Dormition of the Theotokos -
On August 15th we celebrate the Dormition of the Mother of God. Mary is a most important figure in our faith. God could only choose a most pure and blessed woman to be the one who would give flesh to His only Son, Jesus. She agreed to carry in her womb the uncontainable God. We cannot understand fully her role. It defies all logic. Her conception was carried out by the Holy Spirit. That is why we say she was a virgin before this event and remained one after.
For over 30 years she saw Jesus as her son, her child in His humanity. She was with Him from infancy to the time of the Crucifixion. Then after He arose to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven, she was an essential support for the Apostles as they carried out the mission of spreading the Good News, the Gospel. When she died all the apostles returned to Jerusalem for her burial and there was a great procession.
Her tomb can be visited to this day at the foot of Mount of Olives outside of Jerusalem, but here we discover another miracle about her life. The tomb is empty. So we believe that she was taken up to heaven and is seated with Christ next to the throne of heaven.
We call her the Theotokos because this means the Mother of God. She is one who most Orthodox Christians have a special relationship with and seek her help in their prayers. There are many shrines and churches dedicated to her and many miracle working icons including several that were made by the Apostle Saint Luke.
We honor her as greater that the Seraphiim and Cherebim. All our liturgical prayers end with a prayer seeking bhervhelp. Why? Because without her we would not have Jesus.
The commemoration of the Dormition of the Theotokos and the preparation for the Feast begin on August 1 with a period of fasting. A strict fast is followed on most of the days (no meat, dairy, oil, or wine), with the exceptions of fish on the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6) and the day of the Dormition. Oil and Wine are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays. It is a time when many seek to have confession and renew their lives in the image and commandments of Christ.
On the weekdays before the Feast, Paraklesis services are held in most parishes. These consist of the Great Paraklesis and the Small Paraklesis, both services of supplication and prayer for the intercessions of the Theotokos.
The Feast of the Dormition is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which is conducted on the morning of the Feast and preceded by a Matins (Orthros) service. A Great Vespers is conducted on the evening before the day of the Feast. Scripture readings for the Feast of the Dormition are the following: At Vespers: Genesis 28:10-17; Ezekiel 43:27-44:4; Proverbs 9:1-11. At the Matins: Luke 1:39-49, 56. At the Divine Liturgy: Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28.
In Greece this day is a day of great feasts. Not only are the churches crowded but there are family gatherings with much celebration.