New Calendar - No St. Peter's Fast
The New Calendarists with no St. Peter's fast
THE NEW CALENDARISTS - WITH NO ST PETER'S FAST!
By the Ever-Memorable Archbishop Averky of Jordanville
ACCORDING to an ancient precept of our Holy Church, which derives from the Apostolic times themselves, on the Monday after the Sunday of All Saints, which follows that of Pentecost, a fast begins, which bears the name the Apostles’ Fast, or St Peter’s Fast, because it serves as a preparation for the great feast celebrated in honour of the Pre-eminent Apostles Peter and Paul, kept on 29th June. When it starts depends on the day that Holy Pascha is celebrated, and its duration varies from year to year; when Pascha is early it lasts six weeks; when it is as late as can be only a week and a day.
This year [He was evidently speaking in 1956, when Pascha fell on St George’s day - transl.], with its comparatively late Pascha, the Local Orthodox Churches which shortly after the First World War adopted the new style calendar, are completely deprived of this fast, because on the new calendar the day of the commemoration of the Holy Chiefs of the Apostles Peter and Paul falls on the Friday before the Sunday of All Saints, and so, in this way, this fast is completed obliterated. The same thing always occurs when Pascha falls on 20th April or later; then for the new calendarists the St Peter fast disappears.
Is such a thing tolerable?
In no way! The Church’s establishment of a fast in honour of the Holy Apostles, who themselves by fasting and prayer prepared themselves for the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world, is mentioned in the Apostolic Constitutions themselves: “After Pentecost, keep one week more festival, and after that fast, for it is reasonable to rejoice for the gift of God, and to fast after that relaxation for the flesh” (Book 5, chapter 19 or 20). Beginning in the fourth century, we find a whole raft of patristic references which emphasize the great importance which this fast enjoyed among the Christians of that time. Saints Athanasius the Great, Ambrose of Milan, Leo the Great and Theodoretus of Cyrrhus make mention of it. St Leo the Great speaks of the meaning and significance of the Apostles’ Fast in a particularly thorough and intelligent way: “After the prolonged festival of Pentecost [i.e. the forty days from Pascha to Pentecost Sunday and the week after - transl.], the fast is especially necessary, so that by struggling therein we may cleanse our mind and be deemed worthy to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Homily 76). “The present festival, beloved,” he says in another homily, “which the Holy Spirit hallowed by His descent, is routinely followed by a fast for all the people, which has been beneficially instituted for the healing of soul and body, and which we are required to observe with due reverence. For we must be in no doubt that, after the Apostles were filled with power from on high according to the promise and the Spirit of Truth abode in their hearts, this teaching of spiritual restraint was, along with other mysteries of the heavenly doctrine, granted unto them, so that the heart purified by fasting, should be deemed worthy to receive the gifts of Grace. The Almighty, by His aid, was present with the disciples of Christ and the leaders of the emerging Church, established by God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but it was still impossible for them to contend against the persecutors’ forces and the furious threats of the dishonourable ones with their exhausted bodies and pampered flesh, because that which pleases the outer man harms the inner man, and on the contrary the reasoning soul is the more purified the more the flesh is kept in subjection. So, for the enlightenment of all the children of the Church, both by their example and by their precepts, they defined holy fasting as the very beginning of the struggle for Christ, that having to fight against spiritual wickedness, we might each have the armour of abstinence with which we might slay sinful desires.... For this reason an unchanging and salutary practice was established, that after the holy and joyous days which we celebrate in honour of the Lord, risen from the dead and then ascended into the Heavens, and after the reception of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, there comes an appointed fast. This practice must be kept assiduously, so that those gifts which are now bestowed by God upon the Church might remain ours” (Homily 74).
“Fasting is enjoined,” St Leo explains, “so that we be kept from carelessness, into which it extremely easy to fall when for a long period we are given allowance with regard to the foods we use, because then the field of our flesh is not being constantly tilled. It then easily brings forth tares and thistles, and it will yield such fruit, as would not be gathered into the granary, but would be committed to the flames” (Homily 4).
And this is what the Blessed Simeon of Thessalonica has to say about the Apostolic precept: “The fast of the Apostles was established in their honour so that through them we might be deemed worthy of many good things, and they are manifest to us as practicers and teachers of fasting, even unto death itself persevering in restraint. To this even the Latins bear witness against their will, honouring the Apostles on the days of their memorials with fasting; but we, in adhering to the Apostolic Constitutions compiled by Clement, after the Descent of the Holy Spirit keep one week as a feast and then, following after them, by fasting we honour the Apostles who enjoining fasting upon us” (Answers to Various Questions).
All that has been said above, as we see, the new calendarists disdain, disregarding even the anathema which was pronounced by the twelfth century Patriarch of Antioch, Theodore Balsamon, who in one of his epistles to the Antiochian flock writes: “From this day and thereafter until the feast of Peter and Paul, all the faithful, that is the lay people and the monastics, are required to fast, and let those who do not keep the fast be excommunicated from the assembly of the Orthodox Christians.”
For all genuinely believing Christians, for whom “Christianity” is not just an empty name devoid of inner content, but is an active following of the teaching of the Gospel, one which demands a struggle, it is indispensable that they bear in mind that the introduction of the new calendar into the Orthodox Church was only one of a whole raft of reforms dreamed up by Meletius IV, the Patriarch of Constantinople, of sorry memory. Along with the new calendar among these reforms, the modernists, who breathe the same spirit as our Living Churchmen and Renovationists,* have in mind and cherish hopes to introduce a married episcopate, second marriage for clergymen, the abolition of monasticism, the abolition of the fasts, the shortening of the Divine services, permitting the clergy to wear secular clothes and have the appearance of lay people,** and so on.
Is it not manifest to each and every Christian who soberly regards these issues that all these reforms, including the new calendar which has in fact done away with one of the fasts, are only necessary so that within Christianity the commandments of Christ the Saviour Himself might be brought to nought, for He said that the way is straight and narrow, and He certified that the broad and wide way leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13)?
Who then is revealed as the inspirer of these reforms?
Translated from the Homilies and Speeches (1951-1960) of the Ever-Memorable Archbishop Averky.
* The Living Church movement in Post-Revolutionary Russia was backed by the atheistic regime, because it helped cause division and confusion in the Church. For a time it gained some ascendancy but was defeated by the piety of the people and the steadfastness of the confessing hierarchs.
** This refers to clergymen trimming their beards and hair to look like laymen, and presumably, at least on occasion, hide their calling.