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Fresco of the Dormition of The Mother of God

The Dormition fast was established as preceding the great feasts of the Transfiguration of the Lord and of the Dormition of the Mother of God. It lasts two weeks—from August 1/14–August 14/27 (old style/new style).

The Dormition fast comes down to us from the early days of Christianity. We find a clear reference to the Dormition fast in a conversation of Leo the Great from around the year 450 A.D. “The Church fasts are situated in the year in such a way that a special abstinence is prescribed for each time. Thus, for spring there is the spring fast ]—the Forty Days[Great Lent; for summer there is the summer fast… [the Apostles’ fast]; for autumn there is the autumn fast, in the seventh month [Dormition fast]; for winter there is the winter fast [Nativity fast].”

St. Symeon of Thessalonica writes that, “The fast in August [Dormition fast] was established in honor of the Mother of God the Word; Who, foreknowing Her repose, ascetically labored and fasted for us as always, although She was holy and immaculate, and had no need for fasting. Thus, She especially prayed for us in preparation for being transported from this life to the future life, when Her blessed soul would be united through the Divine spirit with Her Son. Therefore, we also should fast and praise Her, emulating Her life, urging Her thereby to pray for us. Some, by the way, say that this fast was instituted on the occasion of two feasts—the Transfiguration and the Dormition. I also consider it necessary to remember these two feasts—one which gives us light, and the other which is merciful to us and intercedes for us.”

The Dormition fast is not as strict as the Great Fast, but it is stricter than the Apostle’s and Nativity fasts.

On Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays of the Dormition fast, the Church rubrics prescribe xerophagy, that is, the strictest fast of uncooked food (without oil); on Tuesdays and Thursdays, “with cooked food, but with no oil”; on Saturdays and Sundays wine and oil are allowed.

Until the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, when grapes and apples are blessed in the churches, the Church requires that we abstain from these fruits. According to the tradition of the holy fathers, “If one of the brethren should eat the grapes before the feast, then let him be forbidden for obedience’s sake to taste of the grapes during the entire month of August.”

On the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, the Church rubrics allow fish. After that day, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the fruits of the new harvest would always be included in the meals.

The spiritual fast is closely united with the bodily, just as our soul is united with the body, penetrates it, enlivens it, and makes one united whole with it, as the soul and body make one living human being. Therefore, in fasting bodily we must at the same time fast spiritually: “Brothers, in fasting bodily let us also fast spiritually, severing all union with unrighteousness,” the Holy Church enjoins us.

The main thing In fasting bodily is restraint from abundant, tasty and sweet foods; the main thing in fasting spiritually is restraint from passionate, sinful movements that indulge our sensual inclinations and vices. The former is renunciation of the more nourishing foods for fasting food, which is less nourishing; the latter is the renunciation of our favorite sins for exercise in the virtues which oppose them.

The essence of the fast is expressed in the following Church hymn: “If you fast from food, my soul, but are not purified of the passions, in vain do we comfort ourselves by not eating. For if the fast does not bring correction, then it will be hateful to God as false, and you will be like unto the evil demons, who never eat.”

The Great fast and the Dormition fast are particularly strict with regard to entertainment—in Imperial Russia even civil law forbade public masquerades and shows during these fasts.

The Dormition fast begins on the feast of the “Procession of the Wood of the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord.”

In the Greek horologion of 1897, the origin of this feast is explained: “Because of the illnesses that occur very often during August, the custom was established in Constantinople of processing the Precious Wood of the Cross through the roads and streets to sanctify places and prevent disease. On the eve of the feast it was carried out of the royal treasury and placed upon the holy table of the Great Church (the Hagia Sophia, dedicated to the Holy Wisdom of God). From that day until the Dormition of the Most Pure Theotokos, lityas were served throughout the city, and the Wood of the Cross was then offered to the people for veneration. This was the procession of the Precious Cross.”

In the Russian Orthodox Church, this feast was linked with the remembrance of the Baptism of Russia in 988. The memory of the day of the Baptism of Russia was preserved in the Chronologies of the sixteenth century, which state that, “Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev and All Rus was baptized on August 1.” In the Discussion of active rites of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church on the Dormition, written in 1627 at the request of Patriarch Philaret of Moscow and All Russia, the feast on August 1 is described: “During the procession on the day of the Precious Cross, there is a blessing of the waters for the enlightenment of the people, throughout the cities and villages.”

On this day, a feast was established of the All-Merciful Savior Christ God, and of the Most Pure Virgin, in honor of the victory of Grand Prince Andrei Bogolubsky over the Volga Bulgars, and of the Greek Emperor Michael over the Saracens.

According to Orthodox Church tradition, on this day the Cross is venerated (according to the rubrics of the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross during Great Lent), and a lesser blessing of the waters is served. Together with the blessing of the waters, new honey is also blessed. (This is where the Russian folk name for the feast, “Savior of the honey,” comes from).


Official site of the Moscow Patriarchate


EMULATE THEIR FAITH A sermon on the day of Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir


By God’s good will, every country and every people, often even cities, have an enlightener in their histories. The Lord raised up His chosen from among the people and through them enlightened His people with the light of faith.

Rome praises Sts. Peter and Paul, through whom they came to believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God; Asia, Ephesus, and Patmos has St. John the Theologian; India has St. Thomas; Egypt has St. Mark; and every country, city and people honors and praises their instructors who taught them the Christian faith.

Holy Apostle Paul commands us: Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow (Heb. 13:7). Heeding the holy apostle’s call, we glorify and honor today the enlightener and baptizer of Rus’, Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir.

The all-merciful eye of God looked down upon Prince Vladimir—and wisdom shone in his heart; he understood the vanity and error of idolatry and sought the one God, Who created all things visible and invisible. He caught the fire of the spirit and desired with all his heart to become a Christian, and to convert his whole land to Christianity. At the good will of God’s love for mankind, this was fulfilled. Entering the holy baptismal font, Vladimir was reborn of water and the spirit, and he commanded all his people to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The sun of the Gospel illumined our land, pagan shrines were destroyed, churches were erected, the cross enlightened the towns, idols were cast down, and holy icons appeared. The Bloodless Sacrifice began to be offered, and incense raised up to God began to sanctify the air.

Vladimir not only converted to Christ himself, but as a sovereign and leader took care to convert his people. Faith cleansed the people of the crude error of idol worship, and changed their human morals. The roots of our culture are in the Christian faith. Faith laid the foundation of our written culture, our art, and architecture. Faith brought humanitarian principles into the life of our people, our families, and society. Faith, which the Lord gave us through Prince Vladimir, was a worthy sowing, which brought forth worthy fruit of the spirit. It glorified a host of holy God-pleasers—our compatriots who now intercede before God for our land, for our holy Church, and for our people.

In honoring the enlightener and baptizer of Rus’, the ceaseless prayerful intercessor before God, Grand Prince Vladimir, let us, brothers and sisters, uphold the Orthodox faith and build our lives according to the Gospel. All this requires labor and effort, but God is with us, giving us the priceless gift of faith and helping us mature according the measure of Christ’s age. The prayerful help of Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince are with us.

In order to preserve our faith, buildings alone are not enough. We can have excellent knowledge of Holy Scripture and its sacred commandments, and yet be bad Christians. A true Christian will be the one who joins knowledge of the faith, of God, and of the Church to church experience, to true Christian life.

Let us pray to the All-Good God, Who enlightens and sanctifies every person who comes into the world, that through the prayers of our enlightener St. Vladimir He might strengthen our faith and help us, in overcoming all that is vain, sinful, and worldly, to be true children of our holy Church and Fatherland, and heirs to eternal life. Amen.

Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan)


Kazanskaya Icon

Come O ye people, to the gentle, kind harbor and protection of the Virgin. Let us hasten to prayer and be diligent in repentance; and the inexhaustible mercy of the Most Pure Mother of God will come to our aid and she will deliver her upright and God-fearing servants from all afflictions.

St. Dimitry of Rostov speaks in his homily on this feast of godly and God-fearing Christians: “Be terrified, O ungodly man who does not fear God.” You’ll hear in this homily how the Mother of God only helps the godly and God-fearing, and delivers them from great afflictions and evil, while she does not deign to help the depraved who eject fear of God from their hearts. And think about it—what is so surprising about that?! Would a mother really aid people who have declared themselves the enemies of her Son? No, she would sooner be angry with them who crucify her Son again by their sins and mock Him with unlawful words. For even now every man who is a Christian in name only but passes his unclean life in sinful defilements, as if wallowing in the mire and never thinking about repentance, crucifies the Son of God in himself a second time, and mocks Him in his bodily members, which were purchased by the Blood of Christ, when he takes his body that Christ created and makes it the body of a fornicator. Can such a person be dear to the Most Pure Mother of God? In fact, what mother could love her son’s murderer? What do you, O sinful man of hardened heart, what do you hope to receive from the Mother of God, whom you who grieve day and night by your sinful (unlawful) deeds, who dishonor your body and only wear the name of Christian, but by your deeds are worse than a pagan!..

The Mother of God has mercy for sinners, too. But which ones? Those who though sometimes fall and sin out of human weakness but then immediately rise from sin, repent, and run to God with tears and fervent prayer. The Mother of God helps sinners, but which sinners? Those who try to correct their lives, and, turning away from evil, begin to do good works. The Mother of God delivers not only the righteous from great troubles and evil, but also sinners—but which sinners? Those who return to the Heavenly Father like the prodigal son, who sigh, beat their chests like the publican, weep at Christ’s feet like the harlot, wash His feet with tears, and bring their confession to Him as the thief did on the cross. The Most Pure Mother of God looks down from on high upon such sinners and hastens to their aid, and delivers them from great evils and catastrophes. But the unrepentant—she does not protect. Amen.

Metropolitan Tryphon (Turkestanov)

In the Church of St. John the Baptist on the Yauza River, Moscow, October 22, 1931

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