My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 15th of August, the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates
the Venerable Dormition and Translation [Metastasis] of our most
Glorious Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin MARY.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. First Tone
IN giving birth, thou dist preserve thy virginity; in thy dormition,
thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos. Thou was
translated unto life, since thou art the Mother of Life; and by
thine intercessions, dost thou redeem our souls from death.
Kontakion Hymn. Second Tone
THE grave and death could not hold the Theotokos, who is unsleeping
in her intercessions and an unfailing hope in her meditations. Bor as
the Mother of Life she was translated to life by Him Who dwelt in her
After the Ascension of Jesus Christ, the Theotokos was the one consolation for His Apostles, their joy in sorrow, and their firm teacher in the Faith. All the words and wondrous events which she had laid up in her heart, from the beginning, she then disclosed to them. She related to them the Archangel Gabriel’s joyful tidings regarding the seedless conception and the incorruptible birth of Christ from her virgin womb. She strengthened her Son’s Disciples when she spoke to them about His earlier years prior to the Baptism by the Forerunner John.
She was present at the Ascension of the Lord and the day of Pentecost. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were also poured out upon the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, and in greater abundance than upon the Apostles–just as a larger vessel can contain more water. The Theotokos was a vessel most rich in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, for she had been a worthy Temple of Him before this, in which He constantly dwelt. The Theotokos was possessed of all the virtues in her blessed soul. She is Higher than the Apostles, Prophets, and all the Saints.
According to Saint Gregory Palamas (1359 A.D.), Mary’s ultimate purpose, through the divine maternity, has a vastness that inclines all creatures in its influence and calls for the higher gifts in her person. "Mary is the cause of what had gone before, the pioneer of what has come after her; she distributes eternal goods. She is the thought of the Prophets, the head of the Apostles, the support of the Martyrs, and the certainty of the Holy Fathers. She is the glory of the earth, the joy of heaven, the ornament of creation. She is the Source and the root of ineffable good things. She is the summit and the fulfillment of all that is Holy.
The idea of mediation on the part of the Theotokos is not open to doubt or question for Saint Gregory Palamas, who is quite explicit when he says, "No divine gifts can reach either Angels of men, save through her Mediation. As one cannot enjoy the lamp…save through the medium of this lamp, so every movement toward God, every impulse toward good coming from Him is not realizable, save through the mediation of the Virgin. She does nto cease to spread benefits on all creatures not only on us men but also on the celestial incorporeal ranks." Saint Gregory Palamas also says that Mary received gifts of knowledge precociously. THE MUTUAL LOVE BETWEEN HER AND JESUS WAS PERFECT.
Hence, the Orthodox Church chants with Saint George of Nicomedia "O pure Virgin, thou are truly exalted above all!" Saint John of Damascus writes: "Rejoice, O Bride of God, thou who art more sacred than the noetic hosts and higher than all created nature."
After the Pentecost, at Jerusalem, she blessed Mary Magdalene to go to Rome and speak with Tiberius Caesar. The Virgin Theotokos dwelt in the house of Saint the Theologian at Mount Sion. She influenced many and strengthened the desire for virginity in not a few. On account of her companionship, the Evangelist John spoke more than others of Divine mysteries. She remained constant in her ascetic labor of fasting and prayer. She ever harbored a fervent desire to behold her Son.
Epiphanios the Mon (1015 A.D.), in his writing, left as the legacy that the Virgin Theotokos "healed many sick and freed those overcome by impure spirits, she gave alms and sympathy to the poor and to the widows. Indeed, all who beheld the Mother of God considered themselves blessed. Truly blessed were the eyes that beheld her and the ears that were granted to hear her most precious words, which renew the spiritual life, verily, what joy and grace they received! Elsewhere, Saint Ignatius commented that "he who is devout to the Virgin Mother will certainly never be lost." The Evangelist Luke, chief of the iconographers, depicted her image. She approved the making of sacred images, saying, "May the grace of Him Who was born of me, through me, be imparted to the icons."
Some ten years after the crucifixion, the Theotokos traveled abroad. Saint John the Theologian, believing it prudent to escape persecution, thought to flee with her. They departed Jerusalem for Ephesos, which was the lot that had fallen to the Apostle. The Theotokos and the Apostle John spent some time in that city. She continued in prayer and meditation. Together, they did not confine their stay to Ephesos. They traveled to other cities, illuminating many with the light of Christian teaching. The Theotokos visited Antioch, where she visited with Saint Ignatios. The Theotokos did return to Jerusalem, to the house of Saint John the Evangelist. The All-Powerful hand of God preserved His Mother from the plots of the synagogue of the Jews. After this period in Jerusalem, she journeyed to Cyprus. A storm blew her vessel off course to a divinely appointed destination: ATHOS. She went ashore with Saint John the Theologian. She also preached to the inhabitants of that peninsula. After praying for the new flock, she entered a ship and set sail for Cyprus, and Bishop Lazaros, presenting him with vestments that she had sewn with her own hands. Following Cyprus, she returned to Jerusalem.
The Virgin n the Garden of Gethsemane
At the foot of the Mount of Olives, there is the Garden of Gethsemane. At that time, there was a small plot belonging to the house of Zebedee, the father of Saint John the Theologian. The Theotokos would visit the very place where our Lord kneeled down and fell upon His face, praying to God the Father. She would present herself on this spot and, watering the earth with her tears, she offred up fervent prayers. However, toward the end of her earthly sojourn, she received consolation from the Lord’s Angel when he revealed her imminent departure to heaven.
In accordance with Divine Providence, the Theotokos, having come from mortal loins, had a death conformable to nature for the consolation of all people, SO THAT THEY TOO MIGHT NOT FEAR TO PROCEED TO HEAVEN BY THE SAME GATES OF DEATH through which the Queen of Heaven passed, SHARING THE LOT OF ALL THE EARTHBORN. Saint John of Damascus writes: "It was necessary that that which was composed of earth should return to earth and only then pass to heaven, having embraced on earth a most pure life through the subjection of the flesh. It was necessary that the body should be purified through death, as gold through fire, from every darkness and coarse burden of filth, and should rise from the grave incorrupt, pure and illumined by the light of immortality."
The Theotokos had now reached an advanced age. If she were born in about 20 B.C., when construction of Herod’s temple commenced, and Saint Dionysios the Areopagite came to visit her and received her blessing after A.D. 52, she had to be about 70 years old. As we know, she dwelt many years among the frist Christians, for our Lord Jesus Christ intended to have her live among His Disciples. It was their desire to behold her Most Holy countenance constantly and to receive strength, grace, and spiritual reinforcement throughout the afflictions, misfortunes, and adversities of life. Thus, through her personal presence, holy sayings, and sweet words, the holy Apostles indeed received STRENGTH, ENERGY, AND CONSOLATION. They not only accorded her reverence but even glorified and blessed her. With the rapid advance of the young Church, the Theotokos would rejoice over her Son’s boundless mercy. She was also thankful for the growing number of faithful and those who maintained reverential fear of Christ.
Nevertheless, her fervent and unceasing desire was to leave the body and to be with her beloved Son and God that she might behold His sweet face. She shed copious tears and prayed that the Lord might remove her from this vale of tears to the blessed abode on high. The Mother of God neither feared death nor sough to avoid it. She knew that death had already been overcome by her Son and God. One Church account records that she asked the Lord for one thing: "That I may NOT see the dismal sight of the demons." Why? This is because they are vile and foul. It is natural for chastity and modesty to seek to avoid all contact and even proximity with those who bear filth, impudence, or shamelessness.
Thus the Virgin heard those much longed-for words which she received with gladness. The Archangel then said, "Thy Son and our God, with the Angels, Archangels, Cherubim, Seraphim, and all the Heavenly Hosts, and the souls of the Righteous, will receive thee, His Mother, into the Heavenly Kingdom that thou mayest live and reign with Him forever. Holy Tradition haas it that this occurred on a Friday. Thus after three days, on a Sunday, she would depart and be with Christ. Teh Archangel then told the Virgin the hour of her death. Again, as in her youth, he said that she should receive his words with joy, since she was being called to immortal life and to the Eternal King of Glory.
As a sign of the truth of all his words, THE ARCHANGEL GAVE INTO HER HAND A DATE PALM BRANCH FROM PARADISE. It shined with the light of heavenly grace. It signified victory and that bodily death would NOT have power over her, just as spiritual death had not had dominion over her. She would merely FALL ASLEEP FOR A SHORT TIME AND, THEN, AS IF WALKING FROM SLEEP, WOULD RISE AND SHAKE OFF DEATH LIKE SLEEP FROM THE EYES. She would then see in the Light of the Lord’s Countenance THE IMMORTAL LIFE AND GLORY TO WHICH SHE WOULD GO WITH SHOUTS OF JOY AND SPIRITUAL HAPPINESS. The Archangel informed her that the branch was to be carried before the bier of her Most Honorable and pure body. Upon hearing these words, the Theotokos was filled with ineffable joy and spiritual rapture. For what could be more joyous and acceptable to her than LIFE IN HEAVEN WITH HER SON AND THE HAPPINESS OF CONTEMPLATING HIS FACE? Then, falling to her knees she fervently thanked her Creator. That the Virgin should receive in advance a pledge or assurance from Paradise will not be an unheard of occurance in the history of the Orthodox Church. Others, too, have received gifts from Paradise, such as Saint Methodios, Patriarch of Cosntantinople, Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, and Saint Ephrosynos the Cook. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
[To be continued]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George