Friday, August 12, 2022

The Theological August: Pastoral Encyclical for the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)


The Theological August
 
Pastoral Encyclical for the Feast of the 
Dormition of the Theotokos (2022)

In the middle of Summer, and in fact in the middle of the month of August, we celebrate the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, from whom Christ took on human nature and entered history as the God-man Christ.

In the first days of August until the eve of August 15th, we chant in the sacred churches the Supplicatory Canons to the Most Holy Theotokos, the Small and the Great Parakleseis, which are full of theological and spiritual meanings. With theological words and wonderful images, the entire universal work of Christ and His Mother is presented.

In the Supplicatory Canons, the pain in human life, physical pain, inner and secret pain, spiritual pain, temporal and eternal pain is tragedized in an intense way. Man is full of the pain that comes from his mortal and impassioned body, and is expressed through diseases, sins, passions, orphanhood, loneliness, betrayal by people, deprivation of love, despair, uncertainty of the future. Man is immersed in pain from the first day of his birth until the end of his biological life.

The Most Holy Theotokos, as a human being and Mother of Christ, experienced pain in her life, from the suspicion of the people when she conceived without marrying, from the birth of Christ in the cave, the fear of the slaughter of her newborn, her move to Egypt as a refugee while she was the mother of a small child, her return from exile in Nazareth, the difficulties caused by the deprivation of material goods, and later she lived with pain from the Passion and the Cross of her son, Jesus Christ. In the trials of our Panagia we see our own trials, and that is why we understand her, but we also feel that she also understands us.

And after the Supplicatory Canons, during which we export out from our hearts our own pain and our own journeys, in the middle of August comes the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Here we are no longer dealing with ordinary everyday situations, namely pain, the deprivation of material goods, being a refugee, slanders, injustices, but with death itself.

Death is indeed terrible, the "ultimate enemy" of man (1 Cor. 16:26) which deprives us of communication with our loved ones, which causes the split between soul and body, so the body descends into the grave and the soul makes its own course, positive or negative. The Wise Sirach in the Old Testament writes: "O death, how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a man that liveth in peace with his possessions" (Sirach 41:1).

If for the daily problems that torment us our Panagia is our consolation and our hope, for the fear of death she becomes a bright beacon. It shows that in Christ death has been defeated, it is not a journey to nothingness, as those who do not believe say, but an encounter with Christ and the saints, is a "glorious repose", for which the angels rejoice, since for those who believe and live in Christ, it is an encounter with Him, it is a life beyond biological life.

And after the 15th of August, the celebration continues until the 23rd of August, when we solemnly celebrate the apodosis of the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, and we still extend it until the 31st of August when we celebrate the deposition of the Honorable Zoni of the Most Holy Theotokos, which is a reminder of her continuous protection in our life.

Thus, from the Supplicatory Canons of the first days of the Fifteenth of August, where we express to the Panagia all our daily pains, but also on today's day of her glorious Dormition, we learn in practice that death is satisfaction and joy, it is a simple sleep, that is, the night's sleep is a little death, and what we call death is a great sleep until the day of the resurrection of the bodies of all men. And we celebrate this until the last day of August.

However, we must not forget that on August 6th, the days leading up to it, and the days that follow until August 13th, we celebrate the great event of the Transfiguration of Christ and the Church shows us who defeated death, sin and devil, who gave the Panagia this great glory, who is the source of our life and salvation. This is Jesus Christ.

On the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ we see the purpose of man's existence, which is for man to go from "in the image" to attain "according to the likeness", we see the glorious Light of Christ's divinity, the glory of the Panagia and our deification. The face of Christ on Mount Tabor shone like the sun and His clothes became white like the Light, which shows that, when we unite with Christ, our whole existence shines and all the senses become white, light-bearing.

This means that for the Church, the month of August, with the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ and the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, clearly shows the redemptive work of Christ, and the essential offering to it of the Lady Theotokos. Christ and the Panagia are united and show the overcoming of sin and death, the victory of eternal life over the mortality and passions of man. Blessed is this month, because in the flame of Summer it shows us the recreation of eternal life.

We understand, therefore, that these days are not only offered for a physical rest, for a change of impressions and daily lifestyle, but they show the high purpose of the Christian life, the high meaning of human life, that all difficulties and temptations, diseases and death are overcome in Christ.

With this resurrection theology of the feasts, of the Transfiguration of Christ and the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, which is our faith and our life, our hope and our endurance, I wish you many years and that you have spiritual inspiration. We must live inspired much more than poets and artists live, we must be possessed by the inspiration of "the other life" and thus overcome the pain and fear of death.

With fervent prayers,

THE METROPOLITAN

of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

+ HIEROTHEOS

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
 
 
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