The week begins the fast of the Dormition of the the Theotokos.
I confess, my track record historically with keeping the fast, this or any other, has been sketchy at best. It’s less an intentional slight and more a lapse in memory. I just cannot seem to keep my focus long enough to remember to abstain. It’s a habit I hope I’ll grow into over time, that’s the plan anyhow.
Rather than bang my head against the refrigerator door on this, the eve of a two week vegan fast, I thought I’d spend a moment sitting at the edge of the water to kind of get a feel for it.
There is some new bond I have now for the mother of God, some bond I did not have before I began to explore Orthodoxy and I’m grateful for it. The Feast of the Dormition is a celebration of her life, a thankfulness for her choice to say “yes” when asked to do this thing. I wonder sometimes what she had thought her life might be before Gabriel turned up at her door. I wonder sometimes if she had other plans, if she always knew she’d be a mother, if she worried about her place in the world. I wonder sometimes if she understood, truly, at that moment of “yes” what she was agreeing to, if maybe later that day she thumped her head with “what was I thinking???” I wonder how she prayed to overcome that, how she dealt with the questions and the lack of answers, how she measured her time, how she kept faith when grief was all life offered.
When I look at her now, I see her determination and her tenderness. I understand now more fully the old phrase my Catholic grandmothers would utter about God closing doors and Mary opening windows. She was a mother, a warrior, a peacemaker, a God-bearer. I like her a lot.
The fast is not about deprivation, it’s not about punishment or grief or sin. It is about focus, about remembrance, about joy. In the days before the Feast of the Falling Asleep of the Theotokos I don’t put myself at her sickbed, I don’t move into sadness or fear. In the days before the Feast, my hope is that I will take moments to not just sit at the edge of the pool but to immerse myself into the cool, clean water, to feel well the effects of the work of the Theotokos, the woman who said “yes” to God and see what rises in my own life then.
“It is truly right to bless you, O Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, without defilement you gave birth to God the Word. True Theotokos we magnify you.”
— Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom