The rite of the Fast and Feast of the Apostles, including the rite of the lakkan.
The Fast of the Apostles is one of the oldest fasts in the church, and was previously known as the “Fast of Pentecost” or the “Fast of the Disciples.” However, during the Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., its name was changed to “Fast of the Apostles” which is carried through till today. In the Holy Dioscolia (collected in the third century), it is written: “After you complete the Feast of Pentecost, have a feast for another week… then we fast after the rest.” However, in the book The Canon of the Apostles, which was one of the books of Clement of Rome (collected in the fourth century), it states: “They continued to speak in the new tongues of the nations, in which they preached, and He told them what must be done by the congregations with regards to prayer, worship, and the laws, and they thanked God for this knowledge they received. They fasted for forty days, thanking God through it, and then Peter washed the feet of the disciples… then they departed to all the nations to call people to the faith.” As for the book The Lamp that Enlightens the Service, written by the fourteenth-century scholar Shams Al-Ri’asa Ibn Al-Sheikh Al-Akmal Al-As’ad, who is also known as the “Father of Blessings”, Ibn Kabar, the priest of a church referred to as the Hanging Church, wrote: “The Fast of the saintly Fathers, the Disciples, which is also called ‘Fast of Pentecost,’ begins with the Monday after the Holy Fifty Days, and it ends on the fourth of Epip, the night that commemorates the martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul…” Currently, this is the accepted opinion of the Coptic Orthodox Church, as well as the Syrian and Greek Orthodox Churches.
From these sources, we find that the Apostles fasted after the descent of the Holy Spirit on them, as well as between the Ascension of the Christ and the Feast of Pentecost. The aim of the fast were different: the fast after the Ascension was because the Apostles were waiting for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which was promised to them by the Lord of glory. This sort of fasting is also the reason why we fast before communion and baptism, or the fasting of a bishop before his ordination – it prepares us to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As for Apostles’ fast after Pentecost, it was a fast of thanksgiving to God for the gifts of the Holy Spirit that they received, and it served a purpose of preparing them for another service, which was to preach to the world. Thus, service and preaching are an important cornerstone to this fast. Moreover, the work of the Holy Spirit is clearly seen in the Church. The Church fasts during the week that follows the Feast of Pentecost, but this does not contradict the rules of the Feast, because, as Saint Basil and Saint John Chrysostom say, “to feast is not to break a fast.” The same applies to the Feast of the Annunciation, where we do not contravene our fast for the Great Lent. The Feast of Transfiguration, which usually occurs during the Fast of the Virgin, is another occasion where we do not break the fast. We fast during the Minor Feasts of the Lord (the Circumcision Feast, the Feast of the Lord’s Entry into the Temple, the Feast of the Lord’s Entry to Egypt, the Feast of the Wedding of Cana of Galilee, and Maundy Thursday) if they come on a Wednesday or Friday. We fast as well on some of the feasts of the Virgin Mary and any of the feasts of the martyrs or saints. Hence, breaking the fast does not follow the celebration of Pentecost, but rather we celebrate with fasting, prayer, and thanksgiving.
Accordingly, we can conclude that the Apostles fasted for ten days after the Ascension of Christ, to prepare themselves to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This accords with the Lord’s saying: “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Mt. 9:15). On Pentecost day, the Holy Spirit descended with His gifts on the disciples, so they fasted with thanksgiving to God and to prepare themselves for service and preaching. In this way, the disciples did exactly as their Lord, who fasted for forty days after the Holy Spirit descended on Him. This is also evident in the Acts of the Apostles: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit… they proclaimed the word of God” (Acts 13:2-5). Therefore, the Fast of our Fathers, the Apostles, has an important place in our church, since it is related to the work of the Holy Spirit in the believers.
The rite and hymns of the Fast of the Apostles are prayed in the annual tune. After the reading of the Pauline, the hymn ontoc is chanted. Following the reading of the Catholic Epistle, a distinctive Praxis Response for the Feast of the Apostles is chanted. This Response is unique from that which is chanted during the rest of the season.
Succeeding the reading of the Synexarium, the hymns Niromi and Enthoten de are chanted. Following the Gospel Response, a distinctive verse for the Apostles is chanted. It is also possible to chant the hymns of the Adam Espasmos and Watos Espasmos of the Fast of the Apostles.
During the Feast of the Apostles on the fifth day of Epip, which is the day when the great Apostles Peter and Paul were martyred, the Hiten specifically for the Apostles Peter and Paul is chanted after the verse for the angels and before that of the Apostles.
The Praxis Response, the Gospel Response, the Adam Espasmos and Watos Espasmos are all chanted according to what is arranged for the feast. During communion, Psalm 150 is chanted in the annual tune, followed by the hymn Acwmen . This same arrangement during communion is also followed during the Fast of the Apostles.
As for the rite of the Liturgy of the Blessing of the Water (lakkan) for the Feast of the Apostles, the prayers are done according to what is written in the rite of the lakkan. This will be discussed in detail below, in the section for the lakkan.
May the blessing of the fast and feasts of the Apostles be with us, strengthen us, and establish us in Christ. Amen.
Rite of the Lakaan
Upon the conclusion of the Prime Raising of Incense, the congregation chants the hymn ekesmarout in front of the lakkan. This is followed by the Prayer of Thanksgiving, and after the priest recites the words nem ebolha peklaoc tyrf , meaning “and from all Your people”, he blesses the water and says nem`ebolha taikolem vitratai , meaning “and from this bowl”. At the end of the Prayer of Thanksgiving, the Verses of the Cymbals are chanted, followed by Doxa Patri… Ke nin… This is directly followed by Psalm 50, and then Doxaci `o theoc `emwn , where the eldest priest begins reading the prophecies. The prophecies passages are: Ex. 15:22 – 16:1; Ex. 30:17-30; Is. 1:16-26; Is. 35:1-10; Is. 43:16 – 44:6; Zach. 8:7-19, Zach. 14:8-11.
After the prophecies, the congregation responds with Tenousht emmok `o piekrictoc , as the priest raises incense and prays the Pauline prayer, which is followed by the Pauline Epistle (Heb. 10:22-38). Then, the Trisagion is chanted. The priest prays the Litany of the Gospel, which is followed by the Psalm (7:50 and 10) and the Gospel (Jn. 5:1-18).
Then, the priest raises a cross with three lighted tapers, while praying the major efnoti nai nan . Using the cymbals, the congregation responds with kieryalason ten times in the melismatic tune. The priest then blesses the lakkan and the bowl three times with the sign of the Cross, as the congregation chants the Gospel Response and the first verse of the Doxology of the Apostles, which begins with the words pishorp ni apostolos , meaning “the first among the apostles…”
The priest prays the Seven Long Litanies, which include the litanies of: 1) the sick; 2) the travelers; 3) the waters; 4) the king or ruler; 5) the departed; 6) the oblations; and 7) the catechumens. The priest, while facing the East, prays certain requests, and with each request the congregation responds with Kieralayson
Then the priest carries a cross that is lighted with tapers, and the congregation cries out with the deacons with one voice saying kieryalason , one hundred times in a recitative tune. After this, the serving priests say the Three Long Litanies, which are of peace, the fathers, and the congregations; and then the Creed is fully recited. The Espasmos of the Apostles is chanted, then the deacon says, “Offer in this order…” and the congregation respond with the Hiten ni`precbi`a . The priest prays, “The love of God the Father, and the grace of His only-begotten Son, our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the communion and gifts of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The priest makes the sign cross over the water for the first time, and the congregation responds with “And with your spirit.” Directly following this, the priest signs the water with the cross a second time, and chants, “Lift up your hearts,” to which the congregation responds with “They are with the Lord.” To conclude the blessing of the lakkan, the priest makes the sign of the cross over the water a third time and says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord,” and the congregation responds saying, “He is worthy and righteous.” The priest continues by praying the Liturgy of the Blessing of the Waters. While the priest says the words `Agioc three times, he does the sign of the cross three times over the water and continues the Liturgy. Later on, at the end of each petition, the priest does the signs cross over the water. The congregation responds with “Amen.”
The deacon then says, `Proseveksaste , to which the congregation responds, Kieryalason . The priest continues to pray the assigned prayers specific to the occasion, followed by the Lord’s Prayer. The priest then administers three Absolutions, followed by the deacon responses: sotis ketopnevmati so… Following this, the priest blesses the lakkan water and the bowl, three times with the sign of the cross. While doing so he says evlogitos kirios… and the congregation respond with “One is the Holy Father, one is the Holy Son, one is the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
The serving priest soaks the end of a towel with the water of the Holy Lakkan, and washes the feet of the priests, deacons, and the congregation. At the same time, the congregation chants Psalm 150. After the lakkan, the priest says a prayer of Thanksgiving, which is followed by the blessing. Then, the Divine Liturgy commences for the glory of the Holy Trinity, to whom is glory forever.
Mikhail, Deacon Albair Gamal, The Essentials in the Deacon’s Service, (Shobra, Egypt: Shikolani, 2002), p. 798-810. Translated from Arabic by Bishoy K. R. Dawood, edited by Alexander A-Malek.
One thought on “The Fast & Feast of the Apostles”
Please read: M.S.A. Mikhail, “The Fast of the Apostles in the Early Church and in Later Syrian and Coptic Practice,” Oriens Christianus 98 (2015), 1-20. Historically, what is stated in this post on the Apostle’s Fast is inaccurate. Peace.