Beginning August 1 thru August 14, we in the Orthodox Church observe the great penitentiary fast before the Great Feast of the Falling Asleep of the Most Holy Theotokos, (Dormition),the Mother of God. This great feast honors the Virgin Mary, The Prototype of Womanhood, through whom the mystery of the incarnation took place.
According to tradition, the burial of the Theotokos took place, in the village of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Shortly before her death, all the Apostles miraculously gathered from all the corners of the world to bid farewell to Mary. People and angels joined the solemn procession, as they do to this day in Jerusalem ever since and on a lesser and more intimate manner in our parishes. As we commemorate the death of the Theotokos we also marvel at the paradox of the falling asleep of the one who, by giving birth to Christ, was the Mother of Life.
In the words of one of the hymns of this feast, ” it sings and marvels that the fountain of life is laid in a tomb, the grave becomes a means of ascent to heaven”… “Hail, O Women, full of Grace, the Lord is with you, the Lord who, because of you, bestows great mercy upon the world. (Vespers Hymn). The Virgin is honored by Christian traditions (East and West) as the greatest person among the saints, for several reasons: 1. Mary conceived and carried our Lord and Savior into the world. 2.Mary is an example of faithful obedience to God’s plan. And thirdly Mary intercedes for our salvation as the spiritual Mother of Christians. For truly she is our advocate before God, and the very sound of her name gladdens the soul. But all heaven and earth rejoice in her love.
May we all come to Church this Sunday and bring our flowers and herbs to adorn her most blessed shroud depicting her laying on her funeral bier surrounded by all the Apostles, as they gather from all the corners of the earth. Let us as those of old pray before her image for she became the living tabernacle for our Savior and her son Jesus Christ. Most Holy Theotokos Save Us!