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The Fast of the Assumption of Saint Mary

       The Fast of the Assumption of Saint Mary, one of the seven canonized fasts of the Ethiopian Church, is a solemn observance commemorating the apostles' fast during the period of the Dormition and Assumption of Saint Mary. This fast takes place from August 7 to August 22. The term "Filseta," derived from the Ge’ez language, signifies the movement and pertains to Saint Mary's Assumption.

        Following the departure of Saint Mary, the apostles cared for her body and proceeded to carry it to Gethsemane for interment.  However, certain Jews obstructed their path, aiming to prevent the burial. They intended to seize and incinerate the body, fearing it might later be associated with another 'resurrection' and 'ascension'.


        In response to this malicious intent, God dispatched an angel to protect the sanctity of His Mother's body, escorting it gloriously to Heaven. The angels then transported the body to Paradise, where Saint John the Apostle placed it beneath the Tree of Life. Upon Saint John's return, the other apostles inquired about the whereabouts of the Virgin Mary. Saint John recounted how an angel had positioned her body under the Tree of Life. Moved by this revelation, the apostles decided to engage in prayer and fasting for fifteen days, hoping to witness what Saint John had seen.

        After the period of fasting and prayer, the angels brought the Virgin's body back to the apostles, who then interred her on a Sunday. Mirroring Christ's resurrection, the Virgin Mary arose from the dead three days later.

        Saint Thomas, who was ministering in India during these events, had a unique encounter. While returning to Jerusalem on a cloud, he encountered Saint Mary during her ascent. Expressing his regret for missing both her and her Son's ascension, Saint Mary consoled him, affirming that he was the first to witness her ascent. She then presented him with the garment (Megnez or Seben in Ge’ez) that had shrouded her resting body, filling him with grace and ecstasy.

         Upon reaching the disciples, Saint Thomas learned of Saint Mary's departure. Skeptical, he insisted on seeing her body, reminiscent of his initial disbelief in Christ's resurrection. The disciples accompanied him to the tomb, only to discover it empty, validating Saint Thomas's vision of her assumption and the authenticity of the garment he had received. In memory of this event, Ethiopian church priests typically drape their hand-held crosses with a piece of cloth, symbolizing the Seben received by Saint Thomas from Saint Mary.

        Despite Saint Thomas's testimony, the apostles longed for a firsthand experience of Saint Mary's resurrection. Consequently, a year later, they began a period of fasting and prayer starting on August 7. On the 15th day, August 22, Saint Mary appeared, accompanied by her beloved Son, Jesus. During this divine encounter, Jesus performed the Divine Liturgy, appointing Saint Peter as Curate and Deacon Stephen, who descended from heaven, as an Archdeacon. He then administered the Holy Communion and instructed the apostles to globally proclaim and bear witness to the resurrection and assumption of His Mother.

       The Fast of the Assumption of Saint Mary holds profound significance among Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Faithful adherents, including children, engage in a 15-day fast, culminating in Holy Communion. Church services, including the Divine Liturgy, are conducted continuously throughout this period. Consequently, churches nationwide are filled with devout believers, as many engage in a Sabbath (Subae) during this sacred time.

May the intercession and blessings of Saint Mary be upon us now and forevermore. Amen!

Source: Ethiopic Synaxarium

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