The Holy Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos

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My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

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THE HOLY DORMITION (FALLING ASLEEP) OF THE THEOTOKOS

As all of you know the feast of the Dormition (Koimisis) of the Theotokos celebrated on August 15th. For those Churches using the Julian Calendar, this feast falls on August 28th. The Feast of the Koimisis commemorates the falling asleep (death) of the Mother of God, Translation (Metastasis), and glorification of Christ's Holy Mother.

According to the Holy Orthodox Christian Tradition, the Ever-virgin Mary died like all human beings. The Theotokos died as all people die, not "voluntarily" as Her Son, but by the necessity of Her mortal human nature.

For the first fifteen days of the month of August during each year, the Holy Orthodox Church enters into a strict fast period in honor of the Mother of God, the Ever-Virgin Mary. The eminent Russian Orthodox theologian, Father Sergei Bulgakov, expresses the significant and high regard which the Orthodox Christians have for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, for Her unique role in the salvation of mankind, when he affirms, "The warm veneration of the Theotokos is the soul of Orthodox Christian Piety." Saint John Damascene, one of the great Orthodox Holy Fathers, 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 Virgin Mary "Theotokos", from the Greek, which means "The Birth-Giver of God." This is the highest title can be bestowed upon any human being.

In the Orthodox Church, fasting continues as an important spiritual discipline which serves as the foundation of our spiritual life. Saint Paisius Velichkovsky says "The heart cannot remain firm in purity, so as not to be defiled, if it will not be crushed by fasting. It is impossible also to preserve holiness without fasting, and the flesh will not submit to the spirit for spiritual activity, and prayer itself will not rise up and act because natural needs predominate. And the flesh will be compelled to become feverish. And from thoughts the heart is aroused and is defiled, and through this, grace departs, and the unclean spirits have boldness to rule over us as much as they wish."

When we fast, however, it is not enough that we fast from food. Saint Leo the Great says, "...We must then so moderate our rightful use of food our other desires may be subject to the same rule.

The Ever-Virgin Mary, was "Blessed amongst women," and she was chosen "to bear the Savior of our souls." We, therefore, as Orthodox Christians, consider Her to be the Queen of Heaven and of all the saints and the Angels.

Believing that She holds such a high place in the Kingdom of Heaven, and that She is eternally present at the Throne of God interceding for mankind, we, as genuine Orthodox Christians, must pray for Her love, guidance, and protection. We must never forget to ask Her intercessions in times of sickness, sadness, crisis, and danger, and we must constantly thank Her care, compassion, and Her prayers in our behalf. She is our greatest Advocate before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Orthodox Christians refer to this holy celebration as the Summer Pascha. This Fast period climaxed on August 15th, when the Church gathers to honor and celebrate the Great Feast of the Koimisis (Falling Asleep) of the Mother of God. During this fourteen day fast period, our Holy Church prescribes that the Paraklesis divine service be conducted in Her honor. Also, it is during this service that the names of Orthodox Christians are given to the priest to pray for their good health, complete recovery from illness, for forgiveness, and for guidance.

The word 'Paraklesis' has two different meanings: the first is "consolation," from which the Holy Spirit Our God is called the "Parakletos" or "Paraclete" or "Consoler"; the second is "supplication" or "petition." The divine Service of the Paraklesis to the Mother of God consists of hymns of supplication to contain consolation and courage. It should be offered it times of temptation, discouragement. fear, conflict, personal stress, hopelessness, and illness. It is used more particularly during the two week before the Holy Dormition, from August 1-13. On the Eve of the Feast the divine service of Great Vespers is conducted along with the service of Artoklasia (Blessing of the Five Loaves of Bread, wine and oil), and the Epitaphion service (Engomia or Lamentation) of the Panagia. The procession of the Epitaphion of the Ever-virgin Mary is very similar as that of Holy and Great Friday.

As a reminder for those Orthodox Christians who have forgotten the historical and theological Tradition of the Feast we offer the following explanation: The Holy Apostles were miraculously summoned to come to Her and all were present except Saint Thomas. "Saint John Damascene in his second homily on the Dormition relates that once the Empress Pulcheria (5th century), who had built a church in Constantinople, asked Patriarch of Jerusalem, Juvenalius, a participant in the Council of Chalcedon, for holy relics of the Most Holy Virgin Mary to place in the church. Juvenalius replied that, in accordance with ancient tradition, the body of the Mother of God had been taken to heaven, and he joined to this reply the well-known account of how the Holy Apostles had been assembled in miraculous fashion for the burial of the Mother of God, how after the arrival of the Apostle Thomas her grave had been opened and her body was not there, and how it has been revealed to the Apostles that her body had ascended to Heaven...".

Please note: Orthodox Christians who practice the faith know that during the decapentavousto (15 days of August) there is strict fast: We abstain from meat, oil, wine, dairy products, and fish. Especially on Wednesdays and Fridays. We break fast only on August 6th, the Holy Transfiguration of Christ (Metamorphosis tou Soteros [Transfiguration of the Savior] by eating fish as we do on Palm Sunday and Annunciation of the Ever-Virgin Mary).

{To be continued) 

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The Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn for the Feast of the Holy Dormition. Tone First
In giving birth you preserved your virginity, In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.  You were translated (metestis) to life, O Mother of Life, And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.

Kontakion (Tone 2)

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.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George