FR. GEORGE'S MESSAGE FOR THE FEAST OF THE DORMITION OF PANAGIA
FR. GEORGE'S MESSAGE
FOR THE FEAST OF THE DORMITION OF PANAGIA
Once again, my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, with the Grace of God, we approach the Great Theomitorical (=mother of God) Feast of "Panagia's." One more time we are called by our mother, our Orthodox Church, to joyfully celebrate "the Easter of the summer," as the great Greek litterateur Alexander Papadiamantis would paraphrase the Feast of the Dormition. Indeed, on August 15th, the Orthodox Church celebrates the most glorious Dormition (=falling asleep) and the Metastasis or Assumption (=bodily Ascension to Heaven) of the Most-Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. And indeed Panagia's Dormition was most glorious, because her life was also Most-Holy.
Panagia, my brethren, was a human being, because She was born in a natural manner. As a consequence, She was a participant in all the common signs of the human race. Nonetheless, She did not want to inherit the human mindset, nor was She influenced by the powerful human habit of evil. On the contrary, according to St. Nicholas Cabasillas, "Panagia defeated sin, stood against the corruption of our nature, and gave an end to Evil one." With Her conscious, complete, absolute and continuous obedience to the will of God, and with the help of the Divine Grace, Panagia succeeded not to sin. According to St. Silouan the Athonite, "Panagia never sinned, not even in thought." She is sinless by the Grace of God! Jesus Christ is sinless by His Divine Nature. The difference is obvious; Jesus Christ, as a true and Pre-eternal God, and as the second Divine Person of the Holy Trinity, does not have the latitude to sin, nor the possibility to do so. Unlike, Panagia, as a human being, even though She was able to sin, She willingly devoted Her whole life to obedience to God's will. Thanks to Her continuous obedience and to Her perfect love towards God, Panagia would NEVER compromise Her most pure life with sin. That is why, God offered the gift of sinlessness to Panagia!
Nevertheless, it was needed at some point for the Most-Holy and Spotless soul of the Theotokos (=Birth-Giver of God) to be separated from Her Most-Holy and undefiled body, so that She may also know death, just as all of us will depart. Thus, three days prior to Her Dormition, the Archangel Gabriel came and announced that it was the will of God that after three days She would fall asleep in the Lord. At this point, we should note that the phrase "falling asleep" is preferable to the word "death", because immortal, heavenly and everlasting life awaited the Panagia.
Full of joy, because She would soon meet Her Son in Paradise, Panagia after the message of Gabriel, ascended the Mount of Olives in order to pray there for the last time. After Her prayer, Panagia descended to Jerusalem and started to prepare the appropriate things for Her departure. She lit the lamps in Her house and invited Her friends, in which She announced the message of Her departure.
And then, in a miraculous way, the Grace of the Holy Spirit in the form of a Divine cloud gathered the Holy Apostles from the entire world and brought them together to the house of Panagia. In this manner, in a vigilant atmosphere of prayer and chanting, Theotokos bids farewell and blessed everyone and surrendered Her Most-Holy soul into the hands of her Son and God. And in this way, Her soul ascended toward the throne of the Triune God, at the right hand of Her Son and immortal King and God of all. Her body was placed in the tomb. The Holy Apostles, together with the Angels, remained at the tomb for three days, where they ascribe prayers and chant in Her honor.
However, Apostle Thomas, just as in the case of the Risen Christ, once again did not arrive on time together with the other Apostles in order to be present at the Dormition and entombing of the Theotokos. But, on the third day after Her Dormition, a Divine cloud as well brought him to Jerusalem. Immediately, he asked of the Apostles to take him to Panagia's tomb, so that he can also venerate the life-giving body of the Theotokos. Including Thomas, the Apostles went all together to the tomb, from which preceded a Divine fragrance, and, in a miraculous way, the body of the Theotokos, was no longer there. The only things that were remaining were Her burial clothing, including Her belt and burial sheet, in which they wrapped Her soulless body.
The body of the Theotokos remained totally incorrupt during its three-day stay in the tomb. As St. John Damascene says, "It was proper that the body of Her, who preserved Her virginity intact during the birth of Her Son and God, should be kept from corruption even after death."
On August 15th, the Orthodox Church also celebrates the "Metastasis", or the Assumption of Most-Holy Theotokos, in other words, the event of Her Bodily Ascension from earth to Heaven. According to St. Gregory Palamas, "Earth, the tomb and death, ultimately could not detain Her life-giving body, which held God." This same Holy Father elsewhere states, "Just as Her Son and God, who assumed flesh from Her, could not remain on the earth, and He was resurrected and taken up, the same should occur with Panagia. Therefore, She was taken up from the tomb to Heaven."
Panagia ascended with Her Holy body to Heaven and She is seated at the right hand of Her Son. Her Most-Holiness flows out to the entire body of the Church. Naturally, Panagia is not God or a "goddess"; however, she is the Mother of God, and she is closer to God than anyone else. Furthermore, Panagia is able to intercede more fervently than any other human being, including all the 9 ranks of Angels. She is "more honorable than the Cherubim, and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim," as the Holy Hymnology of the Orthodox Church testifies.
Panagia is not only the Mother of God, but She is also the Mother of all humankind. She is our Mother, because through Her intercessory and unique prayers to Her Son, She stands beside us in our hardships and tribulations. She softens our pains; she brings peace to our souls; she is quick to hear our requests, and as the most affectionate Mother, She always stands close to us.
For this, on August 15th we celebrate the Mother of all humankind. On that day there does not exist anything grievous, nothing sad, even if we are speaking about death. On August 15th each one of us should rejoice! Likewise, for this, we celebrate with much joy Her Holy Dormition because not only do we not lack Her presence with Her falling asleep, but more so, after Her Dormition we will always have the Panagia in the Church to unceasingly pray for our salvation to Her Son and our God. That is why, the Church strongly believes that the Panagia, after Her falling asleep, did not abandon the world, "at Your repose, You did not forsake the world," as we chant in the Apolytikion of the Feast.
Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, we may not hesitate to seek daily refuge with humbleness, piety, and hope in Panagia. Initially, we should give thanks to Panagia for Her unique maternal, Holy and Divine Protection, then later we should ask for help in our pain, our sadness, in our tribulations, and for all the difficulties that arise in our life. Finally, let us all attempt, as much as each one of us can, to be inspired by Her Most Holy person, and let us ask of Her, with Her prayers and saving intercessions, to be led by the Church into the Everlasting Kingdom of Her Son and our Savior God. Amen!
HAPPY AUGUST 15th & MAY ALL HAVE "KALI PANAGIA" ! With Love in Christ,
Rev. Fr. George Kouzelis Parish Priest