By the grace of God, Who is worshipped and glorified in Trinity, we have been found worthy of these holy days of the Dormition Fast. The Mother Church has dedicated this period to the honour and memory of the Most-holy Mother of God and Ever-virgin Mary, whose Dormition we celebrate every year on 15th August. The beginning of August is marked by the joyful feast of the Procession of the Precious and Life-giving Cross and the Small and Great Supplicatory Canons to the Mother of God. These services, the Paraclesis, are chanted every evening in churches and monasteries for our spiritual edification, and we pray for the protection and intercessions of the Most-holy Mother of Christ our Saviour. I am therefore writing this encyclical to address the clergy and laity of this biblical eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople to exhort you to hold this service daily in church and at home. With devotion and profound faith, let us seek refuge in prayer and hymns, and let us sincerely ask the Mother of God for help and comfort, as the praying and worshipping Church of Christ has done since apostolic times. Like the holy author of the Paraclesis, let us cry, “By many temptations I am held fast, and seeking salvation come for refuge in flight to you. O Mother of God’s own Word and Virgin, from my dread dangers and troubles now rescue me” (Small Paraclesis).
The holy Evangelist John describes how Mary asked Christ to intervene at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, and her last words to the hosts of the marriage feast were: “Whatever he tells you, do it” (John 2:5). This and so many other things do the Holy Scriptures and Church’s Tradition teach us, that we may turn to Christ in prayer, tears and sighs of the heart, to receive our supplications and contrition. Christians everywhere agree that in times of trial, humanity finds comfort and rest in God alone, as the author of the Paraclesis characteristically writes: “To whom else shall I flee, O Maid most pure, and to whom shall I run for help and be saved? Where shall I go, and where shall I find a safe retreat? Whose warm protection shall I have? Who shall be a helper in my distress? In you alone I hope, Maid; in you alone I glory; and trusting in you, I have fled to you”. (Great Paraclesis)
Our need to turn to God is implanted in us. We all know deep down that God is the source of our joy and hope. He is our salvation, our redemption, our liberation from the passions, from evil, and from spiritual and physical pain. Only through Him can these troubles be alleviated and expelled; only through Him can we have peace of soul and mind – when His grace, mercy, and boundless love and peace is within us. The Prophet Isaiah, eight hundred years before Christ, writes: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. O Priests, speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and comfort her” (Isaiah 40:1-2 LXX).
Therefore, brethren and fathers, let us solemnly sing the Paraclesis to the Mother of God with fervent faith and true humility. With devotion and fear of God, let us ask her to intercede before the throne of Christ, for “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful indeed” (James 5:16). By her aid and supplications, and those of all the saints, we can lift the cross of life’s sorrows and troubles with courage and patience – whether those worldly cares are financial or domestic; be they health problems, bereavement or sin. All of these difficulties which plague all peoples and societies cannot be resolved by violence or injustice, nor by human calculations, nor by our own strength. We need the aid and intervention of divine wisdom and love. We need God’s grace to enlighten our leaders and those in power. We need to turn to prayer and to God, for in Him we will find solace, encouragement, faith and foresight, and in Him will we discover within us and around us virtue, humaneness, simplicity and frugality. Without the spirit of humility, sacrifice, pardon and forgiveness, we will not be able to correct our lives and protect our families. We must discover the divine gifts with which the saints of God, such as the Virgin Mary, were endowed. Her we Orthodox Christians honour with splendid devotion during these days, celebrating her Dormition with prayer and fasting, with hymns and supplications, culminating in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and our receiving the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with fear of God, faith and love for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Encyclical of Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain