Our Mother, the Church, is again inviting us to celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary and Mother of our God. Events relating to the lives of the Saints are a cause for joy, sacred contemplation, and opportunities for prayer and the worship of God glorified in Trinity.
The month of August is a remarkable one for the Orthodox Church, for during this month we celebrate two great and historic events.
The first is the feast of our Lord’s Transfiguration – an event that is intimately connected with our pure Orthodox Faith, for it reminds us of our own transfiguration, a change that must take place in us, and our own relationship with Christ the Saviour, as the author of the hymn reminds us:
“You were transfigured on Mount Tabor, showing the exchange mortal men shall make with Your glory at Your fearful Second Coming, O Saviour. Elijah and Moses conversed with You, and You called three of Your disciples to be with You. As they gazed upon Your glory, O Master, they were astounded by Your blinding light. O Lord, who then had shone upon them with Your light, give light now to our souls.” (Feast of the Transfiguration, 1st Kathisma)
The event of Christ’s Transfiguration is narrated by the holy authors of the New Testament as a miracle which occurred on Mount Tabor, and which revealed the majesty of Christ’s divinity. The three disciples, together with the Old Testament prophets who saw God, Moses and Elijah, tasted the divine light and uncreated energies of God, although they were carnal beings still bound to earthly things. Orthodox Christians celebrate this theological Feast with prayer and joy and sacred expectation, for the God-man thus revealed His divinity, and taught us that we shall be participants and sharers in the gifts of His heavenly glory which He promised to those who believe in Him, who become members of His Church and inheritors of His heavenly Kingdom.
The second event is the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Our celebration of the assumption of the Mother of God and Ever-virgin Mary is preceded by fervent supplications (the Paracleses), and accompanied by joyful hope and assurance in the power of faith in Christ and the existential relationship of the living and the dead with their Creator.
The first fifteen days of August therefore play a crucial role in the life of Orthodox Christians. With joyful sorrow we sing of death, which is a fact of life for the natural world and for sinful and fallen humanity, and even for the saints and the Most-holy Mother of Christ, the God-man.
The sacred services of the Paraclesis in the first fifteen days of August are unique spiritual works and religious poems, fragrant with faith in God and hope that He hears and receives the sighs of our heart and the cries of human weakness and sinfulness. They remind us also that Christ’s Mother is the “protection of Christians that cannot be put to shame, unfailing mediation with the Maker”, an intercessor in our sorrows, and a physician of the infirmities and afflictions of life, a “swift and speedy helper”. The supplications and prayers of the Saints for humanity are part and parcel of holiness in which share the friends of God, and especially His Mother, who was counted worthy to receive Him in her womb in a way beyond understanding, in order that the Only-begotten Son and Word of God may enter human history, as St John the Evangelist teaches us: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
We too partake in this glory and joy – we who have been privileged to receive and inherit the Gospel Message, the message of the joy of Christ’s Resurrection. The first to experience it was His Most-holy Mother, whose Dormition and heavenly assumption is being celebrated by Christians throughout the world.
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, our Mother, the Church, is reminding us of God’s love for His creation, and is inviting us to follow the Most-holy Mother of God to heaven. This is what the angels and the holy Apostles did: from the corners of the earth they went to Gethsemane to receive her blessing. With them, we devoutly run to Christ the Saviour and Redeemer of mankind, to place before Him our prayers and requests like fragrant spiritual incense, and we ask Him to make us sharers in His glory and Kingdom. Let us ask the Virgin Mary to pray for us, to give peace to our souls, and to unburden us of the cares of this life. This is something we need more than ever, given the unemployment and economic crisis which are currently plaguing many people and nations, creating confusion and insecurity in society, and troubling families and young people who are striving to make a better, more just, and more peaceful future.
Do you, O Most-holy Lady, pray to your Only-begotten Son for the peace of the whole world, for families and children, for the sick and the poor, for those who lack basic needs, for those at war, for those in captivity and for those who are missing. Enlighten the world’s leaders that they may have patience, that they may grow in righteousness, harmony, peace, co-operation and solidarity, that they may protect the weak and uphold orphans and widows, and all those who turn to you to find rest and solace and a motherly response to their requests and daily worries. Lead people to entrust their lives to your Only-begotten Son, who sent down the Manna from Heaven and the Good News of divine Love and charity to reunite us with our Father and Creator.
I urge Orthodox Christians to go to church and sing the Paracleses with all their heart, to seek aid and solace from the Most-holy Mother of God, who always hears and receives our prayers with tears, and always carries them to the throne of our Lord Jesus Christ. During these first fifteen days of August, let us prepare in body and soul for the summer Pascha of Orthodox Christians by participating in the Church’s services, with humble and devout prayer, with fasting and preparation for the Mystery of Holy Communion and the universal joy of the Saints.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son and Word of the living God, at the intercessions of our Lady Mother of God and Ever-virgin Mary and of all Your Saints, have mercy on us and save Your people, for You are a merciful God Who is good and loves mankind. Amen.
by Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain