Blessed Feast to those of you celebrating! On August 15 in the Orthodox Church we commemorate the Dormition (falling asleep, or repose) of the Mother of God. We also commemorate her bodily translation into heaven.
Unless you’re on the Old Calendar – in that case, the fast just began yesterday and I wish you a good journey. Here’s my quick guide to surviving the two week fast. (Shout out to whomever shared a link to that page on Reddit!)
The Feast of the Dormition is a big day for the Greek island of Tinos, home to Evangelistria (Our Lady of Good Tidings) Church.
This church was built in 1823 after the Theotokos appeared several times to a certain nun, prompting the excavation of a specific area where they found the ruins of an old Byzantine chapel, and below that the foundations of a 4th century edifice that had been dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. An ancient well was also found there, and while the foundation for the new church was being leveled, the workers finally uncovered an icon showing the Archangel Gabriel holding a lily out to the Theotokos, and she kneeling in acceptance of her role in the Incarnation.
Today, the icon is housed in the crypt of the church next to the font. On certain Marian feast days, especially for Dormition, pilgrims flood the island to celebrate Liturgy at Evangelistria, venerate the wonder-working icon, and collect water from the font.
Disembarking at the port [of Tinos], a few 100 metres to the left, a pilgrim is confronted by the second largest street known as the Leoforos Megalochares (the Street of Great Joy) which leads up to the neo-classical church at the top of the steep slope. This street is heavily lined with merchants, on either side, selling ecclesiastical bits and pieces such as oil lamps, replica icons, postcards etc.
It is traditional for many pilgrims to crawl the entire length of this street on their hands and knees, crossing themselves first, as a physical ascetical offering in preparation of meeting the icon of Tinos. This offering should be done in supplication, or thanksgiving for prayers answered or in repentance. – Orthodox Wiki
The red carpet you see going up the stairs leading to the church actually begins at the bottom of the Street of Great Joy – in other words, the bottom of that extremely steep slope, meant to give a little relief to crawling pilgrims (however I felt the carpet and it is very thin!).
Of note: I visited Evangelistria three years ago in June. I hadn’t really looked into the church and didn’t know about the font from the ancient well, and that pilgrims buy little glass bottles from the souvenir shops to collect the water because it is thought to be miraculous. So when I got there and heard about the font, I just stuck my hand in the water. When I returned home from Greece a couple weeks later, I realized a hideous scar that had been on my hand for 21 years was gone (seriously, it was ugly. The skin healed in a weird lump after I accidentally stabbed myself with a pencil). Maybe it was just a coincidence…who knows.