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Christians mark Feast of Dormition of the Mother of God

The Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary in Samokov preserves the spiritual memory of generations of Bulgarians

The Dormition of the Mother of God is the most beloved and revered Christian summer feast. It is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the Kingdom of Heaven and is celebrated by both Orthodox and Catholics and other Christian denominations on August 15 ( Old Style August 28). On this day, the Mother of God was taken up into the Kingdom of Heaven at the age of 64.

The feast is celebrated with special solemnity because it glorifies the meeting of the Mother of God with her son - Jesus Christ.

On this day many churches and monasteries in Bulgaria have a temple celebration. Among them is the Metropolitan Church of Samokov, which was built more than three centuries ago.

It attracts believers with its spaciousness, unique architecture and the walnut tree iconostasis. Its middle part was skillfully made by master wood carvers from Mount Athos at the end of the 18th century.

For three and a half centuries the Metropolitan Church was the spiritual centre of the Samokov diocese.

The church book (kondika), written back in 1757, bears witness to the multilayered history of the “Assumption of Virgin Mary” Church in Samokov. Father Mihail Kolev who oversees the Metropolitan Church in Samokov has more:

“At the beginning of the 18th century, in 1711, the then Metropolitan Nectarios restored and repaired the small church that existed on this site – father Mihail said in an interview for Radio Bulgaria. – At that time Bulgaria was under Ottoman rule. The construction of orthodox temples in the settlements was forbidden. That is why the church was much smaller and was dug deep into the ground. Nearly 100 years later, at the suggestion of bishop Philotheos, new church repairs began in order to turn it into higher single nave temple. Over the next 30 - 40 years the church was developed to the north and south, and in addition to the central nave dedicated to the Mother of God, two more naves were built. They are dedicated to the patron saint of Bulgaria and Bulgarian people St. John of Rila and St. Martyr Charalambos the Wonderworker.”

We learn from Father Mihail that the veneration of the Christian healer St. Charalambos is not accidental. At the beginning of the 19th century Samokov was hit by two plague pandemics and the local residents prayed to St. Charalambos for help. They brought his relics from Mount Athos and Samokov recovered from the epidemic in a short period of time.

The struggles for liberation and an independent Bulgarian church, in which the local residents participated actively, are also part of the remarkable history of the “Assumption of Virgin Mary” Church.

This is also the place where the first church school was founded – father Mihail went on to say. – The idea for the establishment of the Samokov Theological School, accredited before the Liberation and in the post-liberation period, was born here. At present, the Metropolitan Church in Samokov continues to serve as a centre for spiritual unification. It has preserved its ecclesiastical and historical memory and lives with the spirit of the new times through preaching and spiritual enlightenment. It is the place where the local residents, as well as all pilgrims and guests of Samokov send their prayers to God", said father Mihail.

In mid-August, beleivers from all over the country gather in the beautiful Metropolitan Church to honor the Mother of God on the occasion of the Feast of the Assumption.

“The temple celebration begins on the previous day with a festive evening liturgy which is similar to the church service on Good Friday. The Shroud of the Mother of God is taken out and a procession is held around the temple in the presence of the local clergy. A festal liturgy with sermon takes place on the next day. It ends with the blessing and distribution of the kurban (sanctified soup) to all believers attending the festive event. The Dormition of the Theotokos is an extremely beloved Christian feast and numerous people attend the festivities and send their prayers to the Most Holy Mother of God. Everyone feels the joy and excitement of the beautiful summer feast at this moment”, father Mihail concluded.

Published and translated by: Kostadin Atanasov

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