As from August, Sunday services will
start at 8:30 am and finnish at 12 midday.
Therefore the service of mnimosina
will now take place at approx 11.30 am.
The Three Great Feasts of August Explained
1st August Procession of the Precious Cross
ON AUGUST 1ST OUR CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE PROCESSION OF THE PRECIOUS CROSS.
This holy feast was established jointly by the Greeks and Russians in the time of the Greek Emperor Manuel and the Russian Prince Andrei, as a memorial of the simultaneous victories of the Russians over the Bulgars and the Greeks over the Saracens. In both battles, the soldiers carried crosses, from which a heavenly radiance shone forth with the army. It was therefore instituted that, on August 1st, the Holy Cross be carried from the Church of Aghia Sophia (Holy Wisdom of God), first around the interior of the Cathedral and then through the streets, to give the Christian people the chance to venerate it, as a memorial of the miraculous help given by the Holy Cross in earlier wars. This was not just any cross, but the True Holy and Life-Giving Cross itself, which was kept in the church of the imperial court. On July 31st, the Precious Cross was taken from the imperial court to Aghia Sophia’s, and then carried through the streets, to consecrate and sanctify the earth and the air. Finally, on August 14th, it was taken back to the church in the imperial palace.
(Source: The Prologue from Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich)
Click below to read from were and how the Cross which was to be subsequently used by the Jews and Romans to crucify Christ upon came about.
Apolytikion of Proodos of the Holy Cross
Lord, save Your people and bless Your inheritance, granting our rulers to prevail over adversaries, and protecting Your commonwealth by Your Cross.
Kontakion of Proodos of the Holy Cross
Lifted up on the Cross by Your free will, Christ God, grant mercies to the new commonwealth that bears Your name. Gladden our faithful rulers by Your power, giving them victories over their adversaries. May Your alliance be for them a weapon for peace, an invincible standard.
THE BEGINNING OF THE HOLY DORMITION FAST (1st – 15th August)
The Dormition (Koimisis) fast was established as preceding the great feasts of the Holy Transfiguration of the Lord (to Soteros) and of the Holy Dormition of the Mother of God. It lasts two weeks-from August 1-14.
The Dormition fast comes down to us from the early days of Christianity. We find a clear reference to the Dormition (Koimisis or falling-asleep) fast in a conversation of Leo the Great from around the year 450 AD. “The Church fasts are situated in the year in such way that a special abstinence is prescribed for each time. Thus, for spring there is the spring fast–the Forty Days [Great Lent]; for the summer there is the summer fast…[the Apostle’s fast]; for autumn there is the autumn fast, in the seventh month [Dormition fast]; for winter there is the winter fast [Nativity fast].”
Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki writes that, “The fast in August [Dormition fast] was established in honour of the Mother of God (Theotokos); Who foreknowing Her repose, ascetically laboured 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 Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord and the Holy Dormition of the Mother of God. 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 Holy Apostle’s and Nativity fasts.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays of the Dormition fast, the Church rubrics prescribe Xerophagia (lit. dry-eating), that is, the strictest fast of uncooked food (without olive oil); on Tuesdays and Thursdays, “with cooked food, but with no oil”; on Saturdays and Sundays wine and oil are allowed.
According to our Orthodox Tradition we must fast strictly for the first fourteen days of August, however, the fast is broken on the Holy Transfiguration of our Saviour on August 6 due to the significance of this divine celebration. In addition, on the day of the Transfiguration of Christ it is our tradition to bless the first fruits of the season, i.e., grapes which are distributed to those in attendance following the Divine Liturgy.
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 body and soul 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 favourite sins for exercise in the virtues which opposes 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.”
“Every Orthodox Christian is aware and generally knows the reason behind the fasts for Holy Pascha and Holy Nativity (Christmas). But while they may know of the Dormition Fast, few follow it, and more than a few question why it is there, neither knowing its purpose. First, given the pervasive misunderstanding of the purpose of fasting itself, a refresher on its purpose is always a good idea. There is a perception that we should fast when we want something, as though the act of fasting somehow appeases God, and seeing us “suffer” gets Him to grant our request. Nothing can be further from the truth. It is not our fasting that pleases God, it is the fruits of our fast (provided we fast in the proper mind set and do not merely diet) that pleases Him. We fast, not to get what we want, but to prepare ourselves to receive what God wants to give us. The purpose of fasting is to bring us more in line with another Mary, the sister of St. Lazarus, and away from their sister Martha, who is the famous passage was “anxious and troubled about many things.” Fasting is intended to bring us to the realization of “the one thing needful.” It is to help us put God first and our desires second, if not last. As such it serves to prepare us to be instruments of God’s Will, as with Moses in his flight from Egypt and on Mt. Sinai, as well as our Lord’s fast in the wilderness. Fasting turns us away from ourselves and toward God. In essence it helps us become like the Theotokos, an obedient servant of God, who heard His word and kept it better than anyone else has or could.
So why do we fast before Dormition? In a close-knit family, word that its matriarch is on her deathbed brings normal life to a halt. Otherwise important things (parties, TV, luxuries, personal desires) become unimportant; life comes to revolve around the dying matriarch. It is the same with the Orthodox family, word that Our Matriarch is on her deathbed, could not (or at least should not) have any different effect than the one just mentioned. The Church, through the Paraklesis (Supplication) service, gives us the opportunity to come to that deathbed and eulogize and entreat the woman who bore God, the vessel of our salvation and our Chief Advocate at His Divine Throne. And as, in the earthly family, daily routines and the indulgence in personal wants should come to a halt. Fasting, in its full sense (abstaining from food and passions) accomplishes this. Less time in leisure or other pursuits leaves more time for prayer and reflection on her who gave us Christ, and became the first and greatest Christian. In reflecting on her and her incomparable life, we see a model of Christian life, embodying Christ’s retort to the woman who stated that Mary was Blessed because she bore Him: Blessed rather are those who hear His word and keep it. Mary did this better than anyone. As Father Thomas Hopko has stated, she heard the word of God and kept it so well, that she of all women in history was chosen not only to hear His word but give birth to it (Him). So, while we fast in contemplation of her life, we are simultaneously preparing ourselves to live a life in imitation of her. That is the purpose of the Holy Dormition Fast.
Κοίμηση της Θεοτόκου. Αγρυπνία στην Ιερά μονή Ιβήρων.
(Night vigil commemorating the Dormition of the Theotokos, Mount Athos)
A strange Scene in the Icon of the Dormition
In many icons of the Dormition of the Mother of God (Theotokos), one can see a strange scene near the bottom with an angel invisibly cutting the hands off a certain man.
Lamenting their separation from the Theotokos, the Apostles prepared to bury Her all-pure body. A solemn procession went out from Zion through Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemane. Unbelieving inhabitants of Jerusalem, those of whom rejected Christ and crucified Him, taken aback by the extraordinary grand funeral procession and vexed at the honour outwardly displayed to the Theotokos complained of this to the High Priest and scribes.
The Jewish priest Jephonias (or Athonios), out of spite and hatred for the Theotokos wanted to topple the funeral bier on which lay the body of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, but an angel of God, tradition says the Archangel Michael, invisibly cut off his hands, which had touched the bier.
Seeing such a wonder, Jephonias repented and with faith confessed the majesty of the Mother of God. His hands were immediately healed and he joined the crowd accompanying the body of the Mother of God, and he became a zealous follower of Christ.
The Miracle of the Holy Snakes venerating the Holy Icon of the Theotokos
The Transfiguration of Christ – Homily of St. John of Damascus (PG 96, 572-573)
A bright cloud overshadowed them, and seeing within it Jesus the Saviour with Moses and Elijah, the disciples were filled with great fear.
Of old when Moses saw God he experienced the divine darkness, indicating the symbolic nature of the law; for as Paul has written, the law only contained a shadow of the things to come, not the reality itself. In the past Israel could not look at the transient glory on the face of Moses; but we, beholding the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, are being transformed from one degree of glory to another by the Lord who is the Spirit. The cloud, therefore, that overshadowed the disciples was not one of threatening darkness but of light; for the mystery hidden from past ages has been revealed to show us the perpetual and eternal glory. Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets proclaimed was present in Jesus, the giver of life.
And a voice from the cloud said: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
The voice of the Father came from the cloud of the Spirit: “This is my beloved Son.” He who is seen in human form, who became man only yesterday, who lives humbly in the midst of us, and whose face is now shining, is he who is. “This is my beloved Son, the eternal, the only begotten of the only God, he who proceeds timelessly and eternally from me, his Father; who did not begin to exist after me, but is from me and with me and in me from all eternity.
It was by the Father’s good pleasure that his only begotten Son and Word became incarnate; it was by the Father’s good pleasure that the salvation of the world was achieved through his only begotten Son; it was the Father’s good pleasure which brought about the union of the whole universe in his only begotten Son. For humanity is a microcosm linking in itself all visible and invisble being, sharing as it does in the nature of both, and so it must surely have pleased the Lord, the creator and ruler of the universe, for divinity and humanity and thus all creation to be united in his only begotten and consubstantial Son, so that God might be all in.
“This is my Son, the radiance of my glory, who bears the stamp of my own nature, through whom I created the angels, through whom the vault of heaven was made firm and the earth established. He upholds the universe by his powerful word, and by the Spirit which proceeds from his mouth, that is the life-giving and guiding Spirit. Listen to him.
Whoever receives him, receives me who sent him by the authority not of a stern master but of a father. As a man he is sent, but as God he abides in me and I in him. Whoever refuses to honour my only begotten Son refuses to honour me, his Father who sent him. Listen to him, for he has the words of eternal life.