By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
Today's feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, my beloved brethren, is characterized by our people as the "Summer Pascha". People make their appearance today in all the churches to honor the Dormition of the Theotokos and celebrate with reverence and joy. Every church, every chapel and shrine is filled with many pilgrims, and in many cases after the Divine Liturgy the celebration continues throughout the course of the day. It is preceded by a period of fifteen days of fasting and prayer, in order that we may celebrate in the best possible way the feast of the Mother of Christ, and our Mother.
The feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is called "Summer Pascha", because apart from the brilliant celebration, today's feast reminds us of the Pascha in the spring, the Resurrection of Christ.
On the brilliant day of the Resurrection we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, the rising of His Body, and later we celebrate the glorious Ascension of Christ with His resurrected Body. By analogy, the same is celebrated today. Today's feast is called the Dormition of the Theotokos, but it is also characterized as the Metastasis of our Panagia and her heavenly rising. This Metastasis was the resurrection of her body, and her heavenly rising was her ascension into the heavens with her body. Hence, the Panagia is physically in heaven, near her Son. Of course, there is a basic difference, because Christ Himself rose His own Body by His divinity, while the resurrection of the Theotokos was by the power and energy of her Son, of Christ.
According to the tradition of our Church, three days after the entombment of the Panagia, when the disciples went to her tomb to venerate her, they saw that her body was missing. This tradition is preserved in many hymns of the Church. In one hymn we chanted this morning, written by Saint Kosmas the Poet, it says: "You received many victorious trophies against nature, Pure One, having given birth to God, yet, imitating your Maker and Son, you supernaturally bowed to the laws of nature, and having died you rose and are with your Son for eternity."
The resurrection of the body of our Panagia and her ascension into the heavens is explained theologically by the fact that the Word of God united the divine nature to His human nature in His hypostasis, thereby deifying human nature. Therefore, the Panagia is the first to taste of the fruits of the hypostatic union of the divine and human nature in the hypostasis of the Word, and she also was the first to behold the Resurrected Christ, according to the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas. And in as much as the Body of Christ that came forth from the Panagia rose, it was obvious that the body of our Panagia would also rise and ascend.
Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite gathered many passages from the Holy Fathers that refer to the topic of the resurrection of the body of our Panagia, such as from St. Andrew of Crete, St. John of Damascus, St. Gregory Palamas and St. Mark the Eugenikos. We also find it in many hymns of the Church. This is why the Dormition of our Panagia is called a glorious Dormition.
The important thing from today's feast, my beloved brethren, is that today we celebrate another Pascha, the "Summer Pascha". It shows that what took place with our Panagia, will certainly take place with us at the Second Coming of Christ, when our own bodies will rise. And we must pray today to our Panagia to intercede for us, that we may live according to the commandments of her Son that we also may be found worthy to find rest in the eternal Pascha with Christ, the Panagia and all the saints. Therefore, we should not fear death, but we should get ready until the time we enjoy eternal life in the Pascha of the Kingdom of God.
I wish you all many years and may the Panagia be with you in all your blessed works and may she find us worthy of the eternal Pascha, the constant springtime of the Kingdom of God.
Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Γραπτὰ Κυρήγματα: Κυριακή, 15 Αυγούστου, Ἑορτὴ τῆς Κοιμήσεως τῆς Θεοτόκου", July-August 2003. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.