Orthodox Observer - August 1999



AUGUST is a month of fruition in every sense of the word. In our fields, orchards, vineyards, and gardens, we begin to enjoy the first-fruits of the new harvest in August. Many of us also use this month to take our vacations and holidays, enjoying at our leisure the fruits of our hard work and savings throughout the previous year.

August is also a month of spiritual fruition as well. As the last month of the ecclesiastical year (which begins on September 1), August both sums up the old year and anticipates the new one. The Church in Her divine wisdom celebrates this as a month of first fruits, granting us a foretaste of greater blessings to come.

* On August 1 we observe the Feast of the Procession of the Cross, following the venerable custom of the Mother Church of Constantinople. In ancient times a large cross containing the wood of the true Cross was borne in procession around the City for the first fourteen days of August, accompanied by hymns and prayers asking for divine protection from adversaries and illness.

* On August 6 we observe the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, Who through His Metamorphosis revealed the glorious destiny of all who become the children of God by grace. This is also the day when we conduct the blessing of the grapes as the first fruits of our earthly harvest.

* On August 15 we celebrate the great and solemn Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, foreshadowing the day when all Christians will receive their promised inheritance in the coming Kingdom and Eternal Reign of God.

* On August 16 we commemorate a feast of the first holy icon, the miraculous image that appeared on a linen cloth which our Lord pressed to His face and sent to King Abgar of Edessa. This icon "made-without-hands" marks the beginning of the iconographic tradition of the Orthodox Church.

* On August 29 we observe the Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist, who was the last and greatest prophet of the Old Testament and the first prophet of the New Testament. His holy life and witness were foundational to the ascetic tradition of the Church.

* On August 31 we celebrate the Feast of the Placement of the Holy Cincture, or girdle (Zone), of the Theotokos. After the Dormition the Panagia entrusted her cincture to the grieving Apostle Thomas as the first sign of her bodily translation into heaven and as a token of her new ministry in heaven of continual motherly care and intercession for those in sorrow.

What else but the providence of the Holy Spirit could have brought together this continual festival of spiritual refreshment? At the very time of the year when we slow down a little in our work and pause to look ahead, the Church provides us with many opportunities for spiritual refreshment as well. Those who avail themselves of the blessings of this month will receive divine grace with a fervor that matches the joyous rays of the August sun.

My beloved brothers and sisters,

Make the most of this season of grace. Set aside some time for the sake of your soul this August, and participate in these glorious feasts and fasts. Use this month as a period of spiritual preparation for the year of grace that lies ahead. May the Lord be with you and bless you in all of your travels, your work, your leisure, and your worship throughout the month of August and your entire life.

Kalo mina!

[ Orthodox Observer - August 1999 - p. 6 ]