Dear Parish Faithful,
Tomorrow, August 1, we begin the two-week Dormition Fast that will culminate with the Vesperal Liturgy for the Feast on Thursday evening, August 14. As these are fixed dates on an annual basis, this should not come as a surprise to anyone. A fast in the middle of the summer - if only for two weeks - is always a challenge, for often our life in the Church is not a real priority as we readily turn elsewhere for "personal fulfillment."
Be that as it may, my pastoral advice would be to "stick with the program." It is good for both the soul and body. If approached in a good spirit, the fast can refresh our spirits and remind us of the real priorities of an Orthodox Christian. And those would be the living God and the "things of God" as mediated to us through the Church. As the Scripture teaches:
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (HEB. 12:12-14)
This particular fast is in honor of the Virgin Mary and Theotokos. We commemorate and even celebrate her "falling asleep" in the Lord as we learn through her what is meant by a "good death." Seeing that death is our inevitable fate, that may be a good lesson at any given time in our lives. If we take seriously the universal Motherhood of the Theotokos, these two weeks help us focus on the unique role of the Virgin Mary as the ultimate Intercessor for the salvation of our souls and bodies. There is an endless amount of good literature about the Theotokos that is readily available. Doing some reading in that literature during the fast can also be a timely activity.
Over the years, this Vesperal Liturgy has been well-attended as the meaning of this Feast has probably grown for us as a parish family. So make a point of marking that date - August 14 - and "reserving" it for the Vesperal Liturgy. And before we reach the Feast of the Dormition we come to the Transfiguration on August 6. This Feast will also be celebrated with a Vesperal Liturgy on Tuesday evening, August 5, at 6:00 p.m., at which we will also bless our fruit baskets. These Feasts will allow us the opportunity as a parish to recover a bit from a summer of poor non-Sunday attendance.
However, think through these things, for this is a matter of choice and not compulsion. You are free to embrace or ignore the Dormition Fast.
For my part, I will again offer my pastoral counsel: "Stick with the program" - it will not let you down.