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Great Feast

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Great Feast

The feast of the Resurrection of Jesus, called Pascha (Easter), is the greatest of the feasts of the Eastern Orthodox Church (and of the Eastern Catholic Churches of the Byzantine Rite), and as such is called the "feast of feasts". In addition, there are other days of great importance in the life of the Church - the Twelve Great Feasts (Greek: Δωδεκάορτον).

Eight great feasts in honor of Jesus Christ, and four great feasts honoring the Virgin Mary - the Theotokos - comprise The Twelve Great Feasts.[1]

  1. September 8, the Nativity of the Theotokos
  2. September 14, the Exaltation of the Cross
  3. November 21, the Presentation of the Theotokos
  4. December 25, the Nativity of Christ/Christmas
  5. January 6, the Baptism of Christ -- Theophany, also called Epiphany
  6. February 2, the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple
  7. March 25, the Annunciation
  8. The Sunday before Pascha (Easter)-- the Entry into Jerusalem or Flowery/Willow/Palm Sunday
  9. Forty Days after Pascha (Easter) -- the Ascension of Christ
  10. Fifty Days after Pascha (Easter) -- Pentecost
  11. August 6, the Transfiguration
  12. August 15, the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos

Besides the Twelve Great Feasts, the Orthodox Church knows five other feasts that rank as great feasts, yet without being numbered among the twelve. They are: the Circumcision of Christ (January 1), the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24), the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29), the Beheading of St John the Baptist (August 29), and the Protecting Veil of the Theotokos (October 1).[2]


Nativity of the Theotokos

Mary was born to elderly and previously barren parents by the names of Joachim and Anna (now saints), in answer to their prayers. Orthodox Christians do not hold to the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, in which it is taught that Mary was preserved from the ancestral sin that befalls us all as descendants of Adam and Eve, in anticipation of her giving birth to the sinless Christ. The Orthodox believe that Mary, and indeed all mankind, was born only to suffer the consequences of the ancestral sin (being born into a corrupt world surrounded by temptations to sin), the chief of which was the enslavement to Death, and thus needed salvation from this enslavement, like all mankind. The Roman Catholic Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception also recognizes that Mary was in need of salvation, viewing her as prevented from falling into the scar of sin, instead of being pulled up out of it. Orthodox thought does vary on whether Mary actually ever sinned, though there is general agreement that she was cleansed from sin at the Annunciation.[3]

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Main article: Feast of the Cross

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross (also called the Elevation of the Cross) commemorates the recovery of the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. The Persians had captured it as a prize of war in Jerusalem in the year 614, and it was recovered by the forces of the Eastern Roman Empire ("Byzantine Empire") in 629. The cross was joyously held up for veneration by the Christian faithful upon its recovery.[4]

Presentation of the Theotokos

According to Tradition, Mary was taken -- presented—to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as a young girl, where she lived and served until her betrothal to Joseph.[5][6]

Nativity of the Lord

Main article: Nativity of Jesus

December 25 --

Theophany (Baptism of the Lord)

Main article: Epiphany (holiday)

This observance commemorates Christ's

Presentation of the Lord

In the


Main article: Annunciation

According to the

Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday)

Main article: Palm Sunday

A mere few days before His brutal 21:1-11). The crowds threw palm branches in his path in jubilation, and even the children shouted praises to Him. The Orthodox celebrate this day with joy, but with the realization that very sad events are soon to come. Among the Russian Orthodox, pussy willow branches are substituted in the celebration of this event, owing to the lack of availability of palm trees in Slavic climes.


Forty days after the Resurrection, while blessing His disciples (1:9-11).


Main article: Pentecost

Fifty days after the Resurrection, on the existing Jewish feast of 2:1-11).


Jesus had gone with his

Dormition of the Theotokos

Main article: Dormition of the Theotokos

The Orthodox feast of the Dormition is analogous to what Roman Catholicism calls the Assumption of Mary. According to Orthodox Tradition, Mary died like all humanity, "falling asleep", so to speak, as the name of the feast indicates. (Catholic theologians are divided on the issue of whether Mary died. Today most would favor an actual death before the Assumption.) The Apostles were miraculously summoned to this event, and all were present except Thomas when Mary passed from this life. She was buried. Thomas arrived three days later, and desiring to see her one more time, convinced the other apostles to open her tomb. To their surprise, her body was not there.

This event is seen as a first symbol of the resurrection of the faithful that will occur at the Second Coming of Christ. The event is normally called the "Dormition", though there are many Orthodox Churches with the name "Assumption". In Greek, "Dormition" is "Kimisis" (Coemesis) -- falling asleep in death—from which the word "cemetery" derives.[12]

See also


  • Orthodox Church in America. Accessed October 15, 2007.
  • Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Accessed October 15, 2007.
  • Web Sites for Special Occasions, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Access October 15, 2007.
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