August 15, 2010
Feast of the Dormition
At your glorious dormition the heavens rejoice
and the armies of angels exult; the whole earth makes glad,
singing a hymn of departure unto thee, O Mother of Him
who is Lord of all…. (Hymn of Matins of the Feast)
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On this blessed feast of the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, I greet you in the joy that we know through the life and intercessions of the Mother of our Lord. As witnessed by the hymn above and of all the services that we observe for this Feast, the commemoration of the Dormition of the Theotokos is not an occasion for mourning, expressing grief or feeling a sense of loss over the earthly departure of a close and cherished life. This is a feast of praise and celebration, filled with true joy.
The Dormition is a Feast of joy because the Virgin Mary received true joy in bearing the Son of God, the Savior of our souls. Her commitment to the will of God and her act of faith was essential to overcoming the sadness caused by sin and the pain and finality of death. Thus, this is a feast of honor and veneration for her blessed service in the salvation of humanity and an occasion to celebrate the life that we have in Christ.
This day is also a Feast of joy in our affirmation of the intercessory role of the Theotokos. This is the theme and tone of the Paraklesis services we have observed over the past two weeks. The hymns of this service are not lamentations. They are filled with hope, assurance, comfort, love, and life. These prayers for intercession culminate in our celebration of the Feast of the Dormition, in which we praise the continued service of the Theotokos on behalf of all faithful. In her service to God and to us, the love and assurance she offers leads us to sing, “Pure one, fill my heart with a merriment, a happiness; bestow on me your spotless joy, for you have given birth to Him who is the cause of joy.” (Hymn of the 5th Ode of the Small Paraklesis)
As we gather in our parishes on this Feast, may our hearts be filled with true joy as a foretaste of that blessed and eternal life we will have with our Lord, the Most Holy Theotokos and all of the Saints. In commemorating the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, may we also know true joy in seeing the power of God over death, in honoring her beautiful faith, and in seeking her unceasing supplications for all of our needs and for the salvation of our souls.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America