June 2015 Letter
The beginning of the month of June this year marks the start of the Apostles’ Fast, which ends by the feast of martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul on July 12th. To benefit from this fast we abstract from an article of H.G. Bishop Mettaos; Bishop of the monastery of El-Sourian:
“The Apostle’s fast is the oldest fast in the church, established by Christ Himself when the disciples of John the Baptist came to Him saying: : “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast? And Jesus said to them, Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days” (Mark 2: 18-20).
“So actually after the ascension of Christ to heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples and being filled by The Spirit, they fasted this fast and called it the Fast of the Holy Spirit. This name continued until the council of Nicaea in 325 AD when the name was changed to the Fast of the Apostles, in honor of the apostles who fasted to stir up the Holy Spirit whom they received on the day of Pentecost, so that He acts powerfully in them and help them in the service and evangelism, that they were coming forth to preach to the whole world.
“The spiritual meanings of the Apostles’ fast:
+ A fast for preaching and evangelism: the coming of the Holy Spirit was the signal to start their service: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1: 8).
+ It is the cause of the strength of the church and evangelism: when the apostles fasted before they started the service they stared up the gift of the Holy Spirit that they received: “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2Ti 1: 6). We now observe that any priest when newly ordained spends 40 days in a monastery, fasting and receiving the rites of the holy liturgy and other sacraments, praying every day and reading a lot to stir up the gift that he received in his ordination. This increases the spiritual power which will help him in the service that he will start.
+ A fellowship with the Holy Spirit in witnessing for Christ as He said: “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness” (John 15: 26-17). Fasting and prayer help to witness for Christ by deeds and words.
As for the church news, by the grace of God the contract for the new iconostasis was signed; you can see its design on the church website: www.smandsm.org .
May the blessing of Saint Mary, the holy apostles, and Saint Mercurius be with us all.
Fr. Youssef Halim & Fr. Luke Istafanous
Belleville, June 1, 2015