The Assumption of Mary into Heaven, the most revered summer Orthodox Christian feast in Bulgaria

Photo: sv-prorok-ilia.ikonata.eu

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven or Major Virgin Mary, as it is known in Bulgarian folk tradition is one of the 12 biggest Christian feasts of the year that the Orthodox Church marks on 15 August every year (28 August under the Julian calendar). This is the biggest Orthodox Christian celebration of the Holy Virgin. Assumption means falling asleep and the consequent departure of the soul from the body. With Virgin Mary this caused no suffering and was very much like a peaceful and blissful sleep that took her to heaven and to the Messiah Jesus Christ. Therefore the day is marked with deep veneration across the country. A few big monasteries in Bulgaria have been named Assumption of Mary: Bachkovo, Troyan, Dragalevtsi, Sokolski, Tcherepishki, Batoshevo and Arbanassi monasteries. One of the most recently built ones has also been named after the Assumption – in the eparchy of Vidin. It will attract many believers from Northwestern Bulgaria. Celebrations include liturgies and votive offering. 15 August is the name day of anybody called Maria, Mariana, Mariela, Marietta, Mario and Preslava.

Assumption of Mary, the feast of Troyan Monastery Church

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven dates back to the Temple of Jerusalem and is one of the most ancient celebrations of the Holy Virgin. In icons as well as in the festive liturgy on Assumption the glorification of Virgin Mary culminates. The scene of festive celebrations is among others the Monastery of Troyan located on the shores of the river of Cherni Osam and ten kilometers away from the town of Troyan in the Central Balkan Range. The monastery is the home of the famous wonderworking icon of The Three-Handed Holy Virgin.

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According to legend the monastery emerged in 17 c. and was founded by an unknown hermit monk. During the Ottoman yoke the monk had a visit from the monk from Mont Athos in Greece who had with him the wonderworking icon The Three-Handed Holy Virgin meant to be taken as a gift to fellow monks in Wallachia. The news about the icon spread fast and crowds flocked for prayer to it. When the Mount Athos monk had to leave for Wallachia he was off, but while still in the yard, he stumbled and fell. The man put off his journey but a few days later his horse stumbled in the same place. In this he saw a sign of God and left the holy icon to the hermit. The Troyan hermit then formed a small monk community. Its members built a small wooden church to house the Holy Virgin icon. The glory of the wonderworking icon of the Holy Virgin with three hands spread far and wide, as prayer to it proved to heal and provide wellbeing to the faithful. Since that time for four centuries pilgrims from across Bulgaria have come over to pray to the Holy Virgin during the feast of the Troyan Monastery Church of the Assumption. After the holy liturgy priests take the icon out of the church for a litany in procession to the place of the first miracle that it made. By tradition service for the feast is led by the Bulgarian Patriarch Neophyte.

St. Petka Church in Sofia welcomes famous wonderworking icon of the Holy Virgin

At the beginning of the fast preceding the Assumption, the Ukrainian icon of the Holy Virgin known as the Fast-Responding arrived in Sofia for the first time. According to legend the icon responds very fast to the prayers of the faithful. The icon was painted at the St. Panteleimon Monastery on Mount Athos in 1893 and was consecrated at the Monastery of Dochiariou. At the beginning of the 20th c., the icon was donated to the St. Alexander of Neva Church in Ananyiv, Ukraine. There are many stories of laymen who found solace and cure from serious disease after they sincerely prayed to the icon.

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 "The Holy Virgin helps a lot through its icon, working wonders,” explains Nikolay Nikolov, intercessor of St. Petka Church where the icon is displayed for prayer. After the Assumption feast is over the icon will be returned to Ukraine.

Holy Assumption of Mary, the feast of the city of Varna

On 15 August, Varna residents mark the feast of their city with concerts regattas and workshops for kids. The events are organized by the Municipality of Varna with the cooperation of the Navy and the Bishopric of Varna and Veliki Preslav. Following the Assumption holy liturgy at Holy Assumption of Mary church and flying the flag of the city a litany in procession will begin with a wonderworking icon of the Holy Virgin.

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During the whole day, various performers and bands will appear on Rakovina (Shell) stage in the Seaside Park to create cheerful mood for the residents and guests of Varna. In the evening, the area around the Nautical Station will play host to a pop and rock music concert.

Compiled by Darina Grigorova

English Daniela Konstantinova

Photos: BGNES

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