By Archpriest Ayman Kfouf
Holy Dormition, 2015
The Dormition of the Theotokos is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, celebrated on August 15. The word "Dormition" is a derivative from the Latin word "dormitio", which means "falling asleep."
The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is the commemoration of the falling asleep, burial, resurrection, and translation of the Theotokos into heaven in the body.
Historical Background of the Feast
The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is one of the oldest Marian feasts in the church. The roots of the feast go back to Jerusalem, where the apostles and the Christians of Jerusalem honored and kept alive the memory of the falling asleep of the Theotokos. Consequently, quickly, her empty tomb, in Gethsemane, became a destination for pilgrims from Jerusalem and the surrounding neighborhoods.
After the dogmatization of the doctrine of the Divine Motherhood of the Virgin Mary in the third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431), the commemoration of the falling asleep of the Theotokos became more popular amongst Christians in the vast majority of the Christian world.
In the late sixth century, in the year 588, the Emperor Maurice officially adopted the commemoration of the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos into the liturgical calendar in the entire Byzantine Empire, and commanded that it be celebrated on August 15.
In the second half of the seventh century, the feast of the Dormition appeared in the West under the influence of the East. It was accepted in Rome under Pope Sergius I (687701), and from Rome it passed over to the rest of Europe.