Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
MEGALYNARION TO THE THEOTOKOS AND EVER-VIRGIN MARY
It is meet indeed to bless the Ever-Blessed and Most Pure and Mother of our God. Thee that art more honorable than the Cherubim, and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim, who without spot of sin didst bear God the Logos (Word); Thee, verily the Mother of God, we magnify.
In giving birth, you preserved your virginity! In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos! You were translated to life, O Mother of Life, And by your prayers you deliver our souls from death!
Neither the tomb, nor death, could hold the Theotokos, Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions. For being the Mother of Life, She was translated to life by the One Who dwelt in her virginal womb!
For the first fourteen days of August during each year, the Holy Orthodox Christian Church enters into a strict fast period in honor of the Mother of God (Theotokos), the Ever-Virgin Mary. The eminent Orthodox theologian , Father Sergei Bulgakov, wonderfully expresses the great love which the Orthodox Christians have for the Mother of God, for her unique role in the salvation of mankind, when he states: "The warm veneration of the Theotokos is the soul of Orthodox Christian piety." Another great holy Father of the Church Saint John of Damascus, pointed out that when the Blessed Virgin Mary became the Mother of God and gave birth to Christ, the Redeemer of Mankind, she became the Mother of mankind. We call the Ever-Virgin Mary 'Theotokos', from the Greek, which means "the birth-giver or the bearer of God." This is the highest title than can be bestowed upon any member of the human race.
The Mother of God, the Ever-Virgin Mary, was "blessed amongst women" (St. Luke 1:28). She is greeted by the Archangel Gabriel with an exalted salutation because, in her destiny to be the Mother of the Savior, she is the Most Blessed woman of all time. In accord with Saint Luke's picture of her, the Ever-Virgin Mary is praised in Our Orthodox Church as being surrounded with Divine grace and shining with holiness. We, therefore, as Orthodox Christians, consider her to be the Queen of all the Saints and the Angels.
Knowing that she holds such a preeminent place in the Kingdom of Heaven and that she is eternally present at the Throne of God interceding for mankind, we, as devout Orthodox Christians, must pray for her love, guidance, and protection. We must not ever forget to ask for her intercessions in times of distress, illness and danger, and we must constantly thank her for her compassion and her prayers in our behalf.
To the Theotokos, let us run now most fervently, As sinners and lowly ones, Let us fall down in repentance, Crying from the depths of our soul: Lady, come and help us, Have compassion upon us; Hasten now for we are lost In the host of our errors; Do not turn your servants away, For you alone are a hope to us.
O Theotokos, we shall never be silent. Of your mighty acts, all we the unworthy; Had you not stood to intercede for us Who would have delivered us, From the numerous perils? Who would have preserved us all Until now with our freedom? O Lady, we shall not depart from you; For you always save your servants, From all tribulation.
[From the Small Paraklesis [Supplication] service to the Most Holy Theotokos]
Every year the Holy Orthodox Christian Church sets aside the first fourteen days of August in honor of the Ever-Virgin Mary. This fast period is climaxed on August 15th, when the Church gathers to celebrate the Great Feast of the Holy Dormition (Koimisis) [Falling-Asleep of the Theotokos]. During this fourteen day fast period, the Orthodox Church prescribes that the Paraklesis holy Service be held in honor of the All-Holy Mother of God for the first 13 evenings. On the 14th of August Great Vespers is conducted followed by the Epitaphio and hymns (Engomia) of Lamentations. It very much like Holy and Great Friday of Holy Week.
The Greek word "paraklesis" has two different meanings the first is "consolation", from which the Holy Spirit is called the "Parakletos" or "Paraclete", or "Consoler", the second is "supplication" or "petition". The holy Service of the Paraklesis to the Theotokos consists of supplications to obtain consolation and courage. It should be recited in times of temptation, discouragement, distress, or illness. It is used more particularly during the two weeks before the Koimisis (Repose) or Metastasis (Translation), of the Theotokos, from August 1st to August 14th. The theme of these Paraklesis holy Services centers around the petition. "Most Holy Mother of God, save us."
For those In great sorrow you are joy, And for the oppressed, a protection, And for the hungry, their food, Comfort unto those estranged; You are a staff to the blind, Visitation of all those sick, And to those held by pain Shelter and a comforting, And to the orphaned, an aid; Mother, of Our God in the Highest, You who are the Spotless One, hasten, Save your servants from their sin, we ask of you. [Paraklesis]
If you have a personal problem or if something is burdening your soul, if you feel spiritually anxious and if you are not at peace with yourself and with those around you, then, you should come to the church during the first fifteen days of August and ask for the intercessions of the Mother of God. Even if you are fortunate enough to be one of those very few who are at peace with themselves and with God, then those blessed ones should come to these holy services and thank God and His Blessed Mother for the blessings that they have bestowed upon you and your family.
Keeping the fast during this holy season is spiritually most important. Just like Great Lent fasting during the fourteen days of August is strict i.e., no meat or meat-products, no dairy products, no fish (fish is permitted on the Feast of Transfiguration on the 6th), no olive oil, no wine or any alcoholic drinks...It is not abstaining from certain foods alone but one must abstain from sinful activity, evil thoughts, hateful feelings, unforgiving attitude, and all passions and vices that lead to perdition.
By the practice of fasting Orthodox Christians are reminded in a direct bodily way of the presence of the Lord. Fasting in Orthodoxy is not done out of a spirit of 'atonement' for sins. It is approached as an act of ascesis of love. Ascesis is the ancient word for athletic practice; and the regular practice of fasting in Orthodox parish life becomes a peaceful way of cleansing the mind as well as the body: reminding the flesh that it has to be obedient and in good condition to serve the Lord. The practice of fasting was common in the Church from the earliest times, and was always associated with the preparation for prayer. Before approaching the Holy Eucharistic Mysteries each Orthodox Christian (those who are old enough and strong enough) must abstain from all food and drink. Along with prayer and fasting the Orthodox Christian should participate in the Sacrament of Holy Confession or repentance as often and not one in a lifetime.
Don't let laziness and apathy cause you to miss this great blessing and inspiration that the Church can bestow upon you. Let the peace and holiness that only the Mother of God can give you enter into your life, "Let us lay aside all earthly cares," and let us truly, during these fifteen days, participate in the fasting and prayer life of our Holy Church so that we can "taste and see that the Lord is good," and so that we may fully experience the spiritual blessings that the church offers to us this holy season. "Blessed is he whom He shall find watching." Come and pray to the Theotokos with us and with the Church and by her prayers and intercessions, may our souls be saved.
You are the sweetness of Angels, The gladness of the afflicted ones, A protection of all Christians, O Virgin Mother of our Lord; Grant me now help and save me From the eternal torments.
You are a tower adorned with gold, A city surrounded by twelve walls, A shining throne touched by the sun, A royal seat for the King, O unexplainable Wonder, How do you nurse the Master?
Put me not into the hands Of any human protection, O our Lady, most Holy, But do now receive the prayers of your supplicant; Sorrow has taken me, And I am unable To withstand and bear the demon's darts; Shelter I do not have, Nor a place to go, worthless that I am Lady of humanity, The Shelter of the faithful and their hope, Do not reject my prayers to you, Do the things that profit me.
A protection of Christians unshamable, Intercessor of our Holy Maker, unwavering, reject not The prayerful cries of those who are in sin. Instead, come to us, for you are good; Your loving help bring to you: Hasten to intercede And speed now to supplicate, As a protection for all time, Theotokos, for those who honor you [Small Paraklesis]
[During the Dekapentavgousto [fifteen days of August] we will continue our discussion about the Theotokos, Prayer, Fasting, Worship, Sacraments, Ascesis and other related spiritual articles according to our Holy Orthodox Christian Tradition].
Please note: Some of the Paraklesis services conducted at 7:00 p.m. Some will take place at Saint Andrew and others at our Holy Dormition Chapel in New Carlisle. If you need directions to the Chapel please contact Amber at the church office. Kalo Dekapentavgousto or may we all have a blessed fifteen days of August. The holy service is performed both in Greek and English.
Please remember to bring the Orthodox (Baptismal) names of you and your family including Orthodox relatives to be prayed for during the Paraklesis, especially if you have family members, relatives or friends that are sick or are going through some type of personal crisis. There is no need to ever include the last name. We only use the first name of the person both at the paraklesis and at the Divine Liturgy.
If you wish you may donate funds for flowers, incense, candles, olive oil. You may also donate to the completion of Holy Dormition Chapel which we are expending.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God