August 17, 2023

A Glorious Dormition: 2021 Pastoral Encyclical for the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

A Glorious Dormition
 Pastoral Encyclical for the Dormition of the Theotokos (2021)
My beloved brethren,

The feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is a great theological feast, which our people have described as the Summer Pascha. In the middle of summer, with the heat and many times with a heatwave, this feast is a spiritual refreshment that comforts us all. It is called a Summer Pascha because the Panagia is closely connected with her Son and her God, since she gave her flesh to the Word of God to save the human race, which is why what happened to Christ, by analogy, also happened with the Panagia, His Mother. Within these contexts we must also see the glory of the Panagia which is the glory of her Son, because she became His Mother. She herself received the Grace of God, renewed herself, gave her flesh to Christ and for this she did the greatest Mission in the world. We understand well that the contribution to the world, people, society is not a matter of ideology, but is connected with the renewal of the person.

Saint Germanos of Constantinople in one of his sermons says that Christ, who is the heavenly drop that came from the Panagia, showed her greatness in the vast ocean. Thus, the sea of wonders of the Panagia is due to the heavenly drop that moistened the entire world from the heatwave of sin. That's why we too, being in the sea of wonders of the Panagia, cool off, rest and generally feel God's love. This is why Saint Germanos emphasizes again that by celebrating and chanting the greatness of the Theotokos, we feel insatiably the feast of spiritual pleasure.

During the feast of Pascha we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the death of death. But even during today's feast, which is the Summer Pascha, we celebrate the experience of the resurrection, the death of death in the person of our Panagia. After all, the Panagia is the first to taste the fruits of Christ's incarnation. After Christ, she is the greatest person in history. 
In the hymns we chant today, this great glory of our Panagia can be seen. In a troparion, the holy hymnographer says: "At your glorious dormition the heavens rejoice and the armies of angels exult; the whole earth makes glad, singing a hymn of departure unto thee, O Mother of Him who is Lord of all."

In each of the words of the troparion, the glory of the Panagia and the Joy of the whole creation can be seen. It is about the Dormition of the Theotokos and not about death, Christ's resurrection abolished the state of death and gave people the possibility of life. Now the death of the righteous is a sleep. As at night we sleep to rest for a few hours and wake up again and continue our work, so it is with the death of the saints. This is much more the case with the Panagia. That is why there is talk of the metastasis of the Most Holy Theotokos, since, according to the teaching of many holy Fathers of the Church, the body of the Panagia rose after three days, with the power of Christ, and was translocated to heaven.

The Dormition of the Theotokos is called and indeed is glorious, because at that moment Christ appeared who received her soul, the angels of God were present, and all the Apostles gathered from the ends of the earth, together with the three Hierarchs, Saints Timothy, Hierotheos and Dionysios. The entire heavenly and earthly hierarchy was present at the dormition of the greatest person in the world. With the Dormition of the Theotokos, even the angels, the people and the entire creation exults, rejoices and is glad. All the forces of creation, rational and irrational, praise the glorious Dormition of our Panagia. Hence, the separation of the soul from the body in a human being, what we are used to calling death, is a matter of joy and exultation for the entire creation. A glorious person gathered like a magnet the attention of all nature.

For centuries now the person of our Panagia has been honored and glorified, for centuries we celebrate with joy her Dormition. As such, the dormition of a person, which for everyone is a matter of sadness and distress, in the case of the Panagia is a matter of joy. The entire world rejoices for the Dormition of the Theotokos, because precisely in her Dormition we clearly see the change that took place in the most tragic events of our lives. When man is connected to Christ, who is the true life, when he lives within His resurrected body, which is the Church, then the perspective of his life changes. Everything acquires a new meaning and content. Death turns into a glorious dormition, biological life is inspired by eternal life, and all the difficulties of life become a cause of renewal and redefinition of existence. Everything transforms and changes. Life ceases to be torturous. It is filled with the light of Christ's Resurrection. The whole human life becomes a Pascha.

Let us live this Pascha, my beloved brethren, in our personal lives, with the power of the Ruler of life, Christ, and the intercessions of the Mother of life, the Panagia, within the resurrected Body of Christ, the Orthodox Church.

With paternal prayers and blessings,

The Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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