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Traditions > The Great Festival of the Virgin Mary in Paros August 10, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands Aegean, Special Features.
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On 15th August, Paros celebrates the great festival of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (“Koimoisis tis Theotokou” or “falling asleep of the Virgin Mary”) at the Church of the Ekatontapyliani in Paroikia.

The name “Theotokos” means “the Bearer of God” and the church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary who is regarded in Orthodoxy to hold a special place not only as the Mother of Christ, but also as interceding with God on behalf of mankind.

Preparations for the feast actually begin on August 1st with a period of fasting for fourteen days, during which time the Orthodox faithful consume no meat, dairy, oil or wine, except on the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6th when fish is allowed.

On the days leading up to the 15th, the “Paraclesis” service of supplication and prayer, consisting of the “Great Paraclesis” and the “Small Paraclesis”, is held in honour of the Theotokos and worshippers petition the Virgin to ask for her compassion and pray for her intercessions, especially to help them through difficult times.

The festival also celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary – her ascent into heaven – and thus represents a central teaching of the Christian church on the resurrection of the body and of eternal life.

Reminiscent of Easter celebrations in Greece, the main church service on the 15th is followed by a procession around Paroikia with priests bearing the icon and the Epitaphios of the Blessed Virgin. Last year, for the first time, the Litany and procession was held in the evening instead of the morning (for this year please see full programme below). There will also be live coverage of the event by the state TV channel ERT and the procession will be followed by a firework display and traditional Greek music and dancing.

The church of the Ekatontapyliani is unique in Greece. Built on the site of an ancient gymnasium as the result of a vow made by the Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helen, it dates back to circa 328, being rebuilt in its present form around 550 by the Emperor Justinian.

There are different explanations as to the meaning of the name “Ekatontapyliani” – it is sometimes known as the “Church of One Hundred Doors” (“ekaton” meaning “one hundred” and “pyliani” meaning “doors”), but another explanation is that the name is derived from “kato poliani”, meaning “below the city”.

Two sources of additional information on the church are the books “Paros Ekatontapyliani” by Theologos Aliprantis which has a section in English, and is available in the church bookstore and “Paros Church of a Hundred Doors: 1700 Years” produced by the Agricultural Union with photographs by Elizabeth Carson (from Bizas Bookstore and at the Agricultural Union shop).

There are a number of other publications available at the church and some of these can be seen on the Ekatontapyliani website http://www.ekatontapyliani.org/ (English) and http://www.ekatontapyliani.gr/ (Greek).

You can also view a video from last year’s August 15th festival at http://www.ekatontapyliani.gr/video.html.

Ekatontapyliani Programme
for the Festival of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary & the Grand Opening of the Ecclesiastic Home for Senior Citizens

Sunday, 13th August
07:00 Orthros (Matins)
08:30 Holy Liturgy
19:30 Esperinos (Vespers) & Paraclesis (Great Supplication)

Monday, 14th August
07:00 Orthros (Matins) & Holy Liturgy
20:00 Esperinos (Vespers) & Litany around the church
23:00 Paraclesis (Supplication)
24:00 Midnight Mass & Preparation of the Epitaph

Tuesday, 15th August
07:00 Orthros (Matins)
08:30 Festive High Mass
11:00 Consecretation & dedication of the Home for Senior Citizens & reception
18:30 Esperinos (Festive High Vespers & Eulogy of the Holy Mother)
19:30 Litany of the Holy Icon & Epitaph with procession around Paroikia

High Vespers, the Eulogy of the Holy Mother and the Litany of the Holy Icon will be broadcast live nationally and via satellite by the national broadcaster ET-1. The liturgies will be broadcast by the Church of Piraeus radio station.

Kalo DekapentAvgousto!

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