ON THE DORMITION (KOIMISIS) OF THE THEOTOKOS AND EVER-VIRGIN MARY.
The Theotokos returns to her home
After completing her prayer, the Theotokos returned to her home. Then by the invisible power of God, the Theotokos shone forth with the glory of God. Her lovely face, which always shone with the grace of God–more so that the face of Moses who spoke to God on Sinai–became even more radiant with indescribable glory. The Theotokos then prepared for her repose. She told the matter to the beloved Disciple John, who had taken her into his home as his own mother. She also showed him the flowering branch from Paradise and told him to carry it before her bier.
The Virgin then disclosed her pending repose to the rest of the household and virgins. Mary Magdalene, Sepphora, Abigail, and Jael that dwelt with her; and they bewailed their orphanhood. But she consoled them saying that she would intercede for them and all the world. She then ordered that her bed and room should be decorated, and that incense and as many lamps as possible were to be lit therein. She then changed her clothes. Simply put, all necessary preparations for her burial were made.
The Theotokos then made a will concerning her two garments. She desired that they be given to the poor widows who had faithfully served her and received their maintenance from her. With regard to her pure body, the Mother of God made her will known that it should be buried on the Mount of Olives, not far from Jerusalem, in the Garden of Gethsemane. There also were interred her parents, the Righteous Joachim and Anna, and her spouse, Saint Joseph. The tombs lay in the Valley of Jehosephat between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives.
The choir of Apostles is most wondrously
brought together from the ends of the world
While the Theotokos was making these arrangements, all of a sudden a noise was heard similar to a clap of thunder. A cloud then encircled the home of Saint John the Theologian. By the command of God, Angels had seized the Apostles that were scattered to the ends of the world and brought them on clouds to Jerusalem. All, save the Apostle Thomas, were then transported to Mount Sion, before the door of the house where the Theotokos dwelt. Some are of the opinion that Saint John the Theologian had also been caught up in a cloud, like the others; no doubt it was from some place close by.
Rejoice, Honorable Crown of the Disciples!
Then during this conversation, the chosen vessel arrived–the holy Apostle Paul. Falling at the feet of the Theotokos he opened his mouth praising and blessing her, “Rejoice, Mother of my life and my preaching! Gazing on thee now, I think that I see thy Son.” Already the divine Paul’s close disciples had arrived, that is, Saint Dionysios the Areopagite, Saint Herotheos, Apostle Timothy, and other godly-wise hierarchs. Also, present were the rest of the 70 holy Apostles. All had been gathered by the Holy Spirit that they might be granted the blessing of the Theotokos. Then the immaculate Lady called to herself each of the holy Apostles by name, and she praised their faith and labors in the preaching of Jesus Christ. To each one, she wished everlasting beatitude, and she prayed for the peace of the whole world.
Then she addressed them, saying, “The Lord has brought you here for the consolation of my soul which, as our mortal nature demands, is soon to be separated from the body. Already the time appointed by my Creator draws near.” In sorrow, they then replied, “During thy life on earth, O Lady, we were consoled by gazing upon thee as upon our Lord and Master Himself. But now, deprived of thy presence, how shall we bear the heavy sorrow that envelops our souls? But now, by the will of Him Who was born of thee, Christ God, thou art going away to the heavenly abodes, and it is impossible for us not to rejoice at the decision of God regarding thee, though at the same time we cannot refrain from weeping that we are to be left orphans; for we shall no longer see thee, our Mother and comforter.” At these words, the holy Apostles wept.
The Theotokos delivers her soul, full of light
It was the Lord’s Day, and the 15th of the month of August when that blessed hour that all were awaiting drew near. It was the third hour of the day (nine o’clock in the morning). In the room, a number of lamps were burning. The holy Apostles were offering praise to God. Upon a beautifully adorned bed, the Theotokos was lying and preparing herself for her blessed end when her beloved Son and Lord would come to her. She then greeted each Apostle with a blessing.
She then stretched her hands heavenward and prayed, “I ever, praise, and glorify Thy much to be praised name, O Lord, because Thou hast looked upon the low estate of Thy slave. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” After this prayer, she said to the Apostles, “Cast incense and pray, because Christ is coming with a host of Angels. And, behold, Christ is at hand, sitting on a Throne of Cherubim!” When they had prayed, there was thunder from heaven and there came a fearful voice, as if of chariots. Behold, a multitude of a host of Angels and Powers, and a voice, as if of the Son of Man was heard!
Then there shone in the room an ineffable Light of Divine Glory which dimmed the lamps. Those that were granted this vision were struck awestricken. Many beheld the roof of the apartment open and the glory of the Lord descending from heaven. It was Christ the King of Glory with Hosts of Angels and Archangels, and all the Heavenly Powers. Also, with them were the holy Fathers and Prophets, those who prophesied of old concerning the pure Virgin. Together with them, there also approached Christ’s immaculate mother all the Righteous souls.
“May it be to me according to Thy word!”
At the sing of the approach of her Son, the Theotokos cried with great joy unto her Son. “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). And, behold, a stream of Light came upon the Virgin because of the presence of her Son, and all the Powers of the Heavens fell down and adored Him! He then said, “Mariam.” And she answered, “Here am I, Lord.”
Raising herself from her bed as if she were trying to go to meet her Son, she worshipped the Lord. Looking at her with love, He said, “Arise, come, My beloved, My fair one, My dove. Arise from the dead with authority, because Thou art My Mother. Arise and come to My Kingdom, for Thou art the Queen of all. Arise to receive My Divine Glory, O My sweet Mother. Arise and come unto Me…”
And the Lord remained by her and said, “Behold, presently thy soul will be TRANSLATED TO THE HEAVENS, to the treasures of My Father in exceeding brightness…” Feeling unspeakable joy at the sight of the radiant face of her Son and Lord, the Theotokos, filled with spiritual rapture out of love for Him, surrendered her pure soul into the hands of the Lord.
The solemn procession
In the midst of these events which had accompanied the dormition (koimisis) of the Theotokos, they began the solemn procession to inter her most honorable body. The holy Apostles bore her bier aloft on their shoulders, toward the head were Saint John the Theologian and Saint Peter on the other side, then Saint Iakovos (St. James) and Saint Paul opposite him. The other holy Apostles and hierarchs proceeded chanting, while Saint John the Theologian also carried the branch from Paradise, which shone brightly. The rest of the faithful, with lights and censers, walked close by, surrounding the bier.
The Garden of Gethsamane, the Sacred Abode of the Theotokos
The tomb in the Garden of Gethsemane is East of Jerusalem, across the Kedron Valley. Finally, the holy Apostles with all the multitude of the Christians reached the Garden. When they laid down the bier with the Most Precious Body, again the Christians began to weep. All bewailed their orphanhood at the loss of such a treasure. In giving the last kiss, the Christians prostrated themselves before the holy body of the Theotokos. Kissing it, they shed copious tears, so that only toward evening could the Most Honorable Body be placed in the New Tomb. Here sacred relics were interred with the greatest honor, while chanting and weeping took place. When the holy Apostles stepped before her bier to hid her farewell, each according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they uttered psalms of triumph and thanksgiving and chanted prayers.
Descent into Hades
The soul of the Theotokos was then received into the hands of her Son. Panagia then asked her Son if she could visit Hades to see where He Himself had gone to deliver the forefathers. Then radiant Angels escorted the soul of the Theotokos to this region. [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