The Dormition Fast began today!
The Dormition Fast began today!
The Dormition fast was established as preceding the great feasts of the Transfiguration of the Lord and of the Dormition of the Mother of God. It lasts two weeks—from August 1/14–August 14/27 (old style/new style).
The Dormition fast comes down to us from the early days of Christianity.
We find a clear reference to the Dormition fast in a conversation of Leo the Great from around the year 450 A.D. “The Church fasts are situated in the year in such a way that a special abstinence is prescribed for each time. Thus, for spring there is the spring fast ]—the Forty Days[Great Lent; for summer there is the summer fast… [the Apostles’ fast]; for autumn there is the autumn fast, in the seventh month [Dormition fast]; for winter there is the winter fast [Nativity fast].”
St. Symeon of Thessalonica writes that, “The fast in August [Dormition fast] was established in honor of the Mother of God the Word; Who, foreknowing Her repose, ascetically labored and fasted for us as always, although She was holy and immaculate, and had no need for fasting. Thus, She especially prayed for us in preparation for being transported from this life to the future life, when Her blessed soul would be united through the Divine spirit with Her Son. Therefore, we also should fast and praise Her, emulating Her life, urging Her thereby to pray for us. Some, by the way, say that this fast was instituted on the occasion of two feasts—the Transfiguration and the Dormition. I also consider it necessary to remember these two feasts—one which gives us light, and the other which is merciful to us and intercedes for us.”
The Dormition fast is not as strict as the Great Fast, but it is stricter than the Apostle’s and Nativity fasts.
On Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays of the Dormition fast, the Church rubrics prescribe xerophagy, that is, the strictest fast of uncooked food (without oil); on Tuesdays and Thursdays, “with cooked food, but with no oil”; on Saturdays and Sundays wine and oil are allowed.
Until the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, when grapes and apples are blessed in the churches, the Church requires that we abstain from these fruits. According to the tradition of the holy fathers, “If one of the brethren should eat the grapes before the feast, then let him be forbidden for obedience’s sake to taste of the grapes during the entire month of August.”
On the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, the Church rubrics allow fish. After that day, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the fruits of the new harvest would always be included in the meals.
The spiritual fast is closely united with the bodily, just as our soul is united with the body, penetrates it, enlivens it, and makes one united whole with it, as the soul and body make one living human being. Therefore, in fasting bodily we must at the same time fast spiritually: “Brothers, in fasting bodily let us also fast spiritually, severing all union with unrighteousness,” the Holy Church enjoins us.
The main thing In fasting bodily is restraint from abundant, tasty and sweet foods; the main thing in fasting spiritually is restraint from passionate, sinful movements that indulge our sensual inclinations and vices. The former is renunciation of the more nourishing foods for fasting food, which is less nourishing; the latter is the renunciation of our favorite sins for exercise in the virtues which oppose them.
The essence of the fast is expressed in the following Church hymn: “If you fast from food, my soul, but are not purified of the passions, in vain do we comfort ourselves by not eating. For if the fast does not bring correction, then it will be hateful to God as false, and you will be like unto the evil demons, who never eat.”
The Great fast and the Dormition fast are particularly strict with regard to entertainment—in Imperial Russia even civil law forbade public masquerades and shows during these fasts.
The Dormition fast begins on the feast of the “Procession of the Wood of the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord.”
Icon of the Veneration of the Cross. Novgorod. (Preserved in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.)
In the Greek horologion of 1897, the origin of this feast is explained: “Because of the illnesses that occur very often during August, the custom was established in Constantinople of processing the Precious Wood of the Cross through the roads and streets to sanctify places and prevent disease. On the eve of the feast it was carried out of the royal treasury and placed upon the holy table of the Great Church (the Hagia Sophia, dedicated to the Holy Wisdom of God). From that day until the Dormition of the Most Pure Theotokos, lityas were served throughout the city, and the Wood of the Cross was then offered to the people for veneration. This was the procession of the Precious Cross.”
In the Russian Orthodox Church, this feast was linked with the remembrance of the Baptism of Russia in 988. The memory of the day of the Baptism of Russia was preserved in the Chronologies of the sixteenth century, which state that, “Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev and All Rus was baptized on August 1.” In the Discussion of active rites of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church on the Dormition, written in 1627 at the request of Patriarch Philaret of Moscow and All Russia, the feast on August 1 is described: “During the procession on the day of the Precious Cross, there is a blessing of the waters for the enlightenment of the people, throughout the cities and villages.”
On this day, a feast was established of the All-Merciful Savior Christ God, and of the Most Pure Virgin, in honor of the victory of Grand Prince Andrei Bogolubsky over the Volga Bulgars, and of the Greek Emperor Michael over the Saracens.
According to Orthodox Church tradition, on this day the Cross is venerated (according to the rubrics of the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross during Great Lent), and a lesser blessing of the waters is served. Together with the blessing of the waters, new honey is also blessed. (This is where the Russian folk name for the feast, “Savior of the honey,” comes from.)
. . . MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS, SAVE US . . .
The Holy Apostle Silas, whom the greatest apostles chose for the service of preaching the word of God, first with the Holy Great Apostle Paul, and then alone suffered much toil in the proclamation of Christ. At first, when a reference was made from the assembly of the apostles in Jerusalem to the Church of Antioch, so as not to circumcise those who came from the Gentiles to the Holy Faith, St. Silas was sent with other famous men, as St. Luke writes about it. In the Acts of the Apostles: The apostles and elders with all the congregation, choosing men from among themselves, sent to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, Judas named Warsaw, and Silas, the famous man among the brethren.
So they went up to Antioch, and gathered the people together, and gave them a letter, and they rejoiced to read it. And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. Then Silas wanted to spend time in Antioch, and Judah returned to Jerusalem. After this St. Paul wanted to go to other countries to preach, and, choosing St. Silas, he went with him, entrusting himself to the gift of God by the brethren. He passed through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the Churches. And they departed thence, and came to Derbe and Lystra. And in Philippi they cast forth a spirit of divination, which brought forth virgins through their enchantments; And when her masters saw that the hope of their gain was lost, they seized Paul and Silas, and brought them to the chief priests, slandering and saying, These men are troubling our city. So many people gathered around them, and the princes tore their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. And they smote them with the edge of the sword, and cast them into the dungeon;
|Icon showing God´s 70 Holy Apostles|
And at midnight Paul and Silas were singing, praying to God. Then suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken, and the doors were opened, and the bonds were loosed. And the guard of the dungeon, waking up, saw the doors of the dungeon open, and, taking out his knife, wanted to stab himself, it seemed to him that the bound had escaped. But Paul called to him and stopped him from killing himself. Then the keeper of the trembling fell down at the feet of Paul and Silas, and took them out, and brought them into his house, and washed their stripes, and was baptized with all his house. From there the Holy Apostles Paul and Silas went to Amphipolis, Apollonia, and Thessalonica. And many of the Greeks and many of the good women joined them. And the unyielding Jews took some wicked and quarrelsome men out of envy and disturbed the people against the apostles of Christ, desiring to kill them. And the brethren sent away Paul and Silas by night into the city: but the Jews which were at Thessalonica went out against them, and preached the word. So Paul went to sea, and Silas and Timothy remained there. But not many days later, when they were gone, they found St. Paul in Corinth. Then St. Silas was made bishop of Corinth, and after working hard enough to preach the Word of God and doing signs and wonders, he went to the Lord.
The Holy Apostle Silvanus worked hard to preach the word to both the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Both of these apostles mention him in their letters. The Holy Apostle Peter, in his catholic letter, writes thus: With Silvanus, the faithful brother, as I reckon, I have written little to you. Likewise, St. Paul writes in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians: The Son of God, Jesus Christ, the One whom we preach to you through me and through Silvanus. Hence it is true that St. Silvanus at that time served each of the greatest apostles and was a partaker of their toils and sorrows in the good news of Christ. And, becoming a bishop in Thessalonica, he suffered many dangers to the needs of the faith, and ascended to Christ, the Crown-Giver.
The Holy Apostle Crescent is mentioned by Saint Paul in the Second Epistle to Timothy - which is written in the Greek language - saying: Crescent is in Galatia, sent by me to preach. He was a bishop in Galatia, then preached Christ in Gaul. In Vienna, the city of Germany, he appointed Zacharias, his disciple, as bishop, and he returned to Galatia and ended his martyrdom during the reign of Trajan.
The Holy Apostle Epenetus is mentioned by St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans, saying: Worship Epenetus, my beloved, who is the beginning of Achaia in Christ. He was a bishop in Carthage.
The Holy Apostle Andronicus (Saint Andronicus, apart from this day, is honored and in the 17 days of May, together with June, his assistant) is mentioned by Saint Paul in the same letter, saying: Worship Andronicus, and calling him relative and together enslaved, proclaimed among the apostles, who before him believed in Christ. He was bishop of Pannonia.
Who is St. Nicholas?
Wow! His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic ,while Nicholas was still young.
Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 19 on the Julian Calendar ( December 6th on the Gregorian Calendar)
Through the centuries Christian Tradition has kept many stories told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds.
One story tells of a poor man with three daughters. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries - a requirement for marriage, were destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas.
One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district and stole from the Church of Saint Nicholas. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. For Basilios’ parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas’ feast day approached, Basilios’ mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios’ safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king’s golden cup.
When he was young, Nicholas made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There as he walked where Jesus walked, he sought to more deeply experience Jesus’ life, passion, and resurrection. Returning by sea, a mighty storm threatened to wreck the ship. Nicholas calmly prayed. The terrified sailors were amazed when the wind and waves suddenly calmed.
Other stories tell of Nicholas saving his people from famine, sparing the lives of those innocently accused, and many more kind and generous deeds, he did in secret, expecting nothing in return. Within a century of his death he was celebrated as a saint.
Following his baptism, Grand Prince Vladimir I brought St. Nicholas’ stories and devotion to St. Nicholas to his homeland where Nicholas became the most beloved saint. Nicholas was so widely revered that thousands of churches were named for him, including three hundred in Belgium, thirty-four in Rome, twenty-three in the Netherlands and more than four hundred in England.
|Rare icon of St. Nicholas at the Council of Nicaea |
and the scene of the slap in the face of Arius
St Nicholas, an all-praised and all-honoured wonder worker, Saint of Christ, man of God, man of love, faithful servant, pillar of the Church, star that illumines and enlightens the whole world. You were a righteous man that flourished and from whom ever-flowed the grace of God.
St Nicholas, we glorify and magnify you as the hope of all Christians, speedy helper, fervent intercessor, good shepherd, a fountain of miracles, a defender of the faithful, a most wise teacher, a feeder of the hungry, provider of the naked, healer of the sick, liberator of prisoners, gentle tutor of children, support of the aged, abundant riches of the poor and needy.
St Nicholas, hearken unto us who pray to you and seek your protection. Mediate on our behalf with the Most High, and obtain all that we need for the salvation of our souls.
(Share your request…) but, may the will of our Almighty Father be done.
Keep us, we humbly ask, from all oppression through your mediation with the All-Merciful God and your fervent intercession and protection.
St Nicholas, as a watchful and good shepherd, protect us from enemies and pestilence, earthquakes and famine, flood and fire, the sword and invasions, and, in all our misfortunes and afflictions, give us a helping hand to open the doors of God’s compassion; for we are unworthy to look upon the height of Heaven because of the multitude of our sins.
St Nicholas, we bend the knees of our broken and humble heart to our Maker, and ask your fatherly intercession lest we perish with our sins. Deliver us from all evil. Direct our minds and strengthen our hearts. Graciously help us to live a peaceful life and see the good things in the land of the living, glorifying the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.