Message of His Eminence, Archbishop Nicolae for the Fast of the Holy Apostles
Following the Feast of Pentecost which occurs fifty days after the Resurrection, the Church observes a fast which is longer this year than usual, the Fast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. On the first Sunday of this fast, the Sunday of the Romanian and American Saints, the Holy Gospel reminds us about the calling of the Apostles to their mission: first Simon Peter and Andrew his brother, then James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Each one was called to be a fisher of men. And they immediately left their nets and followed Christ. „And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23).
The Apostles were called by the Lord to proclaim the Gospel and to heal diseases. Christ Himself started the mission, preaching to all that the Kingdom of Heaven had come near, and healing people of their sicknesses. After the Lord’s Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Apostles fulfilled the same mission. In the Book of Acts we find an example of this mission, in the healing of the crippled man by St. Peter at the gate of the Temple: „Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). The healing became an occasion to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.
This mission continues to be fulfilled in the Church through Word and Sacrament. In the Church we hear the Word of the Gospel and we receive the Holy Mysteries which bring us healing. Christ works in the Church through the Holy Spirit, calling some to be fishers of men and others to receive the fruits of the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Holy Mysteries. Only in the Church can we have the blessing of the revelation of God through the Word, a revelation which works righteousness in us. And to the blessing of revelation through the Word we add the ministry of the Sacraments, such as our healing through the Mystery of Holy Anointing, the union of a man and a woman for a Christian life together through the Mystery of Marriage, and our being built into the Body of Christ through the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist.
This fasting period gives us a chance to enter into these realities of the Kingdom of Christ. As we fast, we pray more, and we strive to attain spiritual growth by letting go of earthly things for awhile. When we fast, hunger and thirst take on a spiritual aspect, and we understand the Savior’s words: „Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which comes out of the mouth of God”. When we fast, our body becomes transparent for the work of the Holy Spirit. The evidence is found in the fruits of the Holy Spirit mentioned by St. Paul the Apostle: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22-23).
My challenge during this Apostles’ Fast is that we strive to attain the fruits of the Spirit. God will add His grace to our efforts, and thus we will become co-laborers in our own sanctification.