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May 1, 2019

The Month of May in the Orthodox Church

By John Sanidopoulos

The month of May (in Latin, Maius) was named for the Greek Goddess Maia, who was identified with the Roman era goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, whose festival was held in May. It is the fifth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars and the third of seven months to have a length of 31 days. May is a month of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. In antiquity (among the Romans) May was considered as the month devoted to the memory of the dead, which is why they were afraid to marry in this month. In France even now still exists a saying: "A May wedding is a dead wedding." Summer began in May for the ancient Greeks, which is why they wore wreaths of flowers and decorated their houses with greens.

While the ancient Romans devoted the month of May to the memory of the dead, in the Orthodox Church the month of May is primarily dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ. It is a joyous and festive month, not only because spring is in full bloom this month for most people, but sometimes Holy Pascha falls in the month of May, up to May 5th, and the month of May at some point is always accompanied with the greeting and song "Christ is Risen!", even if Easter falls in early April. If Easter does fall in early April, then the moveable feasts of the Ascension of Christ and Pentecost could fall in the month of May. Besides this, each Saturday and Sunday in the month of May, depending on how the moveable calendar falls, has a theme related to the Resurrection of Christ, the saints of various local locations (like All Saints of Mount Athos), saints of various periods (like All New Martyrs Under the Turks), and the miracles and teachings of Christ related to the theme of water (which is central to the Pentecostarion).

Though it is highly likely to celebrate one or more moveable Great Feasts of the Church in the month of May, such as Easter, Ascension or Pentecost, there are no immovable Great Feasts celebrated in the month of May. Nonetheless, there are many popular saints and feasts celebrated in the month of May, among which are the following: Prophet Jeremiah (May 1); St. Athanasius the Great (May 2); Sts. Timothy and Maura (May 3); St. Peter of Argos (May 3); St. Pelagia (May 4); St. Irene the Great Martyr (May 5); St. Ephraim of Nea Makri (May 5); Righteous Job (May 6); Appearance of the Cross in the Sky Over Jerusalem (May 7); St. John the Theologian (May 8); St. Arsenios the Great (May 8); Prophet Isaiah (May 9); St. Christopher (May 9); St. Simon the Zealot (May 10); St. Mokios (May 11); Sts. Cyril and Methodios (May 11); St. Epiphanios of Salamis (May 12); St. Germanos of Constantinople (May 12); St. Glykeria (May 13); St. Isidore of Chios (May 14); St. Pachomios the Great (May 15); St. Theodore the Sanctified (May 16); Sts. Constantine and Helen (May 21); St. Symeon of the Wonderful Mountain (May 24); Third Finding of the Head of John the Baptist (May 25); St. John the Russian (May 27).

As a month dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ, the month of May should be for us a time of renewal. The rigorous fasting and schedule of divine services during Great Lent and Holy Week are over, and now we rise with Christ to a new life of rededication to Him and a renewal of our life in Christ through the Church. What was done in the months of March and April are useless if we do not continue zealously in May to be dedicated followers of Christ, ever ascending "from glory to glory." Let the month of May be a testimony to the newness of our life in Christ, refreshed and resplendent.