On August 28 of this year in addition to the 10th Sunday after Pentecost the Orthodox Church celebrated greatest feast of the Most Holy Mother of God, Her glorious Dormition. We had a beautiful celebration in our parish. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov served the Divine Liturgy. After the Scripture readings he preached a homily in Russian. An English translation of that homily is as follows:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we came together to hold a double celebration. As we do every Sunday, we commemorate Christ Resurrection. And today we also observe the great holy day of the Most Holy Mother of God, Her Dormition.”
“Today’s first Gospel lesson tells us about the power of faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ assures His Disciples, “I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to here,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Mt. 17, 20).”
“Faith gives us a great potential. Jesus tells us about an ability to move the mountains. Although it was never seen that mountains were physically moved because of someone’s faith, the true faith is really able to work great things. A lot of human achievements were done because the people who worked for them did possess great faith and trust in God and in His help. They also believed in their own potential if such potential is blessed by God and assisted by divine grace.”
“Again, although man cannot really move the mountains, he has a great potential. We are created to be able of many good and great things. Man was designed to be an image and likeness of God, so we have great abilities. Some of them became taken away from us or limited after the fall of Adam. For instance, I personally suspect that before we sinned we had an ability to fly. This is why sometimes, especially when we are young, we have dreams of flying. But some holy men were able to be lifted up from the ground. The lives of Venerable Mary of Egypt and of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov tell us that these Saints were seen elevated, lifted up while they were intensively praying. Some other Saints were also able to lift up and move from one place to another.”
“Today we celebrate feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, the most important and the greatest solemnity of the Blessed Virgin. Holy tradition says that the Apostles who were in the different countries of the world became taken by an unknown force and brought to Jerusalem to participate in the burial of the Blessed Virgin. There were no airplanes in those days, but the Apostles came together just like in our days people travel by air using airplanes to get together for some important occasions. They were brought by air to bury the Most Holy Mother of God. This was done by the special force generated from the Almighty God, but it happened because of the faith and fidelity of the Holy Apostles.”
“On the other hand, being lifted up from the ground, levitation may be a result of a demonic possession. Today’s first Gospel lesson is telling us about a man who was possessed by an evil spirit. It depends on which power is working through us, the power of God or the power of the devil. If we recall the Most Holy Mother of God, we may learn that the power of the devil had no effect on Her. Holy Mary was without sin. Roman Catholics holding that belief could not figure how this was possible since Blessed Virgin was a human being. Thus they came to a rational conclusion that She must have been preserved by God from any sin, even the original sin of Adam and Eve. They adopted a dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, stating that She was conceived and born without sin. But such a dogma is strange to the authentic Christian tradition. Orthodox Christians had always believed that the Theotokos was without sin, however this was not an act of creating Her like that by God, but a result of Her personal blessedness, Her righteousness and Her gracious life. Mary was not some kind of a robot created without an ability to sin. Her own choice, Her obedience to God and Her humility made Her more honorable than the Cherubim and by far more glorious than the Seraphim. This is why today in our second Gospel lesson the Lord teaches that not only being His Mother, to bear and to nurse Him made Mary the Blessed one, but that She heard the word of God and kept it (Lk. 11, 27-28).”
“This is why, dear brothers and sisters, righteous life and faith of the Most Holy Mother of God made Her able to lift up above the sinful human nature. They made Her able to be elevated above the sinful earth and be ascended above the fallen mankind. And if faith, according to the words of Christ, can move the mountains, it certainly lifted up the Most Holy Mother of the Savior. It lifted Her up so much that when She had to pass away from this life, She did not taste death of a sinful human being but after Her falling asleep She was risen from the dead and taken up to heaven.”
“Dear brothers and sisters! Having these instructions of the Lord and seeing the examples of the Saints, especially of the Most Holy Mother of God, let us cherish and cultivate our faith. Let us practice and not cease our prayer and fasting. Then we can move any mountain which would stay on our way to salvation and we could be lifted up above all our troubles of earthly life and above the temptations of the evil one. With faith and with the intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos we can reach heavenly glory, being united there with our Lord and with the His Blessed Mother!”
Many faithful desired to go to confession on this holy day and most of the people attending the Liturgy received Holy Communion.
The choir beautifully and prayerfully sang festal hymns dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos.
Following the Liturgy dismissal the Rector along with the altar severs came out of the sanctuary and performed the rite of glorification in front of the festal icon singing the troparion, kontakion and magnification of the Dormition.
After the service the Rector preached a short sermon in English stating main thoughts of his Russian homily. He also made some announcements and called the parishioners to be generous in supporting the church with their donations.
Our celebration continued at the trapeza table where the Rector and parishioners enjoyed delicious meals and a nice company. At the time of the dessert a birthday cake was presented to the smallest parishioner Elena Malyshew who recently celebrated her 3th birthday.