Brothers and sisters in the Lord,

We begin the season of Dekapentavgousto, the fifteen days of August when we prepare for the commemoration of the Falling Asleep of the Virgin Mary. It is our two-week period of fasting and prayer. During these two weeks, our parishes will offer the Service of Supplication, the Paraklesis, to the Theotokos. As we know, in the service we call out to the Mother of God and ask for her continual protection over us, to shelter us from the dangers that we face in life. We ask for her help, with the assuredness that she will help us. We believe that she continually intercedes for us to her Son, and our Lord and Savior.

In this blessed season, we must honor and celebrate the intercessions of the Theotokos over this past year. She heard our cries for help and protection during the pandemic. When we felt anxious, she offered comfort and support, because we are assured of her maternal love for us.

Now that we can see the end of the pandemic, we must turn to her once again, as our guide and “directress,” as one of the many icons of her is named. In this particular icon, the Theotokos is holding Christ in one hand, and with the other she points us to Him. When we participate in the Paraklesis Service of our parishes, we must ask her to guide us to her Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whom we meet in the Church, in the Divine Services, in the Divine Liturgy, and in the Holy Eucharist.

In the month of August, our parishes will be preparing themselves for the new ecclesiastical year. They will be encouraging you to return to services, to participate in the programs and ministries they offer. As I have said before, we have all been away from our parishes for too long because of the pandemic. Now is the time to return. This is especially true for our young people, our children. On-line programs for them do not have the long-lasting effects that we desire for them to grow in Christ. They need their peers, their friends and the interaction with faithful adults who can nurture them in faith. Church participation should be as natural for them as participating in all the other activities of their lives. So, I encourage you to participate in the life of your parish to the fullest extent possible.

During these early days of August, we also commemorate the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ on August 6. The Feast is forty days before the Feast of the Holy Cross on September 14, making a direct connection between the manifestation of the glory of Christ and His Passion (see Andreas Andreopoulos, Metamorphosis: The Transfiguration in Byzantine Theology and Iconography, 2005). In the Transfiguration, Christ reveals Himself fully to Peter, James, and John. In that moment, He radiates the brightest light, so bright that these disciples could not bear to look at it. This is the only time in the Gospels that Christ’s face radiates so brightly. Saint Gregory the Theologian writes, “He was bright as the lightning of the mountain and became more luminous than the sun, initiating us into the mystery of the future” (Oration 3.19, On the Son). With that the disciples begin to realize that Jesus Christ is the Lord God Almighty. This Feast offers a glimpse of our future, of the fullest possibility of human existence, our being in a glorified body, in a world of light and glory. The Feast of the Transfiguration is one of our greatest feast days in the Church and one that I hope you will observe by attending the Divine Liturgy that day in your parish.

May all those who celebrate their Feast on August 6, as well as those on August 15, be abundantly blessed by the Lord. Hronia Polla!