer and fasting. The New Testament mentions the practice of fasting many times.
The tradition of the Apostles’ Fast has existed at least since Pope Leo I (461 AD), as is evidenced by his homilies, though it has subsequently passed from practice in the West. The Fast is thought to have been instituted out of thanksgiving to God for the witness of the Apostles of Our Lord. With this Fast, the faithful 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 mandates 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 similar to those observed during the Nativity Fast.
As with the three other Fasts of the Church year, there is a Great Feast that falls during the Apostles’ Fast; in this case, the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24). There should be no fast on that day of celebration.
The length of the Apostles’ Fast is variable, being determined by the date of Pascha. Eight weeks after Pascha comes the Sunday of All Saints. The next day, Monday, the Fast of the Holy Apostles begins. The Fast lasts until June 29, the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. The Apostles’ Fast can begin as early as May 18 or as late as June 21 – depending on the date of Pascha. Accordingly, it may be as short as eight days or as long as forty-two days in duration.
We recommend that you always check with your eparchy or archeparchy for complete details and pastoral recommendations.