August 1, 2019

The Dormition Fast

By Sergei V. Bulgakov

Beginning August 1 and continuing until August 15, the Church has always observed the Dormition Fast, as established of old, keeping it according to an unwritten tradition. The most ancient mention of it is by the name of Autumn Fast, placed in the 7th month by Leo the Great. However in the ancient Church there were disagreements concerning the duration of this fast. The reason for this was the feast of Transfiguration, because some decided to eat meat on this day and others continued the decision to fast for 4, others for 8 days. Finally, the old tradition concerning this fast in view of the doubts about the quantity of its days was sealed in a synodal definition in 1166 during the reign of the Constantinopolitan Patriarch Luke Chrysoberges. Since that time the single paradigmatic order of this fast was established in the Eastern Churches. With the establishment of the Dormition fast, the Church, on the one hand, guides us to spiritual transfiguration, observing the fast as a means to graceful internal circumspection, and on the other hand, motivates us to imitate the Mother of God, who spent all her life in the asceticism of fasting and prayer. In the severity of fasting this fast approaches the Forty Day Fast. It is weakened on Saturdays, Sundays, and likewise on the feast of Transfiguration.