August 15 or Dekapentavgoustos is one of the most important dates in the Greek Orthodox Calendar, as the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is celebrated. It is a national and religious holiday that marks the “falling asleep” repose or kimisis of Panagia, mother of Lord Jesus Christ. The Feast also commemorates the Assumption of the body of the Theotokos into heaven.
According to the Holy Scriptures, Christ was dying on the cross and saw His Mother and His disciple John. He said, “Woman, behold your son,” to John. From that moment Apostle John took care of Panagia at his home in Jerusalem.
Panagia was with the Holy Apostles on the day of Pentecost- a moveable feast that occurs 50 days after Pascha (Easter) and marks the descent of the Holy Spirit and the culmination of the Holy Trinity. All of the Apostles except Apostle Thomas were at Panagia’s bedside when she “fell asleep” and the Lord Jesus Christ came down and carried her soul to heaven.
The body of the Theotokos was laid in a tomb near the Garden of Gethsemane but the tomb was empty three days later when Apostle Thomas went to see her. The Assumption of the Theotokos (body) was later confirmed by an angel and an appearance she made in front of the Apostles.
Commemorating and preparing for the Dormition of the Theotokos in Greek Orthodox Households begins on August 1, the beginning of Dekapentavgousto, with fasting. Paraklesis services are performed by most Grek Orthodox parishes worldwide in weekdays before the Feast, which consist of supplication and prayer for the intercessions of the Theotokos. A Great Vespers is held the evening before the Feast, and on the day of the Feast, it is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of John Chrysostom in the morning.
Devout Greek Orthodox people make a pilgrimage to the Greek island of Tinos, where it is said Panagia made an appearance before a nun and told her where to find an icon of Panagia, which has healing properties. There are also huge celebrations held at Panagia Soumela in Mount Vermio, Panagia Ekatontapyliani in Paros.
Tomorrow, every Greek church across Greece and the entire world will be holding some form of commemoration for Panagia, Mother of all.