What is the Dormition?
It is the falling-asleep of Mary, and translation into life which is celebrated on August 15th. In preparation for this great feast of the Mother of God, we observe a two-week period of fasting from August 1-14.
So why do we fast before Dormition?
I love this analogy: In a close-knit family, news that its matriarch is on her deathbed brings normal life to a halt. Otherwise important things (parties, TV, luxuries, personal desires) become unimportant; life comes to revolve around the dying matriarch. It is the same with the Orthodox family; word that our matriarch is on her deathbed, should have a similar affect on us. We fast, not to get what we want, but to prepare ourselves to receive what God wants to give us. Fasting is intended to bring us to the realization of “the one thing needful.” It is to help us put God first and our own desires second, if not last. It also serves to prepare us to be instruments of God’s will, as with Moses in his flight from Egypt and on Mt. Sinai, as well as our Lord’s fast in the wilderness. Fasting turns us away from ourselves and toward God. It helps us become more like the Theotokos, an obedient servant of God, who heard His word and kept it better than anyone else has or could.