Thursday, August 14, 2008
Tonight is the eve of the Feast of the Dormition. Related to the Feast of the Assumption in the Western Church, the Dormition marks the passing of the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, from death to everlasting life. One of the twelve great feasts of the Eastern Church, the Dormition includes the beautiful story that as the Virgin was dying, the Apostles were gathered by the clouds from the ends of the earth and brought to Mary's deathbed.
The end of one of the prayers from the morning service is said in St. Peter's voice as he looks with fear and cries to Mary: "Pray, then, fervently to thy Son and God to save thy flock from harm." (Festal Menaion)
People gathering for the feast in Orthodox Churches in Eastern Europe and the Trans-Caucasus will find new depths in the service as they mourn their loved ones and struggle to come to terms with the fratricide of inter-Orthodox conflict. In the midst of debating issues of territory, who was the aggressor first, and natural resources, this profoundly tragic aspect is often lost.
To his credit, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II called for a cease fire early in the conflict:
"Today blood is shed and people are killed in South Ossetia and my heart deeply laments over it. Orthodox Christians are among those who have raised their hands against each other. Orthodox peoples called by the Lord to live in fraternity and love confront each other," the Church primate stresses.
Referring to the appeal of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia who urged to peace, Patriarch Alexy also turned his "ardent call" to those "who are blind with enmity": "Stop! Don't let more blood shed! Don't let today's conflict boil over! Show wisdom and courage: come to negotiating table to respect traditions, outlook and hopes of Georgian and Ossetian people."
The Patriarch has stated the Russian Orthodox Church is ready to unite its efforts with the Georgian Church to help peace come. "May Our God, Who is "not a God of disorder but of peace," be our Assistant in it," Alexy II statement says.
See also this statement from Metropolitan Herman of the Orthodox Church in America.