The Dormition Fast Has Started
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–August 14.
The Dormition fast comes down to us from the early days of Christianity. St. Symeon of Thessalonica writes:
“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 Weekdays the rubrics of the Church prescribe fasting without oil, while 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 older tradition is that we abstain from these fruits.
On the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, the Church rubrics allow fish. After that day the fruits of the new harvest could 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.
The main thing in fasting bodily is restraint from abundant and tasty 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.”
During the Dormition Fast we also have a number of special services that are held in the churches for the edification and spiritual nourishment of the faithful. The most important one is the Paraklesis or Intercessory Prayer Service to the Theotokos which are served every day during Dormition Fast.
There are two forms of the Paraklesis Canon to the Theotokos: the Small Paraklesis which was composed by Theosteriktos the Monk in the 8th century (or some say Theophanes), and the Great Paraklesis. During the majority of the year, only the Small Paraklesis to the Theotokos is chanted. However, during the Dormition Fast (August 1-14), the Typikon prescribes that the Small and Great Paraklesis be chanted on alternate evenings.
Also, on August 1st the Dormition fast begins with 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.”
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.
Adapted from Pravoslavie.ru/OrthoChristian.com