The first half of August is called Dekapentavgoustos / ╬ö╬Á╬║╬▒¤Ç╬Á╬Ż¤ä╬▒¤ů╬│╬┐¤ů¤â¤ä╬┐¤é (literally, ÔÇťFifteen-AugustÔÇŁ period), a fasting period. Within this period two great feastdays are celebrated in the Orthodox liturgical calendar, the Transfiguration of the Lord on August 6th and the Falling Asleep of the Virgin Mary on August 15th. As part of the fasting discipline, which is spiritual as well as physical, Orthodox Christians can meditate on certain texts related to these feasts and also research the meaning of the feasts in the Orthodox Study Bible, other books, and on the Internet: Transfiguration of the Lord http://www.goarch.org/special/listen_learn_share/transfiguration/ and Falling Asleep of the Virgin Mary http://www.goarch.org/special/listen_learn_share/dormition/.
The event of JesusÔÇÖ transfiguration is recounted in Mark 9:1-10 and the parallel texts of Matthew 17:1-9 and Luke 9:28-36. These texts tell of JesusÔÇÖ ascent to Mt Tabor with three disciples for prayer during which the clothes and body of Jesus shone forth with divine glory. The event amazed and perplexed the disciples because of the unbearable brilliance of light and the vision of seeing Moses and Elijah next to Jesus. You can study the details of this great miracle by reading the texts carefully. What is the meaning of the light? Why the appearance of Moses and Elijah? Why did Jesus command the disciples to silence until after His resurrection? See what information you can pick up from your library and/or the Internet by searching under ÔÇťTransfiguration of Jesus.ÔÇŁ
You were transfigured upon Mount Tabor, O Jesus, and a shining cloud, spread out like a tent, covered the apostles with Your glory. Whereupon the fell to the ground, for they could not bear to look upon the brightness of Your face, O Savior Christ, our God, who are without beginning. As You shone upon them with Your light, do give also now light to our souls.
The second great feast is that of the Falling Asleep or Dormition (Koimesis) of the Theotokos / ╬ś╬Á╬┐¤ä¤î╬║╬┐¤é. The fasting period of the fourteen days developed as a way of preparing and honoring the death and burial of the Virgin Mary. An ancient tradition holds that not only her soul, but also her body was ÔÇťtranslated/assumedÔÇŁ (taken up) to heaven, for which reason the feast is also known as the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Next to Christ, Mary occupies the most revered placed among the saints not only because she nursed and raised Jesus but also because she brought into the human sphere the Savior of the world. It was from her that the Lord and Savior took on human flesh to sanctify and redeem humanity. Countless men and women loved and served God, but Mary did so in unprecedented and unique way. Therefore she is honored several times a year in the Orthodox liturgical calendar.
The Gospel of Luke has the most important text on the person of Mary. Look up and study Luke1:25-56; 2:15-20, 25-35 and John 19:25-27. What does the angel Gabriel say about the importance of Jesus? How would you describe Elizabeth and Mary and their relationship? What meanings do you derive from MaryÔÇÖs Song of Praise (ÔÇťMagnificatÔÇŁ)? Why did Jesus have to commit His mother to the care of the disciple John? See what you can learn from the Orthodox Bible, other books, and the Internet.
As we approach the Feast of Dormition of the Theotokos / ╬ś╬Á╬┐¤ä¤î╬║╬┐¤é, offer this hymn as your personal prayer:
O pure and most holy Virgin, the multitude of angels in heaven and humanity
on earth extol and venerate your Dormition. For you are the mother of Christ,
our God, and the Creator of all. Never cease, we entreat you, to intercede
with Him on our behalf. Next to God we have put our hope in you, O blessed
and ever memorable mother of the Lord.