Today the Holy Orthodox Church begins her fourth and final fast of the liturgical year. Remember that the liturgical year comes to a close August 31 and begins renewed September 1. This fast calls us to remember the death of the Theotokos (Greek for God-bearer). Just as the liturgical year begins with her birth, the year ends with her death.
In Orthodoxy, as in the language of scripture, death is often called a “sleeping.” We believe that the Theotokos, having spent her life after Pentecost supporting and serving the Church, was living in the house of the Apostle John, in Jerusalem, when the Archangel Gabriel revealed to her that her repose would occur three days later. The apostles, scattered throughout the world, are said to have been miraculously transported to be at her side when she died. The sole exception was Thomas, who was characteristically late. He arrived three days after her death, and asked to see her grave so that he could bid her goodbye. Mary had been buried in Gethsemane, according to her request. When they arrived at the grave, her body was gone, leaving a sweet fragrance.
This Saturday we begin the Dormition Fast. Fasting during the two-week Dormition fast is like that during most of Great Lent: Monday-Friday: No meat, dairy or wine. Saturday and Sunday: Wine and oil permitted.
Let us begin the Fast with joy.
Let us give ourselves to spiritual efforts.
Let us cleanse our souls.
Let us cleanse our flesh.
Let us fast from passions as we fast from foods, taking pleasure in the good works of the Spirit and accomplishing them in love that we all may be made worthy to see the passion of Christ our God and His Holy Pascha, rejoicing with spiritual joy.