10 Aug The Paraklesis Service
In writing about the Dormition fast and the Feast itself nearly two weeks ago, I referred to this feast as the Summer Pascha. Just as the Passion, crucifixion and death of Christ, and ultimately, His glorious resurrection on the third day, are preceded by a rigorous period of fasting, so to, is the falling asleep of the Most-holy Theotokos, and ultimately, her sharing in the fullness of the Resurrection, body and soul, preceded by the same. While this period is certainly shorter than the Lenten fast, it does afford us the same opportunities to grow spiritually if we take advantage of them.
One of the hallmarks of our Lenten journey is an increased participation in the services of the Church. Many services, such as the Pre-Sanctified Divine Liturgy, are only celebrated during Lent. Why should the Dormition fast then, be any different?
This Monday, August 12th, at 6:30 PM, we will be given the opportunity to participate in a moving and beautiful service, which will only serve to aid us as we draw to the end of this two week fasting period, and the celebration of the falling asleep of the Theotokos. We will be serving the small Paraklesis to the Theotokos. While this service can be served any time during the year, it is specifically prescribed to be served during the period of the Dormition fast.
The word “paraklesis” has two different meanings. The first is consolation from which the Holy Spirit is called the “Paraclete” or “Consoler.” The second is “supplication” or “petition.” The Service of the Paraklesis to the Theotokos is made up of hymns of supplication to help us gain consolation and courage. It is a service that can be most beneficial in times of temptation, discouragement or sickness. The service focuses around our cry to the Mother of our Lord and Savior, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!”
If something is burdening us, or causing us distress. If we are feeling as if we are not at peace with ourselves or with others, than what better way to seek the peace that only Christ can give to us by beseeching that His mother intercede on our behalf.
Brothers and sisters, let us all take seriously the Church’s call for us to be in a spirit of fasting and repentance as we prepare to celebrate this final Feast of the Church year. Let us have the courage to lay aside the cares and distractions of the world and gather as the Church in prayer and supplication, both at the Paraklesis Monday evening and at the Vespers Wednesday evening, where we will solemnly process with the shroud of the Theotokos, laying flowers around her tomb, all while anticipating that she is to be carried, body and soul, by her Son, into the beauty of His heavenly kingdom. This feast shows us Christ’s desire for each and every one of us, that we, one day, will experience death the way His mother did–not as an end, but as a falling asleep, and an awakening into a life where there is no pain, sorrow or sighing, but life everlasting.