The Church of Jerusalem celebrates the Dormition of the Theotokos on the Old Calendar, which is August 28th on the New Calendar but August 15th on the Old. The origins of the celebration are in Jerusalem, at the tomb of the Theotokos in Gethsemane. This is how it was celebrated this year.
The Descent of the Icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Gethsemane
On Sunday 12/25 August 2013 a procession took place for the Descent of the Icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos from the Metochion (Dependency) of Gethsemane opposite the Most-sacred Church of the Resurrection in Gethsemane to the Sacred Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Gethsemane.
This icon of the Theotokos in the type of the Dormition is kept opposite the Church of the Resurrection in the Chapel of the Dormition.
From there it is received on the 12th of August each year, to be taken to Gethsemane, where it lies until the 23rd of the same month, at which it is returned to its initial position.
In keeping with this order, the procession of the holy icon of Theotokos began this year at 4:00 am/5:00 am (summer time) from the Dependency. The icon was carried close to the bosom of the Abbot of Gethsemane, Archimandrite Nektarios, in the midst of their Eminences, the Archbishops of Ioppi and Lydda, Damaskinos and Demetrios, priests of the Holy Sepulcher and sojourner priests of the Orthodox Churches, long rows of monks and nuns, and a great crowd eager to venerate the sacred icon, placing their problems, adversities, agonies, pains and illnesses onto the Theotokos for help, protection, support and cure, whilst chanting “Apostles from the ends of the earth” and “In Giving Birth You Kept Your Virginity”, in Greek, Arabic and all languages of the Orthodox.
As the procession moved across the Via Dolorosa from the Church of the Resurrection to Gethsemane, it paused for supplication before the Holy Monasteries of Saint Alexander Nevsky, the Praetorium, Saint Anna and Saint Stephen.
Eventually, the sacred icon was lowered down to the Church of the Dormition of Theotokos in Gethsemane and placed behind the Tomb of the Theotokos next to the Platytera for veneration by the faithful. There it remains for the duration of the Divine Liturgy until the Eve, on which the Engomia [Lamentations] are chanted for the day of the Dormition of Theotokos, in anticipation of the Completion of the feast on the 23rd of August, when the procession is resumed, this time from Gethsemane toward the chapel.
After the Descent of the icon, a Divine Liturgy was also held at the chapel of Theotokos on the Mount of Olives in Little Galilee where it is believed that the Theotokos was announced her Dormition by an angel.
The Lamentations of the Theotokos in Gethsemane
On Tuesday the 14th/27th of August 2013, the Service of the Lamentations or the Epitaphios of the Theotokos was performed by the Patriarchate at the Tomb of the Mother of God in Gethsemane.
In attendance were the Fathers of the Holy Sepulcher with sojourner clerics of the Church of Greece and other Orthodox Churches, led by His Beatitude Theophilos, Our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem. It commenced at 6:30 am from the Gate of the Patriarchate.
Once there, His Beatitude and Prelates waited at the Abbot's Quarters for the priests to descend into the Holy Church, pay their respects, and put on the appropriate vestments for the Service.
Subsequently, His Beatitude proceeded down to the court of the Church of the Dormition of Theotokos and, in the presence of appropriately attired priests, holding the Gospel, cross and censer he put on a patriarchal mantle and blessed the Holy Entrance.
Immediately afterwards, the hieratic procession walked towards the Tomb of the Mother of God, whilst chanters sang “In Giving Birth You Kept Your Virginity”.
Having venerated the Tomb of the Mother of God, His Beatitude was dressed in full primatial vestments, whilst the Prelates wore a stole and a pallium, and the priests a stole. Then, the procession of the Lamentations began in three stases: A: “The Pure One in the tomb”, B “Worthy it is to praise you, Theotokos”, and C: “All generations offer a song unto your burial, O Virgin”, with the Evlogitaria at the end.
Within the troparia of these stases, the Theotokos was praised for having conceived the Lord through the Holy Spirit, having raised Him in obedience and devotion until the Passion on the Cross, as the first Myrrh-bearing witness of the Resurrection, and as having slept a natural death and been buried in her tomb in Gethsemane, then taken by her Son to Heaven in soul and body to stand on his right and offer supplication and protection to those piously invoking her. These theological and devout hymns were received in great piety by a crowd of the Lord, co-chanting on the occasion.
Attentively the crowd also listened to the word of God delivered by the sojourner Metropolitan of the Church of Greece, His Eminence Theologos Metropolitan of Serres, on the Theotokos as Mother of the Lord and eternal mediator before her Son on behalf of each and every faithful Christian Orthodox, and equally for the faithful of our Nation, suffering gravely at present because of the financial crisis from which he wished that we exit through the intercession of Theotokos.
At the conclusion of the sermon, the priests who carried the Epitaphion in which the icon of the body of the Theotokos was placed, climbed the stairs next to the Gate of the Church. There, a supplication was made for the pilgrims of the All-Holy and Life-Giving Sepulcher and of the Tomb of the Mother of God, as well as for peace, health and kind condition for the whole world.
The priests went on to lower the Epitaphion into the area behind the Tomb of the Mother of God and in front of the icon of the Platytera, known as “Ierosolymitissa”, where a supplication was made and the Patriarchal Polychronism chanted. The dismissal of the Service of the Lamentations followed, whilst even after the dismissal the crowd was eager to venerate the sacred icon.
Subsequently, the Patriarchal retinue and the people of the Lord were received at the Abbot’s Quarters by the Abbot of Gethsemane, Archimandrite Nektarios, where they were offered cold water, lenten cakes and nuts in the presence of the Consul-General of Greece in Jerusalem, Mr Georgios Zacharoudiakis, and personnel from the Greek Consulate General.