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Fast of Dormition Of The Theotokos

By Fr. Dr. Daniel Johnson

The dormition or falling asleep of Virgin Mary is celebrated by the church on August 15th. But the two weeks prior, called the Fast of Dormition, is spent by faithful by remembering and contemplating the life of Mary, the Holy Theotokos. She was the great example for us – the most prominent of all saints who have gone before us. To help us remember her life, in this lesson let us look at the first and last recorded incidents in the sacred scriptures about Mary the Mother of Jesus.

Preparing to Accept Gods Will For Our Lives

The annunciation as it’s referred to, is the first recorded incident associated with Mother Mary in the sacred scriptures. (St Luke 1: 26-38)

When the angel came and told her that she would become a mother, and that too without marriage, her surprise and shock is only imaginable. But she didn’t run away, cry or feel discouraged. But she accepted it.

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

Now this is in stark contrast to the unbelief shown by the priest Zacharias – a much older, well respected, priest who served God at the temple (St. Luke 1: 5-25)

Everyone wants to know God’s will for their life. But what’s more important is that, we must be prepared to accept what God says to us!

But the big question is, how do you prepare your heart to receive or accept what God wants to give you?

*The posture of Mary in the icon shows the bowed head and the humble acceptance of God’s will for her life.

Think about our heart like the soil of a garden. Suppose you want to plant a vegetable garden, what is the first thing you do? You dig up the ground or soil of the garden and clear it! No garden starts off beautiful by itself. You need to spent time in taking away the stones, weeds and rocks. You then need to add manure or fertilizer and make sure the soil is prepared enough to accept the seeds you are going to plant. Otherwise no matter how good to seeds are, it won’t grow well. In other words, it’s all in the soil; growth of the seeds will depend on how well the soil is prepared. (Ref: Parable of the Sower and seed in St. Matt 13: 1-23)

Our hearts are also just like that. It has lots of hard areas – areas, where we think we know what is best for our lives; areas where we don’t want to listen and give in. We need help to soften those areas. And some proven practices which the holy Church, the body of Christ, has provided for us are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These spiritual disciplines are meant to soften our hearts and prepare us to receive what God wants us to have in our lives.

By prayer we mean, praying specific prayers like the Jesus prayer – regularly and repeatedly. ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner’. This prayer reminds us that we are in the path of salvation, where we need a lot of God’s mercy, each moment of each day, to successfully continue on that journey of sharing in His Divine Nature (2 Peter 1:4)

Fasting: Sometimes we mis-understand it as a means to get what we want from God. But fasting is meant rather to prepare our hearts to receive what God wants for us! When we fast during specific appointed times of the church calendar (like the fast of Dormition and Great Lent), we deliberately avoiding too much food, eat simply or skip meals and spend extra time in preparing our hearts.

And by almsgiving we mean – looking for opportunities to help those around us, especially those less fortunate – like the homeless, orphans and widows. This makes us grateful for what we have, softens our hearts and makes us more humble.

These practices will help us say along with Mother Mary – “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

Preparing to Do What He Tells You to Do!

‘“Whatever He (Jesus) says to you, do it.”, that’s the last recorded words of Mother Mary, in the Holy Scriptures.

We had earlier seen that it’s important for our hearts are prepared to receive whatever Jesus wants to give us. And now we see that, restoration of joy and the happening of the miracle happened as they were prepared to obey Jesus, even if what Jesus asked didn’t make complete sense in their minds.

Jesus and his disciples were invited to a marriage at Cana (St. John 2: 1-12). But there, right in the middle of all the festivities, they ran out of wine. In that culture wine signified, joy and prosperity. And running out of wine was an embarrassment for the entire family. The family got so worried that they went and told Mother Mary about the situation, who then told Jesus what happened. Then Mother Mary came to the family and said I’ve told Jesus about the problem. Now all you need to do is ‘do whatever He says to you’ Jesus then did the strangest thing – asked them to fill a huge jar full of water and serve it to the guests! ‘Jesus turned water into wine!’ Yes, Jesus did a miracle.

* In this icon, the hands of the Mother God points towards her Son, God incarnate – Jesus; just like her life always pointed towards Christ, in a way telling us – ‘do whatever He tells you to do!’

Many times in our life too, Jesus asks us not to do some things which may not make full sense. For ex: loving and forgiving those who hurt you or said bad things about you(St. Luke 6: 27-36), is exactly opposite of what you wish to do! Avoid gossiping, especially when it involves someone you really don’t like is very hard (Pro 20:19 & 11:13)! Or avoiding the company of some of your friends who do not love Jesus can make you feel very lonely (I Cor 15:33) . But Jesus knows that these things contaminate your mind and will make you sick, just like dirt contaminates your hand can makes you sick.

At other times, it’s important to do things even when you don’t fully understand the benefit. For example: the church tells you not to miss Divine Liturgy and taking part in eucharist; or forming the habit of praying together as a family daily in front of the prayer altar; or fasting during those appointed times and seasons (like the fast of Dormition or Great Lent). But the church tells us to do these because these spiritual practices are like nutritious food which helps you fight sickness from the inside.

In other words, when we are faced with a choice to obey things which may not completely make logical sense, we should be reminded of Mother Mary’s words – ‘“Whatever He (Jesus) says to you, do it.


Mother Mary’s life was by no means an easy life. She went through many hardships, mis-understandings, financial difficulties, saw her own Son brutally killed. And yet through all this, we see a heart prepared to receive whatever God’s will was. Thus she was able to confidently say, ‘do whatever He asks you to do.’

No wonder she is called Blessed – by the angels, by the saints and by the church. (St. Luke 1:48)

These 2 weeks – the fast of Dormition is a time when we can spent in contemplating, thinking and remembering the life of Mary, the Mother of God. We can think about her words, her life and her example. May God in His great mercy, help us to follow the greatest of All Saints – the ever Blessed Virgin Mary.

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