PROPER OF SEASON
THE FIRST FIFTEEN DAYS OF AUGUST
AND THE CHRISTIAN ORTHODOX TRADITION
"Nor tomb nor death overpowered the Mother of God, unsleeping in her prayers, unfailing hope in intercession; for as Mother of Life she has been taken over into life by him who dwelt in her ever-virgin womb." [Kontakion of the Feast]
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Once again we are celebrating, with all due solemnity, the Dormition of the AII-holy Theotokos and Mother of our God. The person of the Virgin Mary has always been a spiritual support, a guardian, a source of sacred joy and hope and a sure refuge for Christians, and particularly for us Orthodox Christians. Since the time when the Archangel Gabriel uttered those wondrous words, "Hail, Full-of-grace; the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women" [Luke 1:28] up until this very day, Christians and others have wondered at, honoured and blessed the Virgin Mary and have regarded her as a holy and privileged person, one who is a unique figure, destined to exercise a divine role for the human race. Christians have never ceased to praise her and, in a wonderful and inspired way, to express their love for her honourable and much-hymned person.
They have attributed many names to her which testify to their mystical, personal and existential relationship with her.
Some of these names remain uncontested -expressions of the faith of the Church regarding the place of the Virgin in the plans of divine economy for salvation, sanctification and the renewal of God's love and His providence for the human race. The Third Oecumenical Council in Ephesus (431) named her Theotokos and Mother of our God and reasserted in a festal way that this humble daughter of Nazareth is the Mother of Christ the God-man, as the Creed characteristically and concisely proclaims: Christ "was born of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary". This is why she is Ever-virgin. Christ's birth was above understanding, beyond the laws of human logic and nature.
With the incarnation of Christ a new creation was inaugurated. The first came about with the creation of Adam and Eve from nothing through clay, the earth; and the second was by divine grace, the body of the Virgin Mary became
"the palace of the King of all" and "the throne" on which sat the Divine Word and became man
"being brought up among men". Every time we address her, we restate this truth which constitutes the faith and teaching of the Church from apostolic times until today. The name of the Mother of God is uttered because this "blessed among women" contributed in a mystical and unique way to the sacred event of the salvation of the human race. She became the mystical and corporeal
"ladder, by which God came down". She became the celestial "bridge, leading those from earth to heaven", as the author of the Akathist Hymn
We are, then, celebrating again this year the blessed Dormition of. the All-holy Mother of God and, "gathered together from the ends of the earth in the village of Gethesemane" together with the Apostles, we greet her and honour "the protection of Christians that can not be put to shame". We mystically accompany her in worship, with piety we give her thanks, and we prayerfully urge her to not abandon us in times of temptation and weakness, trial and fear, but to always make "unfailing mediation with the Maker". And, just as she intervened at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, may she continue to intercede with Christ, her Son and Saviour of the world, to soften the pains of humanity and to uphold both great and small. May she remember the mothers of the world, for the Virgin Mary was a mother and was pierced by the sword of pain and death, scorn and the baseness of this temporal life. As a mother and virgin may she pray for the protection of young people throughout the world. She knows that young people are easily led astray by the devil and the allurements of this world. The tempter has increased his attacks against the children of God. Rightly does the hymnographer of the Feast of the Dormition pray:
"Therefore" immaculate Mother of God" as you live for ever with the life-bearing King; your offspring; pray without ceasing that he guard and save from every assault your young people; for we have gained your protection."
The period of the first fifteen days of August is associated with and accompanied by fasting and fervent prayer, sacred compunction and bitter joy. We fast in order to prepare to receive the Most Pure Gifts and to emphasise the event of the death of the All-holy Mother of God. We chant the Small and Great Paracleseis in our churches, and we address the Mother of God with words of gratitude and love, with hymns of reverence and honour: for her contribution to the human race. In the time of her life, she became the "preaching of the Apostles", and she taught us much. With her death, she remains the protection and comfort, intercession and anchor of Christian people. Her life and those things she said constitute a continuous inspiration and joy and an everlasting example for all people.
The Paracleseis and countless hymns which have been written for the Virgin and have enriched the Church are a perpetual reminder of the influence that this blessed and much-hymned person -who, as a mother, had the privilege of bringing Christ the God-man into the world- exercised and continues to exercise. The Mother of God remains a sacred and sure refuge and comfort for every one who bears the honoured name of Christian. Therefore, we celebrate the Dormition of the Mother of God and rejoice with gladness. With justified pride and confidence we chant,
"And where" then" shall I find other succour? Where can I take refuge? Where shall I be saved? Whom shall I have as a fervent supporter, violently shaken as I am by the sorrows of life and" alas" its storms? In you alone I hope" have courage and rejoice" and I have recourse to your protection. Save me".
By the prayers and sacred intercession of the All-holy Theotokos, Your mother, Lord Jesus Christ, Son and Word of the Living God, have mercy and save Your world, for You alone are good and love mankind and are a merciful God. Amen.
+ Gregorios, Archbishop of Thyateira & Great Britain
+ ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE
ARCHIDIOCESE OF THYATEIRA AND GREAT BRITAIN
5 Craven Hill, London W2 3EN. Te1:020-7723 4787 Fax:020-7224 9301 email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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