Dear brothers and sisters,
With yesterday’s feast, we began the Dormition Fast, which is a small but strict period of abstinence before our celebration of the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God and her Assumption into Heaven.
This feast is a powerful echo of the Lord’s Resurrection and, as such, it is our Summer Pascha. This is reflected in the various ceremonies and services celebrated across the Orthodox world for the feast, including the Burial Service of the Mother of God, which mirrors Holy and Great Saturday.
Given this Paschal nature of the feast, it is not surprising that we should prepare with fasting. But, what about our spiritual preparation in terms of prayer?
The spiritual praxis of the Great Fast is shaped by the Lenten Triodion, but the other fasting periods of the year have no such source of a schematised liturgical framework.
However, in the Greek tradition, the Great and Small Supplicatory Canons to the Mother of God are chanted in a pareklisis/ moleben each night up until the eve of the feast, starting with the Small Supplicatory Canon if August 1st (14th New Style) falls on a weekday, but with the Great Supplicatory Canon if August 1st falls on a Saturday or Sunday.
The canon is not chanted on Saturdays, being the eve of the Lord’s Day, and on the Lord’s Day the Great Supplicatory Canon is chanted unless it is the eve of Transfiguration, when the vigil will be celebrated.
Having said all of this, the Great Supplicatory Canon is not traditionally part of Russian liturgical custom, as only the Small Canon was part of the transmitted liturgical tradition at the time it was received form Byzantium.
As I’ve posted before, there are actually fifty-six Supplicatory Canons to the Mother of God in the Octoechos (the book of the eight tones, from which we take the daily variables on our eight-week cycle). In each tone, there is a canon for use at compline for each night of the week.
Reflecting our own Slavic tradition, it would be good if the faithful could integrate either the Supplicatory Canon from our prayerbooks, or the Supplicatory Canon of the day into evening prayers, in preparation for the celebration of the Dormition.
For the Canons of the Octoechos, see:
The canons are to be found in the compline variables, and we start are currently in Tone 8, returning to Tone 1 on Saturday evening, at vespers.
The refrain between the verses is, of course. ‘Most Holy Theotokos, save us’, with ‘Glory be to the Father etc.’ before the penultimate troparion, and ‘Both now and ever etc…’ before the final troparion in each ode.
These are days in which we should be seeking to draw closer to the Mother of God, as we spiritually approach her Falling Asleep, to joyously celebrate her new life – body and soul – with her Son in Heaven.
Wishing you a good struggle with prayer and fasting. Find time for the Mother of God in these two weeks of fasting, and thank the Lord for her maternal care for the Church and Christian people.
May God bless you –