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Asking the Clergy: Why do you celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary?

The Rev. Demetrios N. Calogredes of Greek Orthodox

The Rev. Demetrios N. Calogredes of Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption, the Rev. Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco of St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church and the Very Rev. Alexandre Antchoutine of Intercession of the Holy Virgin and St. Sergius. Credit: Lisa Delborrello; Catholic News Service / Paul Haring; EAD Media Office / Peter Lukianov

In August, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians celebrate the assumption into heaven of the Virgin Mary, the mother of God. This week’s clergy discuss the Bible passages, religious beliefs and traditions associated with the feast also known as the Dormition or Falling Asleep of Mary.

The Rev. Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco

Pastor, St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church, West Hempstead

The Christian creed proclaims belief in the resurrection of the body. Body and soul are created by God as a unity. Their separation at death is only temporary. Jesus' bodily resurrection is a pledge and promise of our own resurrection. When God's Son became the man Jesus, God could have created a body for him miraculously from the earth as he did with Adam. God’s Son, however, took shape for nine months in the body of a woman, as we do. How appropriate that the first creature to redeem Jesus’ promise of heavenly glory for both body and soul should be Mary, the woman from whom Jesus took his flesh and blood.

Something more fundamental than even this blood connection is at work. Listening to Jesus, a woman cries out admiringly that blessed is the womb that bore him. He replies, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." (Luke 11:28) This is a good description of the young woman who once said to the Angel, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) We celebrate the Assumption to honor Mary and reflect on the destiny to which God calls all who hear his word and live by it.

The Rev. Demetrios Calogredes

Protopresbyter, Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption, Port Jefferson

In the Greek Orthodox Church, the first 15 days of August every year are dedicated to the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ. According to the Orthodox faith, the Virgin Mary fell asleep in the Lord and was assumed in the heavens. Upon her passing, she sat on the right side of her beloved son.

This Holy Day is termed the Falling Asleep of Mary. During these 15 days, prayers of supplication are chanted to the Virgin Mary. The faithful come to the daily services in her honor, praying for the health and welfare of beloved family members, relatives and friends. The Orthodox faithful hold the Virgin Mary in high esteem, asking for her motherly love to intercede so that her son may heal and bring comfort to everyone.

The Feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15, is considered the greatest holy day of the summer. People on Long Island and the surrounding areas come to our church to pray, meditate and receive Holy Communion. Those named Mary or Maria celebrate their name day or feast day with a dinner with Greek food, pastries, wine and merriment.

The Very Rev. Alexandre Antchoutine

Rector, Intercession of the Holy Virgin and St. Sergius (Russian Orthodox), Glen Cove

The Dormition, celebrated on Aug. 15 by Orthodox churches that follow the Gregorian calendar and on Aug. 28 by those that follow the old (Julian) calendar, is one of our 12 major feasts.

After the Ascension of the Lord, the Mother of God remained in the care of the Apostle John the Theologian. She was a source of consolation and edification both for the Apostles and for all believers, telling them about the Annunciation and other miraculous events. Like the Apostles, she helped plant and strengthen the Christian Church by her presence, discourse and prayers. The respect of ancient Christians for the Mother of God was so great that they preserved what they could about her life, her sayings and deeds. They even passed down to us a description of her outward appearance.

At the time of her blessed Falling Asleep, the Most Holy Virgin Mary was again at Jerusalem. Burial of The Holy Theotokos, as the Virgin Mary is known in the Orthodox church, was accompanied by many miracles. Her fame as the Mother of God had already spread throughout the land. The Feast of the Dormition is celebrated with special solemnity at Gethsemane, the place of her burial.

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