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RUSSIA: August 15, the Feast of the Assumption

Marta Weeks, who is an ordained Episcopalian minister, tells us how August 15 is celebrated in Russia:

"The Russian Orthodox view the Assumption (called Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, or the Falling Asleep of Mary) as very special, but unlike Rome have never proclaimed the Assumption as a dogma. I was in Odessa in 1989 and was invited to attend a service celebrating this Feast Day. For someone who is pretty much "low church", I found this to be a spectacular and singularly beautiful Eucharistic liturgy which, at the time I was there, also included the ordination of a priest.

Knowing I and my classmates were Westerners and accustomed to sitting for services, our hosts arranged chairs placed on either side of the altar for each of us. Normally people stand through an Orthodox service which, in this instance, lasted 3 hours! The Orthodox liturgy was a beautiful blending of incense, colorful vestments, singing, candles, crosses, icons and banners. It is not something one forgets in a hurry.

Metropolitan His Eminence Sergius of Odessa, who was in charge, had us follow him out in the procession, and people thronged around us and kissed us and asked for the ordained among us for blessings.There were tears in the eyes of some as well as warmth and joy radiating from the faces of many. In fact, there was so much love directed towards us that it would have taken a hard hearted person not to have been swept up in the moments of that experience. There are no language barriers when love is present. I can still see those beautiful faces and hear the choir singing the Gospodi Pomilui [Oh Lord, forgive us]."

Ronald Hilton - 8/15/00