Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
The Five Feasts of the Virgin Mary
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth! Thou whose glory above the heavens is chanted. Psalm 8:1
Good morning Prayer Team!
The Feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary is celebrated on August 15, preceded by a fourteen day period of preparation and fasting. For this past week, we’ve discussed the five feasts of the Virgin Mary, ascribing on important aspect of the Christian life to each of these feasts.
We discussed first her nativity, and the lesson was faith, specifically the faith of her parents. We need to have a strong foundation of faith, especially for the times when life doesn’t go as we wished it would. We need to have faith to trust in God that He has a plan for us. We reflected on her entrance into the temple, and the lesson of that feast was devotion. We need to be devoted to learning about our faith, so that we can live our faith and in turn, teach it to other people.
When we discussed the Annunciation, the lesson was about service. We are called by God to do something. The Virgin Mary was given a very unique role, but also one that was the most challenging role any human being has ever been called to play. And she said YES. Will we say yes to God’s call to serve others by choosing to thrive with the unique talents He has blessed us with?
The theme of the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple was pain. There is no authentic Christian life that is lived without some pain. Because being a true follower of Christ is going to come with its share of bumps and bruises. For the Virgin Mary, her path saw her witness the death of her Son. And yet she didn’t lose faith in God’s overall plan for salvation, or for her salvation, and continued to embrace the role she played in it.
Which brings us to the final feast, the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, and the final step in the life of the faithful Christian, glory. After the Ascension, the Virgin Mary was helping to establish the early church. History records that John, the beloved Disciple, who was entrusted with the care of the Virgin Mary, went and preached in Ephesus, often leading to the tradition that she also was living in Ephesus. Though some historians disagree on whether she died in Ephesus or in Jerusalem, we know that she died a natural death. And she was buried near Jerusalem near the Mount of Olives. All of the Apostles came from their various cities to be present for her funeral, except for Thomas, who was spreading the Gospel in India, tradition holds. When Thomas arrived in Jerusalem, the Disciples opened the tomb for him to offer his prayers and respects. Upon opening the tomb, they found only the belt of the Virgin Mary. Her body was gone. This has led to the belief that she was “assumed” into heaven (hence the name “Assumption” is often given to this feast, especially in the Roman Catholic Church), prefiguring OUR resurrection not only in soul but in body.
The icon of the Dormition shows the funeral bier of the Virgin Mary. Surrounding it are the Apostles. Behind it is Christ, surrounded by angels. And in His arms, He holds the soul of the Virgin Mary. She is wrapped in white cloths—burial bands, but they also look like the swaddling clothes from the Nativity of Christ. They are pure white, reflecting the state of her soul at death. This is the goal of every human life, to have our souls carried to heaven by Christ, and for them to be pure white, as was the soul of the Virgin Mary. This is the ultimate glory that every faithful human being can share in. But first we must have faith, devotion, live a life of service and remain faithful in life’s difficult moments and then we can enjoy the glory of everlasting life.
The Virgin Mary models the perfect life for us, and her feasts remind us of not only the events of her life but the events of our lives that lead us to His glory. The greatest feast of the Virgin Mary is her Dormition because the greatest thing in life for us is seeing the eternal glory of God, which is only possible at the end of our lives. We celebrate her entrance into God’s Kingdom with the joy and the hope that we can follow her example.
In giving birth you retained your virginity, and in dormition you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos. You were translated unto life, being the Mother of Life. And thus by virtue of your intercessions you deliver our souls from death. (Apolytkion of the Dormition of the Theotokos, First Tone, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes
Live your life today with faith, devotion and service, survive its challenges and you are one day closer to eternal glory!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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