Filseta- The fast of the Assumption of St. Mary
"I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations; Therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever" Psalm 45:17
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit One God Amen
"Arise, O Lord, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength" [Psalm 132:8]
The word Assumption refers to shifting from one scene or place to another. According to the Orthodox Church our Holy Mother, St. Mary, was assumed into heaven in soul and body. St Mary, the Mother of God the Son having lived in this world for sixty four years, has passed beyond death, as was the case for her only and beloved Son, the Lord Christ, and judgment and lives already in the age to come, where she intercedes for humanity until the judgement day. She is in a perfect state in heaven where all humanity eagerly awaits and hopes to share the same bodily glory which St. Mary enjoys now. Thus, this period of fasting which lasts for the first two weeks of Nehassie /August 7-22/ is canonized as a remembrance of the fast the Apostles held in zeal of witnessing her resurrection and Ascension. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary is the most highly honored feast among all the feasts of the saints. It ranked second only to the feast of the Lord. The feast of the Assumption is based on the conviction that the Lord didn’t permit the body in which He Himself dwelt to fall prey to corruption and dissolution. The Tewhado believers are assured of their resurrection first and foremost by the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; and are being further assured by the Assumption of St. Mary.
On 7 Nehase or the 13th August of 5485 after creation (or 15 B.C) she was conceived of by her Mother, St. Hanna, and father, St. Eiakem. She was born on 9th May (Ginbot 1 in Geez] of 16 B.C. The Virgin Mary stayed with her parents until she was three years old. At age 3, she was brought to the Temple of God, according to her parents' promise. St. Mary dwelt in the House of the Lord like a pure dove for 15 years and the angels of the Lord visited her with food and drink continuously. When she was 15 years old, she moved to the house of St. Joseph the carpenter. She stayed with him for 34 years until the Ascension of the Lord; and she spent the last 14 years of her life with St. John the Evangelist, according to the Lord's commandment which he told him at the cross, "Behold, this is your son," and to St. John, "Behold, this is your mother".
St. Mary death and burial
When it was the time to depart, On January 21 in Geez (01/28), the Virgin Mary stretched her hand and blessed the Apostles, and she gave up her pure spirit in the hand of her Son and God, and He took her spirit to the heavenly mansions. The apostles prepared the body in a fitting manner and carried it to Gethsemane for burial. Some of the Jews blocked their way to prevent Apostles from burying the body, and decided to snatch her body and burn it to ash for fear it may break news of Ascension. One of the strongest men among the Jews, named Tewfania, seized the coffin where the body of St Mary lay; at that moment an angel of the Lord punished him by cutting off both his hands and the hands remained attached to the coffin. Tewfania then regretted his evil deed and wept bitterly. Through the supplications of Apostles, his hands were reattached to his body, and he believed in the Lord Christ.
Knowing the Evil-mind of the Jews, the angel lifted up the body of the Virgin in glory to the Heaven-to-gather with Apostle John and placed it in paradise at the foot of the Tree of Life. This was a concern for all the apostles who didn't know the whereabouts of her body. Later, St. John who was returned to the Apostles revealed to them that she was in paradise- This inspired a spiritual zeal among them since they were eager to share the mystery of her glory of Ascension first hand. As it is a Christian customary to fast and pray when in need of things as the Bible says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” The apostle's started fasting on Nehassie [August 1 in Geez] and wished to see the body of their holy mother like St. John. On the 14th of Nehassie , an Angel brought her body and offered it to them. Happily, the Apostles rested it. On the third day, she resurrected and ascended- [that is why it is said, “Mary resurrected in the same manner as her Son''. The Lord did not permit the body of St. Mary, in which He Himself had dwelt to fall prey to corruption and dissolution; though Mary as a human being underwent death, she was taken into heaven.
St. Thomas, the Apostle was not present at the time of St. Mary's departure. He was on duty in his diocese- India . As he was back to Jerusalem , the cloud carried him and met St. Mary while she was ascending, and he said to her, "I wasn't chosen to see your son's ascension in Glory nor was I to witness yours. How sinful I am!?" When he says this out of deep- hearted sadness, She told him that he was the first to see her ascension. She gave him the garment with which her rested body was covered as a token of that. This filled him in ecstasy. When St. Thomas arrived where the disciples were, they told him about St. Mary's departure and he said to them, as if he knew nothing, "You know how I conducted myself at the resurrection of the Lord Christ, and I will not believe unless I see her body." They went with him to the tomb, and uncovered the place of the body but they did not find it, and everyone was perplexed and surprised. Then St. Thomas told them how he saw her ascension, and showed the garment she gave him as a proof.[Nowadays Priest tie a small cloth around their hand-cross in memory of this event].
One year later, even if what they got from St. Thomas was conclusive proof; they still wanted to get it first hand. As a result they started fasting and Praying starting [ነሓሴ ፩] August 7. After sixteen days of fasting, on [ነሓሴ ፩፮] the 22nd of August She came with her beloved Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. On that day, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ performed the liturgy by making Apostle Peter as an assistant priest and Deacon Stephen as an Archdeacon, and gave them the Holy Qurban. After the service, God ordered the apostles to teach about the resurrection and ascension of her Mother to the World.
The Eritrean Orthodox Church fasts the two week period as a manifestation of the love we have to St. Mary, Mother of God. We believe St. Mary is the true intercessor we can rely on, and through which we can obtain from God the strength and grace needed for our live as our forefathers-the Apostles did. The fast of the Virgin has proved to be the gate of hope for the needy, the weary, and the sick for her intercession is guaranteed to work through the love of Christ to Her and to us.
During this Holy season :-
All believers are expected to fast except small children under the age of seven, the sick, and others with the permission of their confessional father.
Abstinence from food i.e all meat and egg extends to the abstinence from all worldly pleasure and merry-making [no wedding, public party].
Believers are expected to do self-examination, meditation and attendance at public worship and take Holy Communion.
In this is a season the faithful express their gratitude to St. Mary by good-will and have a heightened sensitivity to the needs of others, visiting the sick, clothing the naked, comforting the sorrow and welcoming the stranger.
This season is where we show and express our obedience and devotion to God who extended His grace to humanity in the mystery of the Incarnation of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through the Holy Virgin Mary. For this reason we call St. Mary the reason for Salvation [Mikniate-Dihnet] for through her our salvation has become accessible in her Son.
“O! Our Lady Mary, the shield of many, the multitude;
you are the helper of those who are at the sea and precipices;
May you help me at the time of falling and raise me by your wing;
For me, your servant and loving you from the bottom of my heart, not only in mouth forever and ever amen.” [Miracle of Zion]
May Her intercession and blessings be with us now and forever. Amen.
By Dn. Fresenbet
The assumption of St. Mary by Mahber Kidusan.
The awesome Resurrection published on Meleket
The virgin St. Mary Mother of God by Fr. Mikail E. Mikail