FRIDAY, AUGUST 1: As the death of the Virgin Mary draws imminently closer on the Christian calendar, Orthodox Christians prepare through the Dormition Fast. For two weeks, observant Orthodox Christians fast from red meat, poultry, meat products, dairy products, fish, wine and oil (an exception is made on August 6, for the Transfiguration. Wikipedia has details).
Orthodox Christians have one of the most extensive fasting calendars among the world’s great religions. In fact, they spend almost half of each year practicing some form of dietary restriction—and through August 1-14, the faithful make preparations for the approaching Dormition of the Theotokos, a phrase that refers to her death as her “falling asleep.” (Find Dormition Fast resources here.) In the Orthodox tradition, the Virgin Mary is called Theotokos, or God-bearer.
As would be in most families, the occasion of a deathly ill mother would bring children together—and this is still the case in the Orthodox Christian Church, points out the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Families should regularly gather and this fasting period is a good reminder of that, he writes. The routines of daily life should slow; during the Dormition Fast, Orthodox Christians reflect and honor the woman who bore God.
Today—the first day of the Dormition fast—is a feast day in the Church, called the Procession of the Cross. In commemoration, many Orthodox congregations hold an outdoor procession and perform the Lesser Blessing of Water.