“Father,” someone once asked their priest, “I have a difficult time observing the Dormition Fast. What should I do?”
“Well,” the priest responded, “just keep the first week, and then keep second week, that should be enough.”
Is this acting a bit smart?
But there is much truth here. As we know, the Dormition Fast is just two weeks total. It’s an intense and necessary two weeks as the Church gathers together at the death bed of Mary, the ever-Virgin Mother of God.
Church teaches us that is the the gesture of those whom we love is near death: we ought to stop in our tracks and gather at their bedside. Today, we find ourselves at a nursing home, CT Hospice or even the hospital.
The Apostles and those –except Thomas– with them had been scattered across the world spreading the Gospel were miraculously gathered together at the bedside of the Church’s mother to bid her farewell from this life.
This is good spiritual advice: “We ought to keep this fast as carefully and attentively as possible because we love God’s Mother. She helps us, she loves us, and with the boldness of a mother she intercedes on our behalf to her Son and our God. It is not that Christ does not know our needs, but, because that is what a loving mother does!”
Are convinced to keep the Dormition Fast? Here are a few tips:
Go to Church. Run to Church. We will be open for business. Holy Feast of our Lord’s Transfiguration always falls in the midst of the fast.
Pray. Yes, pray. That you come to Church you will surely be praying, but, consider intensifying your daily devotions. Look in your prayer books for special prayers that you can add to God’s Mother during this season. Maybe even keep it up after the 14 days!
Fast. We got the whole way to #3 without even mentioning food. Do your best to abstain from meat and dairy as you are able. The Church provides strict directives as they always do, but, work together as a family to come up with a plan. At the least, do more than you have done in the past. Have questions or concerns, ask Father Iura.
Read. Pick up for meditation the Bible; read a few paragraphs of the Catechism, “Christ Our Pascha”, read a biography of a saint: Metropolitan Sheptytsky, St. Nectarios, St. Mary of Paris; read a spiritual book like, “How to Be a Sinner” by Peter Bouteneff; read an account of the Virgin Mary’s passing and bodily assumption to heaven: “The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God” by Saint John Maximovitch. It is short only 70 pages.
We Byzantine Catholics prepare for the great feast of the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos (Assumption of the BVM) on August 15 by a special fast.
There is the venerable practice of preparing oneself for the Feast, hence some of us observe the Dormition Fast. This fast is one of the four fasting seasons of the Byzantine church year. The spiritual practices are those spoken of in the Sermon on the Mount: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and forgiveness. Committed Christians do these things all year long; they are not limited to one or another time of the year. During fasting seasons we simply do them to a greater degree.
“Traditionally the Fast begins on August 1 with a special procession with the life-giving cross and a blessing of water. When Constantinople was the capitol of a Christian empire, it was the custom to carry the relic of the Holy Cross throughout the city every day of the Fast.”
In the Pastoral Guide of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the USA we read:
The Dormition Fast (Spasivka) begins on August 1 and lasts until the eve of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 14), inclusively.
Art. 474 – General rules governing abstinence:
Meat is to be understood as including not only the flesh but also those parts of warm-blooded animals that cannot be melted down, e.g., the liver, lungs, blood, graves, etc.
Although it is not the authentic practice of the Tradition. the meat of fish and crustaceans may be eaten, as well of those mammals, that live constantly in water, as, e.g., whales.
Dairy Products are to be understood as comprising products derived from mammals and birds, but not regarded as meat, e.g., cheese, lard, butter, milk, and its by-products, eggs, etc.
Fats of plant origin, e.g., those derived from olives, coconuts, seeds of the sunflower and of the pumpkin, may be used.
Voluntary penance, prayers for the intentions of the hierarchs of the Church, Bishop of Rome, the Major Archbishop, the Metropolitan, and the Eparchial Bishop; voluntary offerings to the Church, the seminaries, the Church in Ukraine, self-denial of alcohol, smoking, attendance at entertainment, etc., may be supplementary only with permission of a confessor. Bread and water alone is a good fast.
Priests who possess a pastoral assignment are empowered to grant dispensations or relaxation from the laws of abstinence to individual persons as well as to individual families. The following are exempt from abstinence: