This evening, we begin one of the minor fasts, the Fast of the Apostles. This fast takes us from the feast of All Saints (the Sunday after Pentacost) to the eve of the feast of the prime apostles, Peter and Paul (June 29th). This fast is not as strict as the great fast, but serves to remind and refocus us after the joys of the Pentacost season. Our father among the saints, John Chrysostom says:
(Fasting) lodged with us for forty days, we gave it a warm welcome and sent it on its way. So now that we are on the point of laying a spiritual table, let us recall it and all the good things that came to us from it….Just as our loved ones fill us with deep satisfaction not only when they are present but also when they come to mind, so too the fast days, the assemblies, the time spent together and all the other good things we gained from it give joy to us on recalling them…(Homily 1 on Hannah)
So with joy we recall the Fast, and we begin it anew. In our liturgy, we celebrate it it. Many of the upcoming days are “days of Alleluia”, days when “Alleluia” is sung with greater frequency. On more ordinary days, if the saint is not Doxology rank or above, we replace the Vespers prokeimenon with “Alleluia”, and the same with “The Lord is God” at Orthros. We again say the Prayer of Saint Ephrem. This helps refocus us our our own spiritual life. For us Byzantines, we “Praise God” more strongly in the ordinariness of life. By contrast, the use of “Alleluia” diminishes the greater the celebration (with Pascha using the word at only one point the entire day).
Now we “Praise God” for the gift of this fasting season, of the gift of the Church at Pentacost, and of our apostles, martyrs, hierarchs, priests, monastics, spiritual Fathers and Mothers, who have gone before us. I think, this season placed between All Saints and Sts. Peter and Paul helps up to focus on our relationship with the Church, and gives us a moment to fast and pray for our brothers and sisters all over the world, those who have fallen away and are cut off from a life in Christ, as well as our numerous brethren who suffer persecution and even death for proclaiming the name of Christ throughout the earth.
Let us praise the Name of God glorifying the unoriginate Father, the only-begotten Son, and life-giving Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages of ages. Amen.