The Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos commemorates the day of the end of the earthly life of the Mother of God. In Greece, it is one of the main Christian holidays, which is also called “summer Easter”.
The holiday belongs to the twelve, that is, the twelve largest Christian holidays. It is preceded by a fairly strict Dormition Fast.
The word “dormition” means a peaceful end. On this day, Christians celebrate the ascension of the Mother of God to heaven and reunification with God.
According to legend, three days before the death of the Mother of God, the Archangel Gabriel appeared and warned her about the transition to heavenly life, which should take place very soon, and, as a sign of confirmation of his presence and the veracity of what was said, presented her with a palm branch.
On the day indicated, the apostles, preaching in different countries, miraculously gathered in Jerusalem to say goodbye and to perform the burial of the Mother of God. And Jesus Christ himself, accompanied by the souls of the righteous, angels and archangels, descended to earth and took the body and soul of the Mother of God to heaven.
The Christian faith views death as a test that everyone must go through in order to pass into eternal life. Therefore, the church calls this day exactly the Dormition, and not death. Thus, the Dormition of the Mother of God is considered a holiday, and not a reason for sadness, because the Mother of God was reunited with her son.
History and meaning of the holiday
After the Ascension of the Lord, the Mother of God remained in the care of the Apostle John the Theologian, to whom Jesus Christ bequeathed to take care of her as of his own mother.
For the closest disciples of Jesus Christ and all believers, she was a consolation and edification. The apostles wrote down everything that the Mother of God told about her life and about the life of her son.
Once, when the Most Holy Mary was praying on the Mount of Olives, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her with a paradise date branch in his hands and brought the news that in three days her earthly life would end and the Lord would take her to Himself. The Mother of God was delighted with this news: she realized that she could meet with her son.
After the death of the Mother of God, the apostles buried her body in Gethsemane. The ceremony was attended by everyone except the Apostle Thomas. On the third day, when Thomas arrived at the Mount of Olives, he wished to see her tomb. It was opened, but the body of the Mother of God was no longer in it, only the shroud lay there.
On the same evening, the Mother of God appeared to the apostles, surrounded by angels and said: “Rejoice! I am always with you all the days and will always be your prayer book before God.”
Tradition and Observance of the Fast
According to church tradition, the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is preceded by fasting, the foundations of which were established in the 7th century. Initially, it was divided into two periods: before the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord and before the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Both of them in the X century were combined into a single one, which includes 14 days and begins on August 1.
As during any Orthodox fast, during the Assumption Fast, it is important not only bodily abstinence, but also spiritual abstinence, that is, one must try not to indulge in noisy entertainment.
According to the church charter, on these days the severity of the meal is the same as on Great Lent, that is, meat and dairy products, eggs are excluded, and fish is allowed only on the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.
According to some monastic statutes, it is prescribed:
on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – dry eating; on Tuesdays and Thursdays – cooked food without vegetable oil; oil and wine are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays.
On the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos on August 15, if it falls on Wednesday or Friday, fish is allowed, and fasting is postponed to the next day. If it falls on other days of the week, then there is no fasting.
On the days of fasting, August 15, in the afternoon hours in churches (except Sundays), services are held: “Μικρός και ο Μέγας Παρακλητικός Κανών εις την Υπεραιίαν Θεοτόκον” and “Παρακκ”