1. A Young Atheist Woman From Australia Converts To Orthodoxy and Becomes A Nun After Seeing the Incorrupt Relics of Saint Gerasimos
The powerful effect the incorrupt relics of Saint Gerasimos the New had a particular effect on a young Australian nun, Anna, who lives at St. Stephen's Monastery on Meteora. She related the following:
I came to Greece in 1988, hoping to get work as an English teacher. I wasn't of Greek parentage, nor did I have any particular interest in classical culture or the arts, but came because Greece sounded interesting. I had not been raised with any religion nor was I looking for one, but soon after I arrived I met some people who were planning to go to Kefallonia, to St. Gerasimos, and invited me along. It seemed a good way to begin seeing the country, and I agreed. When I entered the church and stood before the saint's coffin, I was stunned by what I saw - the incorrupt relics were so obviously a miracle that I knew in myself that there must be a God, and that Orthodoxy was how you worshipped Him. I was baptized and a year later I came to the monastery.
2. The Cave of Saint Gerasimos and Unbelievers
The older church containing the relics of St. Gerasimos is built directly over his cave and pilgrims are welcome to descend the ladder and squeeze through the tiny floor-level entrance that leads into the cave. Local Christians say that only believers can wriggle through the narrow passageway. The wife of an Argostoli priest has informed that, wanting a blessing for her unborn child, she had squeezed through with no trouble when she was fully nine months pregnant, but the thin, lithe young woman whom she brought with her - an unbeliever - couldn't do so.
3. The Epidemic of Cholera in 1760
In 1760, when an epidemic of cholera struck the island, a nun named Akakia had a vision of the saint, praying in front of an icon of the Mother of God, beseeching her to halt the epidemic. The Mother of God spoke from the icon and said, "I have asked my Son, and He will grant you this." Then the saint caught hold of a roll of a cotton-like material wrapped around his staff, and began plucking off many small pieces, scattering them into the air. That night he also appeared to another woman on the island, telling her to go quickly to her father's house - that the infection would not spread to the countryside.
The stories of these visions quickly made the rounds of the villages. One local woman, however, refused to believe the accounts, and scoffed at them saying, "These are stories for children." That night the saint appeared to her in a dream and struck her with his staff, saying, "By this children's story, through the blessing of Panagia, I dispel the sickness from this island." The next morning the woman went straight to the monastery to venerate the saint's relics, telling the nuns of her dream and showing them the bruise on her side where the saint had struck her. They all gave thanks to God.
4. Healing of a Mentally Ill Woman in 1785
In 1785, a mentally ill woman named Susannah came to the monastery and lived there for many months. She never spoke to anyone and ate only if she was given food; otherwise, she went hungry.
One day, after she had been there almost a year she began shrieking loudly during Vespers. The priest came out of the altar and tried to calm her but she screamed all the more until the unnerved cleric finally slapped her, and she was forcibly carried out of church.
That night the priest had a dream that the saint's larnaca (coffin) opened by itself and that St. Gerasimos climbed out. He was holding a book in his hands and motioned the priest over. When the priest came up to him, he hit him hard over the head with the book and asked him, "Did that hurt?" The priest said, "Yes," and the saint responded, "And that hurt me tonight when you slapped that poor woman. Get up now, it's time to go to Matins, and don't ever do it again."
The priest awoke terrified, and ran to the church where he begged the saint's forgiveness. That morning, Susannah was again in church, but this time, she suddenly called out coherently, "Let the priest who hit me yesterday, come and give me something to eat." To the amazement of everyone who knew her, she had been healed.
5. Saint Gerasimos Saves Sailors At Sea From Death
In November 1807, a shipping merchant by the name of Manuel was passing the island on his way to the Peloponnese. When he was in sight of Kefallonia a huge storm blew up. The sailors did all they could to keep the ship afloat, but the intensity of the storm continued to build until they were near despair. On board was a Kefallonian sailor named Ioannis, who had a small icon of St. Gerasimos with him. Shouting to the crew, "St. Gerasimos will save us!" he threw the icon into the sea. When the icon touched the surface of the sea the waves were immediately calmed. The grateful captain ordered the crew to dock in Kefallonia, to pay homage to the saint.
Read also: St. Gerasimos of Kefallonia and the Demon Possessed
Apolytikion in the First Tone
O believers, let us praise the protector of the Orthodox, the God-bearing miracle-worker lately appearing to us, the incarnate angel, divine Gerasimos. For he has rightly received from God the ever-flowing grace of performing healing. He strengthens those with diseases and he heals those with demons. And therefore he pours out healings to those who honor him.
Monday, August 16, 2010
1. A Young Atheist Woman From Australia Converts To Orthodoxy and Becomes A Nun After Seeing the Incorrupt Relics of Saint Gerasimos
In the year 1798, a boy named Paisios (who at the time was 9 years old), saw a vision of three men, dressed like equipped Roman soldiers, who told him to remove their remains from the earth. The boy related this vision to his grandfather, who not only disbelieved him, but scolded the boy. A year later, after his death, the men appeared once again to the boy, who then told his father, John, of the vision. Together, on the night of August 16th (for fear of the Turks), they uncovered the holy relics, which emitted an incredible fragrance. From this time the saints, through their holy relics, began to work miracles.
However, the inhabitants of Megara did not know the names of these saints, so they began fasting, and performing vigils and prayers for God to reveal their names. These relics were those of Sts. Seraphim, Dorotheos, and Iakovos. After a year, two other martyrs appeared to the boy Paisios (who became the protector of their holy relics) and related that their names were Demetrios and Vasileios, and showed him where to dig to find their relics, a few meters from the others. With the help of other faithful from Megara, they uncovered the tomb, and venerated the relics of these two saints.
After another twenty years, to the same Paisios, another saint named Sarantis appeared and told him to uncover his relics. Paisios took the priest John Moustaka to a rural area north of the city, and found the region among bushes and a large stone. At first it was impossible to dig because of two enormous snakes, but having kneeled and prayed, the snakes disappeared and a luminous glow shined around the bushes. Having gathered the relics with piety and devotion, they brought them to Megara and placed them together with the remains of the five other Martyrs. In the area where they found the sacred relics of St. Sarantis, a small country church was built later, which although situated in the bed of the river, has survived until today.
At 40 years of age, without ever having gone to school, and with the help of the holy Martyrs, Paisios became learned enough to be ordained a priest, in the year 1828. After his death in 1848, many pious residents of Megara who had been helped by the Saints so much, began to build a church to house the holy relics (which previously had been housed in a ruined house by Paisios). The cornerstone was laid in 1889, and soon the church to the Holy Martyrs of Megara was built on the site of their tombs. All year the inhabitants who go to the church to seek the help of the Martyrs.
Many miracles have been attributed to these saints, of which the following is among the many recent miracles of the saints:
In 1977, on the eve of the celebration of the holy Martyrs (15 August), the founder of the Holy Monastery of Saint John the Forerunner (Makrinou), Archimandrite Fr. Damaskinos Katrakoulis, became very sick. It was so serious that, for the first time in his life, he thought he would be unable to attend the feast of the Saints and the procession of their remains. At night, the sisters of the monastery, for their consolation, said to each other: "Let's leave the outer door [to the monastery] open for the holy Martyrs to pass by". And in their desperation they entreated the Saints very much to treat Fr. Damaskinos. But the loyal people of Megara, when they learned the reason for his not attending the festival, began to say with great simplicity and conviction: "The holy Martyrs will go with their horses and will make him well". In the monastery at about eleven at night and while the nuns had withdrawn to their cells, they heard a noise that sounded like horses galloping. At the same time, an unearthly light shone in the cells of several sisters, while St. Iakovos woke up one nun who was asleep. The nuns were full of joy and ecstasy, and realized that the holy Martyrs had visited, began to gather in the cell of the Abbess. And paradoxically, each of them claimed that they heared galloping outside of her own cell. With tears, deep and heartfelt gratitude and devotion, they began doxologies to God and thanksgiving to Holy God and to the holy Martyrs, who heard their humble prayer. Indeed from the time that Fr. Damaskinos was cured with the visit of the Holy Martyrs, to the glory of the most merciful God, he glorified again the holy Martyrs. A few years before that miracle, the same nuns in fact heard the festal bells of the Great Vespers for the Holy Martyrs in the courtyard of their own monastery. It should be noted that the Monastery of St John Makrinou is about 22 kilometers from Megara.
According to analysis by Archimandrite Dorotheos Mourtzoukos, the Holy Martyrs of Megara could have likely been martyred under the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363AD), because (1) they have always appeared like equipped Roman soldiers, (2) the name "Sarantis" is in reference to the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (March 9th) who weren't martyred until 320 AD, and the area which included Megara was given to St. Constantine the Great in 314 AD (so it would not have been an area of persecution of Christianity, unless under the reign of the Emperor Julian).
Fr. Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis wrote the service and hymns in their honor.
Read more here.
For information on the discovery of four more Newly-Revealed Martyrs in Megara, see here.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
The protectors of Megara, Champions ten in number, with Dorotheos, Sarantis, Seraphim, and Iakovos, Demetrios, Vasileios, Adrianos, Polyeuctos and George and Platon, faithful helpers of those in dangers, deliver those who cry to you, Glory to Him who glorified you, Glory to Him you magnified you, Glory to Him you grants to us through you, healings for all.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
The Orthodox Church surpasses all other Christian groups in the richness of her Tradition. The Protestants want only to adhere to Holy Scripture. But, not even Holy Scripture can be interpreted without Tradition. The Apostle Paul himself commands: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
The tradition of Prince Abgar, without doubt, is of Apostolic Tradition even though the apostles do not mention him in their writings. The Apostle Thaddaeus, did not write anything at all and, according to Protestant thinking, did not say anything and neither did he teach the faithful. According to what then was he an apostle of Christ?
St. John Damascene mentions the tradition of Prince Abgar in his defense of the veneration of icons. How wonderful and touching is the letter of Abgar to Christ. And since he previously wrote that he heard of His miraculous power, that He cures the sick and since he implored Him to come and to heal him, Abgar further writes: "I also hear that the Jews hate You and that they are preparing some evil against You. I have a city, not large, but beautiful and bountiful in every good: come to me and live with me in my city, which is sufficient for the both of us for every need." Thus wrote a heathen prince while the princes of Jerusalem were preparing death for the Lord, the Lover of Mankind.
The Holy Monastery of the Great Martyr Saint Panteleimon the Healer is situated in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, between the Patriarchate and David’s Gate (Jaffa Gate).
In ancient times the Church was named in honour of Saint Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, the Catechist (351 AD); however, during recent times, it was renamed in honour of Saint Panteleimon, for the assistance of the Greek Community and for the treatment given to the infirm in the Patriarchate’s hospital which was situated across from the Church and housed on the first floor of what is now the Gloria Hotel.
The memory of Saint Panteleimon was panegyrically celebrated in this ornate Chapel of the Monastery, duly prepared and recently enriched with Byzantine hagiographies owing to the efforts of the Superior Sister Charitini.
In the evening Vespers were performed and, on the day of the feast on Monday 27th of July/ 9th of August 2010, a resplendent and devout Holy Liturgy was held with His Eminence Theophanis Archbishop of Gerasa presiding, who also preached the divine word to the numerous pious believers who participated.
During the Holy Liturgy, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III along with Archbishops, members of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, arrived at the Church to venerate and blessed the believers.
Chief Secretary’s Office.
August 13, 2010
Hürriyet Daily News
The Küçükyalı Arkeopark, a large archaeological area on the Asian side of Istanbul, hosts the only surviving Byzantine monastic complex in the city, the head of the excavation team says. The 9th-century complex contains gorgeous marble floors, valuable mosaics and beautiful art objects that she hopes to see in a museum someday.
The only surviving Byzantine monastic complex from 9th-century Constantinople has been uncovered in the Küçükyalı Arkeopark, located on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, the Italian head of the excavation team said Thursday.
“People started out thinking this was a 9th-century Islamic place. When I started doing research here, it became clear that this identification had no good grounding,” said team leader Alessandra Ricci, who noted that some travelers’ accounts dating from the early 19th century mentioned the existence of a Byzantine monastery in the area.
The rich monastic complex, built between 867 and 877, encompasses the church and burial place of Patriarch Ignatios, a prominent figure in Byzantine history who is depicted in the mosaics inside Hagia Sophia.
“There is nothing from the Ottoman period here, not even a piece of pottery. Underneath the modern layers, we’re going directly to Byzantium,” Ricci said, adding that the discovery is a wonderful opportunity for her since she has a great passion for the Byzantine period and it is very rare to find wall paintings from that era in Istanbul.
“We found beautifully decorated marble floors, golden mosaics, wonderful coins and beautiful art objects that deserve to be displayed in a museum,” Ricci said.
The Byzantinist scholar said she decided to conduct the first excavations in the area in order to eliminate the ambiguity about whether the archaeological remains belonged to the Byzantine or Ottoman periods. She received permission from the General Directorate of Monuments and Museums, part of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and has been working under the direction of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums since 2008.
The French author Pargoire wrote a study on monasteries on the Marmara seashore that identified the ruins in the area as part of the Satyros Monastery, an identification later supported by Ernst Mamboury, a geometry teacher at Galatasaray High School. In 1959, however, Semavi Eyice published an article in which he identified the complex as a palace built by a Byzantine emperor by the name of Theophilos, in imitation of Islamic Abbasid-period buildings in present-day Iraq, Ricci said. She explained that Eyice was mistaken in his identification as he did not conduct a survey of the area.
In addition to identifying the site as Byzantine, the excavations have retrieved organic residue from the period that are being used to examine patterns of climate change and other aspects of the history of Istanbul. “There was a lot of grain, but no olive trees or vineyards,” Ricci said, emphasizing that the team is also interested in exploring how much the ecological system and the climate have been transformed.
“Every single object taken out of the earth first goes into the washing area and then on to conservation and laboratories,” she said, noting that she plans to take the materials to the specialized laboratories of Koç University, where she works as an associate professor in the archaeology and art history departments.
A team of approximately 50 people, including archaeologists, graduate students and workmen, works under very hard and hot conditions, Ricci said, adding that the team’s just-completed season was very productive compared to 2008, when the Marmaray Tunnel Project absorbed much of the potential workforce.
Ricci said the team would carry out a conservation project in October to preserve the historical trees at the archaeological site, in collaboration with the Maltepe Municipality. “This is not just a dry archaeological site; we need to leave this place as a piece of tangible and permanent heritage,” she said.
Sightseeing tours are being prepared for both local and foreign tourists interested in Istanbul’s Byzantine heritage, Ricci said, adding that she is enthusiastic about sharing the team’s work with future visitors. “I am very grateful to this country because [Turkey] has given me the opportunity to do my research here. These kinds of dreams do not always come true,” she said, adding that she plans to continue her work excavating the complex’s church next year.
Read more here and here.
13 August 2010
Ukrainian regions that are in the pit of "deadly sins", were defined by the weekly newspaper Kontrakty. The first position was won by Odessa (142 points) for greed, followed by the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, who scored the same points -126. Thus, in the Donetsk region the "major sin" became anger, and in Luhansk - greed.
In the fourth place is Dnipropetrovsk (124 points). Here the major sins are "lust" and "extravagance”. The fifth place belongs to Sumy (123 points), which basically sinned in "despair".
To determine the most sinful region of Ukraine, the newspaper used statistics for the last year. Statistics were correlated with eight sinful passions known in Orthodoxy: gluttony (the number of overweight people), lust (the number of cases of gonorrhea and syphilis per capita), greed (number of officially registered cases of bribery), anger (number of cases of murder and intentionally causing grievous bodily harm), acedia (the percentage of happy people), despair (the number of suicides), pride (number of unique license plates on cars).
August 16, 2010
The architectural heart of ancient Serdica, the Roman Empire-era predecessor of Bulgaria's capital of Sofia, is emerging amid excavations for the construction of the city metro system.
In a couple of years, the finds will become part of an underground museum where visitors will be able to walk in the footsteps of Constantine the Great (272-337 AD), the first Roman emperor to legalise Christianity and adopt it himself.
Modern Sofia lies on several archaeological layers left by the Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, medieval Bulgarians and Ottoman Turks.
Infrastructure projects have often hit ancient city walls, public buildings and churches, which are well preserved and displayed in the downtown area.
But there still much more to dig out. The latest excavations next to the "Sveta Nedelya" square, in the very heart of the city, prove it had been inhabited and civilised for thousands of years.
The archaeologists are looking at the remains of two recently found XIV and XVI century churches and a necropolis. In one of them they came across murals, which are currently under restoration.
An Ottoman-era (XIV-XIX century) house is to be dismantled and rebuilt at a different location so that teams can explore underlying layers.
They have uncovered new stretches of Serdica's Decumanus Maximus – the traditional east-west street in Roman cities, which served predominantly administrative and defence purposes; as well as parts of the Cardo Maxima – the main north-south urban axis, which used to be home to crafts and trade.
The ancient arteries largely coincide with the modern locations of state institutions and shopping areas in Sofia.
A larger part of the Decumanus Maximus is still expected to emerge and lead to the eastern city gate, which was found years ago and is now exhibited in a subway linking the presidential and governmental headquarters.
Research shows that parts of several insulae – residential buildings where Roman lower and upper middle class lived – may be also lying beneath.
For several months now archaeologists have been working on a nobleman's mansion which they believe belonged to a local ruler.
It has a patio, arched galleries, mosaic-covered living areas and baths. Eight rooms and two VI century toilets - extremely rare from an archaeological point of view - have been found.
A 5.5 metre wide and 17 metre long section of a slate stone street leads to the mansion. Traces of arson have led researchers to believe the building was subject to a barbarian attack under Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD).
Barbarian raids made Romans fortify Serdica, evidenced by two recently found inscriptions, archaeologist Mario Ivanov said.
Sofia is among the oldest European cities. Its earliest traces of pre-historic population date back to 7,000 years ago.
The Thracians - tribes, whose civilisation flourished on the Balkans between the late Bronze Age and the VI century AD Slavic invasion – were the first recorded settlers here.
For a short spell, during the Hellenistic Period (323-146 BC), Serdica belonged to the empire of Philip II and Alexander the Great.
The Romans conquered it in the first century AD. They urbanised it by building roads, streets and plumbing.
Constantine the Great often spent summers in Serdica and even referred to it as to "my Rome."
Researchers suspect that remains of his palace might be lying under the massive Sheraton Hotel, a massive Stalinist-era ex-government building, standing s a few metres from today's excavations.
Parts of what is known as Constantine's Quarter of Serdica – the St. George Rotunda – a IV century brick Christian basilica - were found long ago and can be seen in the presidency patio with stretches of adjacent streets, plumbing and a hypocaust heating system.
Architects Slavey Galabov, Vasil Kitov and Krasen Andreev have designed a €10 million project to conserve and display the new finds and the city of Sofia hopes to source half of the funding from the EU Regional Development Programme.
The architectural design includes a 2-hectare pedestrian zone in the so-called Sofia Largo between the presidency and the government headquarters, an underground museum with a semi-transparent ceiling and a metro station under it.
A panoramic window will show-case the archaeological relics to passers-by in the pedestrian zone on the upper level. It will be covered by a glass dome of up to 65 metres. Two elevators will lead from it to the archaeological level.
A medium level will contain an exhibition site with a model of ancient Serdica, food and drink establishments, galleries, antique shops, an information centre, a stage for concerts and a street theatre
The subway train will pass 24 metres underground beneath the whole complex so that archaeologists can explore the area undisturbed and the finds be displayed at their original locations.
The project for the 80-metre long, two-platform metro station has been already altered four times to suit the ever emerging relics, Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova said.
"We want to preserve as much as possible of our unique architectural heritage and let local citizens and visitors enjoy it," she said.
Despite the chronic lack of parking space, the city has scrapped an initial plan for a 680-vehicle underground parking lot to make room for the museum.
This means more than 90 percent of the archaeological riches will be exhibited in their original locations and in the way they were found.
Read more here.
Bulgaria Gets Long-Distance Relics Authenticity Boost from Vatican
August 15, 2010
An expert from the Vatican has confirmed that the relics recently found in Bulgaria's Sozopol do belong to St. John the Baptist in spite of not having seen them.
This has been announced by Bulgaria's Diaspora Minister, Bozhidar Dimitrov, after on Saturday the relics, whose authenticity caused a bitter argument between him and leading archaeologists, were transferred to a special new reliquary.
“The Vatican has a committee for checking the authenticity of relics. Expert Michael Hesemann said the relics of St. John seem real to him from what he saw on TV, and what he read about how they were discovered. He does not need to see them personally,” explained Minister Dimitrov who has been criticized by many for rushing prematurely to declare the authenticity of the relics when they were found two weeks ago.
Dimitrov also joked that the relics have already made a miracle happen as Finance Minister Simeon Djankov allocated additional BGN 900 000 for archaeological excavations despite the government's austerity measures.
Nathan Lee Lewis has joined in collaboration with Kosta Stavrianeas to write and produce the screenplay Saint Moses The Black: The Motion Picture. For full information on the project and the new Collaboration by these two Orthodox filmmakers, please click on the link below to visit the project website.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
News articles and photos can be seen at the following links:
Turkey: Patriarch Holds Historic Mass at Monastery
After 88 Years, Orthodox Christians Hold Mass at Monastery in Turkey
Orthodox Christians From Abroad Gather in Turkey's Sumela After 88 Years
Turkey: Orthodox Christians Gather For First Mass in Almost 90 Years at Ancient Monastery
Sümela To Host Historic Mass Amidst Nationalist Protests
In Pictures: Historic Orthodox Mass at Ancient Turkish Monastery
The Icons of Panagia Soumela of Pontus
Turkey: Bartholomew I Celebrates First Mass at Our Lady of Sumela After 88 Years
Orthodox Christians Flock to Once-Banned Holy Site of Sumela Monastery in Turkey
The homily of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew can be read here and seen below, along with some footage from the Divine Liturgy below that:
The entire Divine Liturgy can be seen here. Below is a video of the Metropolitan of Drama singing a very old Pontian song to the Theotokos following the Divine Liturgy.
The Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is celebrated with special solemnity at Gethsemane, the place of Her burial. Nowhere else is there such sorrow of heart at the separation from the Mother of God, and nowhere else such joy, because of Her intercession for the world.
The holy city of Jerusalem is separated from the Mount of Olives by the valley of Kedron on Josaphat. At the foot of the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane, where olive trees bear fruit even now.
The holy Ancestor-of-God Joachim had himself reposed at 80 years of age, several years after the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple (November 21). St Anna, having been left a widow, moved from Nazareth to Jerusalem, and lived near the Temple. At Jerusalem she bought two pieces of property: the first at the gates of Gethsemane, and the second in the valley of Josaphat. At the second locale she built a tomb for the members of her family, and where also she herself was buried with Joachim. It was there in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Savior often prayed with His disciples.
The most-pure body of the Mother of God was buried in the family tomb. Christians honored the sepulchre of the Mother of God, and they built a church on this spot. Within the church was preserved the precious funeral cloth, which covered Her all-pure and fragrant body.
The holy Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem (420-458) testified before the emperor Marcian (450-457) as to the authenticity of the tradition about the miraculous ascent of the Mother of God to Heaven, and he sent to the empress, St Pulcheria (September 10), the grave wrappings of the Mother of God from Her tomb. St Pulcheria then placed these grave-wrappings within the Blachernae church.
Accounts have been preserved, that at the end of the seventh century a church had been built atop the underground church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, and that from its high bell-tower could be seen the dome of the Church of the Resurrection of the Lord. Traces of this church are no longer to be seen. And in the ninth century near the subterranean Gethsemane church a monastery was built, in which more than 30 monks struggled.
Great destruction was done the Church in the year 1009 by the despoiler of the holy places, Hakim. Radical changes, the traces of which remain at present, also took place under the crusaders in the year 1130. During the eleventh to twelfth centuries the piece of excavated stone, at which the Savior had prayed on the night of His betrayal disappeared from Jerusalem. This piece of stone had been in the Gethsemane basilica from the sixth century.
But in spite of the destruction and the changes, the overall original cruciform (cross-shaped) plan of the church has been preserved. At the entrance to the church along the sides of the iron gates stand four marble columns. To enter the church, it is necessary to go down a stairway of 48 steps. At the 23rd step on the right side is a chapel in honor of the holy Ancestors-of-God Joachim and Anna together with their graves, and on the left side opposite, the chapel of St Joseph the Betrothed with his grave. The right chapel belongs to the Orthodox Church, and the left to the Armenian Church (since 1814).
The church of the Dormition of the Theotokos has the following dimensions: in length it is 48 arshin, and in breadth 8 arshin [1 arshin = 28 inches]. At an earlier time the church had also windows beside the doors. The whole temple was adorned with a multitude of lampadas and offerings. Two small entrances lead into the burial-chamber of the Mother of God. One enters through the western doors, and exits at the northern doors. The burial-chamber of the All-Pure Virgin Mary is veiled with precious curtains. The burial place was hewn out of stone in the manner of the ancient Jewish graves and is very similar to the Sepulchre of the Lord. Beyond the burial-chamber is the altar of the church, in which Divine Liturgy is celebrated each day in the Greek language.
The olive woods on the eastern and northern sides of the temple was acquired from the Turks by the Orthodox during the seventh and eighth centuries. The Catholics acquired the olive woods on the east and south sides in 1803, and the Armenians on the west side in 1821.
On August 12, at Little Gethsemane, at the second hour of the night, the head of the Gethsemane church celebrates Divine Liturgy. With the end of Liturgy, at the fourth hour of the morning, he serves a short Molieben before the resplendent burial shroud, lifts it in his hands and solemnly carries it beyond the church to Gethsemane proper where the holy sepulchre of the Mother of God is situated. All the members of the Russian Spiritual Mission in Jerusalem, with the head of the Mission presiding, participate each year in the procession (called the "Litania") with the holy burial shroud of the Mother of God..
The rite of the Burial of the Mother of God at Gethsemane begins customarily on the morning of August 14. A multitude of people with hierarchs and clergy at the head set off from the Jerusalem Patriarchate (nearby the Church of the Resurrection of Christ) in sorrowful procession. Along the narrow alley-ways of the Holy City the funeral procession makes its way to Gethsemane. Toward the front of the procession an icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is carried. Along the way, pilgrims meet the icon, kissing the image of the All-Pure Virgin Mary and lift children of various ages to the icon. After the clergy, in two rows walk the black-robed monks and nuns of the Holy City: Greeks, Roumanians, Arabs, Russians. The procession, going along for about two hours, concludes with Lamentations at the Gethsemane church. In front the altar, beyond the burial chamber of the Mother of God, is a raised-up spot, upon which rests the burial shroud of the Most Holy Mother of God among fragrant flowers and myrtle, with precious coverings.
"O marvelous wonder! The Fount of Life is placed in the grave, and the grave doth become the ladder to Heaven..." Here at the grave of the All-Pure Virgin, these words strike deep with their original sense and grief is dispelled by joy: "Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee, granting the world, through Thee, great mercy!"
Numerous pilgrims, having kissed the icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, following an ancient custom, then stoop down and go beneath it.
On the day of the Leave-taking of the feast (August 23), another solemn procession is made. On the return path, the holy burial shroud is carried by clergy led by the Archimandrite of Gethsemane.
August 15, 2010, Sunday
Sunday is Dormition of the Holy Mother of God, one of the greatest Christian Eastern Orthodox holidays, that brings together many believers.
Known to Catholics and Anglicans as Assumption of Mary, the holiday marks the day the mother of Christ passed away and was accepted in Heaven.
It is a holiday of happiness and joy, for it was the day that the mother of Chirst rejoined him in eternal glory.
In Bulgaria the day is also the name day of persons bearing the widespread name Maria, and cognates like Mario, Mariana.
Many people will flock to churches for the traditional Dormition of the Holy Mother of God services.
The famous Troyan Monastery, which bears the name of the day, has its temple holiday Sunday, and a lot of people are expected this year, as usual. The service in Troyan is to be held by the Bulgarian patriarch Maxim.
Up to 4,000 are also expected for the service at Rila Monastery south of Sofia in the Rila mountain.
The day is also the official holiday of second-biggest Bulgarian city Varna, whose main cathedral bears the name of the Dormition.
August 15th is one of the biggest celebrations in Greece and is a national holiday. It is the Orthodox Church's celebration of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, only of lesser importance than Easter and Christmas.
In August most people have a holiday and Athens becomes a ghost town as Athenians go back to the villages where they or their parents were born. It’s great if you happen to be having a holiday in Athens, as it’s very peaceful and easy to travel around for a change, but if you are in a holiday resort, it will be packed. Don’t travel without having booked accommodation or you might find yourself having to sleep in a church.
Cephalonia’s (Kefallonia) Snakes Go to the Church Service
In the little village of Markopoulou, on the island of Cephalonia, a miracle is said to occur, that of the Virgin Mary’s snakes. Legend has it that when the island was attacked by the pirate Barbarossa in 1705, the nuns in the convent at Markopoulou prayed to escape being ravished and killed by the pirates, so they were turned into snakes. The pirates were horrified when they entered the convent, as it was crawling with snakes.
Now, at the service which celebrates the Dormition, the snakes enter the church and head for the bishop’s throne and the icon of the virgin, crawling through holes made for the bell ropes, and over the congregation and furniture. The snakes are harmless, and have black cross marks on their heads, villagers say.
Apparently they did not put in an appearance in 1953, the year a disastrous earthquake struck the island, or in 1940, the year before Greece was attacked by the Axis forces. Nor did they appear during some years of the Turkish Occupation of Greece.
There are videos of this event to view on YouTube.
The Island of Tinos is a Centre for Pilgrims
The church at Tinos has many steps to climb before it is reached, and at this time of year, pilgrims ascend the steps on their knees. The church houses an icon of the Virgin, which was found after a nun had a vision of the Virgin, who explained where the miraculous icon could be found. Six months after this vision the icon was unearthed in 1823 and taken to the church. It is believed to have miraculous powers of healing, which is why so many supplicants visit the island at this time of year.
The Greek government arranges more ferries to Tinos at this time, but it would be unwise to go to the island without having booked accommodation well in advance.
Celebrations on the Island of Paros
Celebrations here are slightly different to those held in the rest of Greece, as the 15th of August also commemorates the time in the early 18th century when the island was attacked by the pirate Barbarossa. He took the women and children from Naoussa, and held them for ransom. The islanders would not pay tribute to him, so he set fire to the castro, or castle, in the harbour of Naoussa and killed his captives. The people on the neighbouring island of Naxos saw the fires, and paid him the tribute he demanded so that they would not meet a similar fate.
The islanders now hold reenactments of the pirate raid and these pageants are accompanied by fireworks and celebrations. It is also the time of the Paros wine festival, so a good time is usually had on this island on the 15th of August.
From 1st to 14th August is a Period of Fasting
As in Lent, strict Orthodox Greeks will fast in the fortnight leading up to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. They believe that she ‘fell asleep’ rather than died, so in some places you will read of the ‘Dormition’ [not Assumption] of the Virgin as being celebrated on this date. Fasting means not eating any red meat, nor any products from red-blooded creatures, nor olive oil, and no wine should be consumed either. Octopus and squid can be eaten as they are not red-blooded. Because of this, there is always a lot of food at celebrations on 15th August, celebrating the end of the fasting period.
In Naoussa, Paros, the food is free and the best place to be is the harbour area.
Name Day Celebrations
A name day is more important than a birthday in Greece, and August 15th is the celebrations for Maria, Marios, Panagiotis, (or Panos), Panagiota (or Iota), Despina and Thespina. As Maria is one of the most common girl’s names in Greece, the chances are you will know one and you might be invited to share the name day festivities. A small gift is always very much appreciated, if you are invited, but of course it’s not compulsory.
Wherever you are in Greece on this day you will certainly be involved in the celebrations. So go ahead and join in the Greek dancing. It’s always fun.
Paros Reenactment in August
Tinos on August 15th
by Protopresbyter Dr. George Dion Dragas
On August 15, Orthodox Christians celebrate the greatest of all the religious festivals which the Church established in honor of the All-Holy Virgin Mary (Panagia), the feast of the Dormition (Koimêsis) of the Theotokos.
The feasts of the Virgin Mary (theomêtorikai eortai) are second in importance after those of our Lord Jesus Christ in the annual cycle of festivals observed by the Orthodox Church because, after our Lord Himself, the All-Holy Virgin is the most blessed person in our Church.
If the Lord’s greatest Feast is that of Pascha, the Feast of His redemptive Death and Resurrection, then His Mother’s greatest feast is also associated with her death and metastasis (i.e., translation or transposition) to Heaven. The reason for this is to be found in the basic Christian perception of salvation, which is none other than the reentry of human beings into God’s eternal kingdom, transcending death and regaining the gift of eternal life.
In our Orthodox tradition, the blessed person of the Theotokos is inseparable from the blessed person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is exactly what the name, Theotokos (i.e., the God-bearer, Mother of God) constantly declares: namely that the place and significance of the Virgin Mary in the Church can not be understood apart from her relation to our Lord.
What is declared by the name Theotokos is most tangibly depicted on the iconostasion (the icon screen before the sanctuary) of any Orthodox Church. The icon of the Lord’s is always on the right of the Beautiful Gate, and the icon of the Theotokos is always on the left. This particular icon, depicting the All-Holy Virgin Mary holding our Lord and Savior as a child in her arms, is the most characteristic of all icons associated with her blessed person.
The hymns of this feast, which are among the most significant of the Orthodox liturgical year, bring out not only this basic Christian perception of salvation but also the important place that the blessed person of the All-Holy Theotokos has in this perspective.
The Feast of the Dormition was established in the 6th century, although its roots go back to earlier centuries, especially the 5th century, following the dogmatic decision of the 3rd Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431) to accept and use the term, Theotokos as the most important and defining description of the All-Holy Mother of our Lord in the Church.
According to Dr. Ioannis Fountoulis, Professor of Liturgics at the University of Thessaloniki, this feast was joined to an earlier feast in honor of the Theotokos at the famous church of the All-Holy Virgin Mary in Gethsemane, which had been erected by the Byzantine Emperor Maurice over her tomb.
The details of the celebration of the feast of the Dormition, especially those revealed in its hymns, are based on an apocryphal narrative concerning the circumstances of the death of the Theotokos, which goes back to Saint John the Theologian, the beloved disciple of the Lord in whose care the All-Holy Theotokos had been entrusted.
The narrative tells us the story, which is beautifully depicted on the holy icon of the Dormition. It tells us that the All-Holy Theotokos was visited by the Archangel Gabriel and foretold about her approaching death; that thereupon the Theotokos returned to her home and prepared for this event, praying at the same time that the Apostles should be notified accordingly. John is said to be the first to arrive in a miraculous way, and then all the rest follow. Finally, the Lord Himself appears in His dazzling divine glory, escorted by a myriad of angels, and takes her all-holy soul, which is wrapped up like a newborn babe in swaddling clothes, into His arms in order to transport it to Heaven.
THIS WORLD AND THE NEXT
Before she departs, the All-Holy Theotokos greets the Holy Apostles and the people, promising that “whichever soul is to call her name will not be put to shame, but will find mercy and consolation, understanding and boldness in this world and the next.”
Her funeral follows. The holy body of the Theotokos is then taken to a tomb in Gesthemane where it is buried. Yet according to the narrative, on the third day after the funeral, the holy body of the Theotokos was translated to Heaven. The first hymn of the Great Vespers of the Feast sums it all up.
“O marvelous wonder. The source of life is laid in the tomb, and the tomb itself becomes a ladder to Heaven. Be glad, O Gethsemane, thou sacred abode of the Mother of God. Come, o ye faithful, and with Gabriel to lead us, let us all cry out: Hail, thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with Thee, granting the world through thee great mercy.”
Orthodox Christians honor the All-Holy Theotokos as the supreme living icon of the Church, the Mother of all Christians because, as the holy fathers explain in their writings, she is the “New Eve,” the new Mother of Humanity who, through her obedience, reversed the curse, which followed Eve’s disobedience, and brought to the world the “New Adam,” our Savior Jesus Christ, Who restored mankind’s communion with God the Creator.
Orthodox Christians also believe in the ancient doctrine of the perpetual virginity of the All-Holy Theotokos. That is to say, that she was a Virgin before and during the Birth of Christ, and that she remained a Virgin afterwards. This is depicted in her icon by means of three stars appearing on the veil on her forehead and shoulders and also represents the grace of the Holy Trinity, Which was in her and made her “full of grace (kecharitômenê).”
In line with this, Orthodox Christians disagree with the Protestants, who believe that the All-Holy Virgin had other children besides the Lord, and maintain that the brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in the Gospel are most likely children of Joseph from an earlier marriage or cousins of Christ who were under the protection of Joseph, their uncle. Indeed, Joseph was betrothed, but not married, to the All-Holy Virgin.
Orthodox Christians also believe that the Theotokos is all-holy and immaculate, not because of her “immaculate conception” by her parents Joachim and Anna, but because she became such by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, Who “came upon (epeleusetai)” her; the Divine Power, which overshadowed (episkiasei)” her; and the uncorrupted conception of Christ in her womb. The Roman Catholic dogma of the “Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” which was declared in 1854, is unacceptable to the Orthodox.
Orthodox Christians believe that the All-Holy Theotokos fell asleep, that the Lord took up her soul to heaven, and that her body was most possibly transposed to Heaven afterwards as some of the fathers teach. They find unacceptable the dogma of the “Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” which the Roman Catholic Church declared in 1950 and which not only suggests that the Theotokos’ death or dormition not real, but also that she is Co-redeemer (co-redemptrix) and co-mediator (co-mediatrix) with the Lord. The Roman Catholic position gives priority to Mary rather than to Christ, inasmuch it suggests that He is immaculate because of her, instead of her being immaculate because of Him.
In the United States, many Orthodox have adopted the name Assumption as equivalent to the Greek Dormition (Koimêsis), but they understand it not in the Roman Catholic sense, which is almost identical with the Ascension (of the Lord), but in the sense of metastasis, as explained above.
Orthodox Christians do not share the Protestant objections to the sinlessness of the Theotokos, however, which are based on false premises. Protestant Christians, by and large, basically identify the Virgin Mary with the rest of humanity and fail to see the distinct qualities, and the Grace that abides in her, which make her the New Eve.
Orthodox Christians believe in the all-holiness or sinlessness of the Theotokos, not in the absolute sense, which belongs to God Alone, but in the relative sense, which is the gift of Pentecost (i.e., the gift of the abiding grace of the Holy Spirit in the Mother of God, the Holy Apostles and the Church in general, Which, by definition, makes all of them holy).
Finally Orthodox Christians pray to the All-Holy Theotokos for salvation, not in the sense that she is the primary cause of salvation, for this belongs to Christ Alone, but in the sense that she mediates through her maternal boldness and prayers to the Lord for Christians as her spiritual children.
Protestant objections to such Orthodox prayers to the All-Holy Theotokos and to the Saints are based on a misunderstanding of the above position.
The dismissal hymn of her greatest feast, the feast of the Dormition, sums up all these points of Orthodox belief presented briefly in this article:
“In giving birth, O Theotokos, thou has retained thy virginity, and in falling asleep, thou has not forsaken the world. Thou who art the Mother of Life has passed over into Life, and by thy prayers, thou has delivered our souls from death.”
Saturday, August 14, 2010
1. In a grave they laid you
yet, O Christ, you are life
and they now have laid the Mother of Life as well:
both to angels and to men a sight most strange!
2. We exalt you greatly,
Theotokos most pure,
and we glorify your holy dormition now,
as we bow before your honored precious tomb.
3. In your womb you held him
who cannot be contained;
you are life to all the faithful: how can you die,
and your body be contained within a tomb?
4. You brought forth, Pure Maiden,
God the heavenly King,
and today in manner royal are carried forth
to the Kingdom of the Heavens as a Queen.
5. Holy Theotokos,
You have passed from this world,
in departing not forsaking those left on earth,
but delivering this world from every ill.
6. All the earth sings glory
at your grave side, O Christ,
with all reverence, O Master, we also praise
the entombment of your Mother, ever Pure.
7. Overcome with wonder,
are the angels in awe
in beholding you, Pure Maiden, laid out as dead,
for from you has Light beamed forth to all the world.
8. Maiden Pure and Spotless,
and our Heavenly Queen,
once again has God sent Gabriel down to earth
with the joyful news that you have left this life.
9. Now the Bridegroom calls you,
to rejoice, Bride of God.
in a manner both divine and most beautiful
in the Bridal Chamber, holy and divine.
10. You, O Virgin, come now
to the throne seat of God
where the awesome unapproachable Light shines forth
from the Trinity, and lights where you repose.
11. From the earth departing,
You appeared before God.
You were not, O Theotokos, removed from God,
nor has God been parted from His mother’s heart.
12. Your most honored Body,
uncorrupted by decay as you lay entombed
but it passed with you to heaven from the earth.
13. Your all-holy face shines
Purest Maiden, in death,
and your countenance appears now as Paradise,
breathing forth to all believers grace and life.
14. We your children offer
lamentations and love
unto you who are our Mother: accept our gift
which we offer from the deepness of our souls.
15. Look upon your children
who are gathered this day:
may your honored eyes be open that you behold
those who glorify with honor your repose.
16. To us grant your blessing
when you open your lips
O Most Holy Theotokos, departing now
at the ending of your time upon the earth.
17. Leave us not as orphans
when you leave us on earth,
for, O Mother, you are taken to heaven now,
to abide there with your Son and with your God.
18. Gathered ‘round your bedside,
we are calling to you,
our all-holy Virgin Mother, with fervent voice,
“Save the faithful and have mercy upon us!”
19. Mother Anna, join us
Come and stand in our midst!
Come and lead the celebration of this glad feast
of your holy daughter, Mother of our God!
20. Come and let us raise up
praise and glory to God
who has summoned to the Holy of Holies now
one yet greater than the Holiest of Saints.
21. Filled with gladness, Heaven
is receiving her Queen
for the Mother of creation in glory comes
and appears in glory, reigning with her God.
22. Now the God of Glory
takes His mother to Him
and the Son who has received you, O Purest One,
has prepared for you a seat at His right Hand.
Glory to the Father and the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
23. Now unto the Father
and the Holy Spirit
we with gladness sound forth hymns, Word and God of all,
and we glorify your countenance divine.
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
24. Every generation
comes to know you as blest,
and your holy pure dormition we glorify
Theotokos, ever-Virgin, Sovereign Queen!
(Repeat Verse One)
1. In a grave they laid you
yet, O Christ, you are life
and they now have laid the Mother of Life as well:
both to angels and to men a sight most strange!
1. Truly it is right
that we magnify you who bestow life,
just as your pure Mother you magnify
for her life-creating falling into sleep.
2. Truly it is right
that we magnify you, Theotokos,
you took your divine and all-blameless soul
and entrusted it into the Hands of God.
3. Wonder strange and new!
For the Door now passes through the Doorway,
Heaven enters Heaven! We stand in awe
as the Throne of God ascends the Throne of God!
4. All angelic hosts
stood and marveled when beholding Christ God,
who is unapproachable now approach
to give honor to His mother as a Son.
5. Angels shook with fear
to behold their God again descending;
with His mother’s soul carried in His hands,
He arose again in glory most divine.
6. Heaven shall be awed,
and the earth unto these words shall hearken;
God above all things, who did once come down,
for His mother’s sake a second time descends!
7. Wisdom now has moved
from her dwelling place on earth to heaven.
and has filled her heavenly mansion there
with the glory that has come from God above.
8. Virgin Bride of God,
who did not descend to us from Heaven,
by her giving birth unto heaven’s King
from this world unto the heavens now ascends.
9. Mankind now may pass
into heaven for the Way is open.
Come therefore, all Christians who bear His name:
Let us rise up with the Mother of our God.
10. Down into the earth
You, the Lord’s unplanted land, descended,
Out of you has sprung forth the Grain of Life,
and unto the Land of Heaven you arise.
11. Mother of the Light!
Now the sun which once beheld the setting
of the Sun of Righteousness now beholds
You, O Virgin, as the setting of the moon.
12. Darkness of the tomb
now conceals the Lord’s light-bearing Mountain
which once covered Heaven with Virtue’s light,
but now lies beneath the shadows of its shroud.
13, Taken from the earth
you arose to be with God in heaven.
All the earth rejoices along with you
and it glorifies, O Virgin, your repose.
14. Pure and incorrupt,
now your body lies enclosed in Heaven
while your grace, O Virgin, is pouring forth
and illuminates the face of all the earth.
15. Filling up your days
singing hymns to God with prayer and fasting
You, O Virgin Maiden, await the time
when you come before the Lord in your repose.
16. Faithful souls rejoice,
and their faces are alight and shining,
Our all-holy Lady, because of you,
who, departing now from us, will join the Lord.
17. See before your tomb
standing piously the true believers;
hear the lamentations our voices raise
unto you, who are the Author of our Life.
18. Early in the dawn
we the faithful rise to sing your glory
praising your dormition, with all our love,
Sovereign Virgin Maiden, free from any sin.
19. Virgin Bride of God!
When you enter into heaven’s kingdom,
Grant that you remember the faithful here
who now honor your dormition with our hymns.
20. As you once foretold,
you are magnified now, most pure Virgin,
by the very power which did create
both the heavens and the earth and all therein.
21. Standing face to face
where the Seraphim their faces cover,
you behold the Trinity that is God
one in essence, and which nothing can divide.
22. All the earth is glad
and the heavens sing in celebration;
angels raise their voices to join with men
and as you ascend to heaven they rejoice!
Glory to the Father and the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
23. God beyond all time,
with the Word and Spirit everlasting,
in that You are God, merciful and good,
let the clarion of Christians be extolled!
Both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
24. Life was born of you,
who are holy and most pure, O Virgin,
as you now depart from this world to Life,
grant true life to us who faithfully believe.
(Repeat Verse One)
1. Truly it is right
that we magnify you who bestows life,
just as your pure Mother you magnify
for her life-creating falling into sleep.
1. Every generation
offers hymns, O Virgin,
to honor your entombment.
2. Come with all creation
to sing the hymns of parting
as you are raised, O Virgin.
3. Disciples of my Lord Christ,
arrive to tend the body
of my God’s purest Mother.
4. Invisibly attending,
the archangels and angels
in ranks sing hymns to praise you.
5. The women high in honor
along with the apostles
are crying out and weeping.
6. O Virgin never-wedded,
the Mother of the Most High,
how shall we bear this passion?
7. The time of your departing
holds joy for all creation,
but leaves us weeping, mournful.
8. O Mother, do not leave us
behind you now as orphans,
without your love and caring.
9. Our Light are you, O Virgin,
how then shall we bear this:
no more to see your sweet eyes?
10. Alas! Your lips which loved God
and ever spoke about Him
have now been bound by silence.
11. “We shall not abandon
the Mother of our Teacher!”
the Lord’s apostles cried out.
12. On up-borne clouds, O Virgin,
again we go before you
unto the gates of Heaven.
13. The holy staff is laid down
inside the tomb and hidden
and from it Life has blossomed.
14. By giving birth she raised up
the dead from their entombment,
and yet, she lies entombed now.
15. “Where, Virgin, are you going?”
her loved one and defender
calls out as Son to Mother.
16. You, who are God’s Mother
with joyful heart now enter
into your Son’s glad presence.
17. Called with the apostles
are you again attending
the wedding feast at Cana?
18. Take me, your child, O Virgin
today as you are raised up
to be with your divine Son.
19. To Heaven you are taken,
and with your Son are living:
Let me be also taken.
20. Together in the Heavens,
may we now stand in glory
who at your cross in pain stood.
21. Gethsemane, be joyful!
Great hosts endowed with reason
descend now with the Master.
22. Be jubilant, be joyful,
O Chorus of Disciples,
Behold the Lord in glory!
23. Once more is God descending!
Today let all creation
beholding Him make merry.
24. Let us go forth, O people,
in haste to greet the Lord, who
is once again descending.
25. This day we may we all listen
to God as He is speaking
with His all-spotless Mother.
26. Come now, sweetest Mother,
and enter with rejoicing
your sweetest Son’s glad presence.
27. Let your eyes behold now
your Son who comes to take you
unto His own, O Mother.
28. “I come to see the glory
of my Mother shining
before my Father’s glory.”
29. “My God,” avows your Mother,
“I glorify your mercy,
and utter loving kindness.”
30. “I glorify you, kneeling
bowed down, my Son, in worship
of your majestic glory.”
31. Since You, who are the nearest
to me, from earth have risen
unto my Father draw near.
32. Enclosed are you, O Garden,
in which we will discover
The Tree of Life Unending.
33. Sealed are you, O Fountain,
from which the streams of life pour
most wondrously with sweetness.
34. “My lips shall sing the praises
of your divine dominion
My son and sovereign Godhead.”
Glory to the Father and the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
35. My God, who are three persons,
Father, Son, and Spirit,
on all the world have mercy!
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
36. Deem your servants worthy
to enter in the Kingdom
that is your Son’s, O Virgin.
(Repeat Verse One)
1. Every generation
offers hymns, O Virgin,
to honor your entombment.
Source: Translation by N. Takis.
ON THE FEAST OF THE DORMITION (FALLING ASLEEP) OF THE ALL-HOLY AND BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, THE THEOTOKOS
By Fr. George Dion Dragas
The Place of the Theotokos in the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos (Mother of God) occupies next to Christ the most important place in Orthodox Christianity. This is most obvious in the Orthodox liturgical tradition. Entering into any Orthodox church you first encounter the Theotokos. Her sacred icon is the first to meet and venerate in the Narthex. She appears in her primary identity as the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, the Savior of the world, whom she holds in her hands. As you move further into the church, you encounter her again both in the main Nave and in the Sanctuary at the most prominent places. You are thereby reminded that you cannot church yourself and approach God in Christ without the Blessed Virgin Mother of God. She is the primary witness, the new Eve, the Mother of the second and last Adam, your Savior and Savior of the world. She is the Queen of the Church, of the Kingdom of God, of Angels and human beings and of the entire creation, whom the King of all chose as the unique vehicle of his coming into the world to save it and restore in it his eternal Kingdom of freedom, truth and love.
The Feast of the Dormition (Koimesis): The Feast of the Dormition (Falling asleep) of the All-holy Theotokos, celebrated on the 15th of August every year is the greatest among several others which commemorate her Blessed person and life. As such, this Feast marks the completion of her earthly life as her full participation in the salvation and eternal life which the Lord God established for us human beings through Christ. But one may ask. Is this not a contradiction in terms? Does not falling asleep imply death? The answer is Yes and No. Yes, because she truly died. No, because she did not remain in death. The Icon of the Feast of the Falling-asleep of the Theotokos depicts her body resting breathless in a bed while her soul, wrapped in swaddling clothes like a new-born baby, is upheld in the arms of the Risen and glorified Christ who stands behind the bed. This icon is the reversal of the usual icon of the Theotokos which depicts the Virgin holding Christ in her arms. Christ holding the Virgin’s soul in his arms indicates her entry into the Kingdom of Heaven which the Incarnate Christ opened up for us through his saving life and work. It indicates in the most concrete way St. Athanasius’ well known dictum: “God became human that we (humans) may be made divine.” Christ the Savior taking the soul of his Mother to Heaven marks the first resurrection, which Christians experience when they die, thanks to our Lord’s redemptive work. The full resurrection of our humanity, i.e. the resurrection of the body, will take place at the second coming of Christ which will be accompanied by the general resurrection and the last judgment of all human beings.
What happened to the body of the Theotokos? The Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin does not end with her first resurrection, which is the entry of her soul into heaven. There is another mystery also connected with it which refers to her holy body. What happened to the body of the Theotokos? Why there is no tradition in the Christian Church both in East and West that mentions any bodily relics of the all-holy Mother of God, but there are traditions only about her girdle (zone) and garments (estheta and maphorion)? Apparently, according to ancient traditions, her body too was miraculously translated into heaven after its burial in Gethsemane, and was united with her soul. Indeed her tomb was found empty shortly after the burial. This tradition of the translation of the body of the Theotokos from the tomb to heaven (metathesis or metastasis in Greek, transitus in Latin) is very strong in the Orthodox Church as liturgical practice and many and important patristic texts bear witness, although sources do differ on details.
An admirable collection of texts referring to early ecclesiastical sources of this tradition is the book, Early Patristic Homilies On the Dormition of Mary published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press (1997). It contains English translations of texts referring to the Falling Asleep in the Lord of the Blessed Virgin Theotokos by John of Thessalonica, Theoteknos of Livias, Modestus of Jerusalem, Andrew of Crete, Germanus of Constantinople, John the Monk of the Old Lavra, John Damascene and Theodore the Studite. The translator, one of the great patristic scholars in this country, Professor Brian E. Daily, S.J., has provided a good discussion of these texts by way of introduction. To these texts one could go on and add several others from the later Byzantine fathers and ecclesiastical authors of the second millennium, such as Leo the Emperor, John of Euchaita, Isidore of Thessalonica, Philotheos of Constantinople, Gregory Palamas of Thessalonica, Nicholas Cabasilas, Damaskenos Stoudites, etc. These texts point to a common tradition, although one observes differences in the details as scholars argue (see the latest discussion of Stephen J. Shoemaker, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary’s Dormition and Assumption, Oxford University Press, 2002). They all agree, however, that the tomb of St. Mary in Gethsemane, where the body of the Blessed Virgin Mary was buried by the holy Apostles, was found empty when they opened it three days later. Here is how this ‘tradition’ is presented by Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem to Empress Pulcheria of Constantinople at the time of Chalcedon (AD 451) who asked for the relic of the Theotokos to be transferred from Jerusalem to Constantinople (From Sermon II on the Dormition of St. John Damascene, ch. 18 based on an earlier document called Euthymian History).
The Ancient Tradition (from the St. Euthymius History): “There is nothing in the holy, inspired Scripture about the death of Mary, the holy Theotokos; but we know from an ancient and truest tradition that at the time of her glorious falling asleep, all the holy Apostles, who were traveling the world preaching salvation to the nations, were in an instant lifted up and brought to Jerusalem. As they stood before her, they saw an angelic apparition, and a divine chanting was heard from the higher Powers. And so, in a state of divine and heavenly glory she placed her soul into God’s hands in an ineffable way. Her body, which had received God, was carried with angelic and apostolic hymns, was prepared and laid to rest in a coffin in Gethsemane. It was there and for three days that the angelic choruses and hymns continued unceasingly. After three days, however, the angelic hymnody ceased. The Apostles were there, and since one of them –Thomas– who had been absent from the burial, came after the third day and asked to reverence that body which had received God, they opened the coffin. They could not find anywhere her much-praised body, and since all they could find were her burial swaddling-clothes and the ineffable fragrance that came out of them and filled their bowels, they closed the coffin again. Amazed by the miracle of this mystery, they could only think this: that the One who willed to be incarnated and become human from her in his person, and to be born in the flesh he who is God the Word and Lord of Glory, and who preserved her virginity incorruptible after the birth, he was also the One that was well-pleased to honor her immaculate and spotless body, after her departure from this world, [by endowing it] with incorruptibility and with a transposition (metathesis) [to heaven] before the common, and universal resurrection.”
Orthodox and Roman Catholic Doctrine: This is not the place to present in detail all the variable patristic accounts of the falling asleep of the Theotokos and assess their conclusions. In spite of differences, it is clear that they all point to the glorification of the Blessed Theotokos at her death, which marks her entry into Heaven and taking a place closer to Christ than any other heavenly or human being. The mystery of her bodily transposition which is warranted by the empty tomb is a matter of faith and piety and is based on the mystery of the Incarnation. Based on this logic that pertains to the mystery of Christ and the unique place of the Blessed Virgin Theotokos in it, it is also logical to assume that she too has experienced the resurrection of the body as a unique anticipation of the general resurrection of all humanity in the end of time. In spite of this, the Orthodox Church has not accepted the Roman Catholic dogma of the bodily assumption of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, which was promulgated by Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950 through his Bull Munificentissimus Deus. The reasons for this rejection have been both theological and historical. The Roman Catholic Dogma of the Assumption is based on the earlier Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception (that the Virgin was born immaculate, free from original sin), which was promulgated by Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854 through his Bull Ineffabilis Deus. In effect this meant that being sinless she could not and did not die but was assumed into heaven both in body and soul. For the Orthodox these Roman Catholic Marian Dogmas are rather rationalizations of piety and are not clearly warranted in the Holy Tradition of the Church. Orthodox piety and faith preserves the mystery of the blessed Theotokos along with the mystery of Christ the Incarnate God and Lord of Glory. The festal hymn of the Dormition proclaims this most clearly: "In giving birth you kept your virginity. In falling asleep you did not abandon the world, O Mother of God. You passed over into life, for you are the Mother of Life, and by your intercessions you deliver our souls from death."
Mikrokastrou is a village in northern Greece near Siatista in the Kozani district. It is an old village with a chapel dedicated to St. Athanasios dated to 1050 AD with an inscription that says: "Within is entombed the head of Nicholas the Priest". It derives its name from Mount Kastraki which lies on the other side of the village. This mountain is on the way to Siatista and is known for the massacre which occurred there at the hands of the Turks in November of 1912, which is also the year the inhabitants gained independence from the Turks.
The Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos was founded in 1753, though the church was not built until 1797 and it was not dedicated until 1842. It houses the miraculous icon of Panagia Mikrokastrou, which is celebrated annually on August 15th amidst much festivity. Thousands come annually from Western Macedonia to venerate the holy icon of Panagia Mikrokastrou, which dates back to 1603 and is of the Eleousa type (experts indicate the icon to be much older, probably from the 12th or 13th century). From 1993 the monastery has functioned as a female convent. Though not functioning today, the monastery at one time operated an old age home, an orphanage, and a hospital for sick children. During war times many sought refuge and sustenance from the monastery, and in turn the people loved the monastery and the bishop who made the monastery a center of the peoples lives. The monastery was the heart of Western Macedonia and it was truly a place where the command to "love one another" was exemplified.
Yearly on the 15th of August the male inhabitants of Siatista parade with their horses (the Cavalry of Siatista) in a procession of the icon from the monastery to Siatista. In Siatista a party ensues and the men dance on the backs of the horses while the wine flows freely, and people break their fasts with a great feast among friends and family till the early morning hours. This festivity goes back to Ottoman times when the Turks granted the inhabitants one day of freedom to do as they wished according to their traditions, and the men would ride their decorated horses to show the Turks their leventia.
Telephone # for the monastery is 24650 23516.
Read more of the modern history of the monastery here.