NEW YORK – The Kimisis tis Theotokou or the Dormition of the Theotokos on August 15, is also known as the Pascha of Summer, celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, when the Holy Mother of Jesus Christ and therefore, the Mother of all Christians, ascended into Heaven.
The greatest pilgrimage is held on the island of Tinos, at the preeminent Marian shrine in Greece, the Church of Evangelistria — which when my mother and I were in Greece went to.
The complex of church and monastery is built around a miraculous icon which according to tradition was found after the Virgin appeared to the nun Pelagia and revealed to her the place where the icon was buried. The icon is widely believed to be the source of numerous miracles.
The icon was found in the early days of the modern Greek State and was declared the patron saint of the Greek nation. The church, built in the Renaissance style, was inaugurated in 1830 and since then is a popular destination for Christian pilgrimage in Greece, equal to Lourdes in France or Fatima in Portugal.
In northern Greece, the Church of Panagia Soumela on the slopes of Vermio, near the village of Kastania was built in 1951 by the refugees of Pontus, in memory of the historic homonymous monastery, the ruins of which lie on Mount Mela, near Trebizond in Pontus. The miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Cross, and the Gospel are kept at the church.
In Nisyros, they celebrate not with one, but with two services every August 15th. One is celebrated at Panagia Spiliani and it is the official Divine Liturgy of the priests, who lead the procession of the icon of the Virgin Mary up to the village to bless the feast, while the second is a traditional ritual performed by the black-clad Enniameritisses as the women who have been dedicated to the Theotokos are called.
The feast of the Virgin Mary on the island of Pserimo where the Church of Virgin Mary of the Melanchrini, as the locals call it because of the dark color of the Russian icon style, is unique. Sailing boats from Kalymnos, Kos, and Nisyros, bring the faithful to seek the grace of the Virgin Mary.
Unique in Rhodes is Panagia Kalopetra, located at the top of the Butterfly Valley and is thought to have been built in 1782 by the ruler of the Alexandros Ypsilantis.
On August 15, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated in honor of the Panagia. May yours be joyous.