- The Dormition [The Falling Asleep - The Assumption] Of The Most-Holy Birth-Giver Of God (Theotokos)
The Lord Who, on Mt. Sinai, gave the Fifth Commandment, Honor your father and your mother (Exodus 20:12), showed by His own example how one should respect one’s parents. Hanging on the Cross in agony, He remembered His Mother, and indicating to the Apostle John, He said to her: Woman behold your son (John 19: 26). After that, He said to John: Behold your mother (John 19:27). And so, providing for His Mother, He breathed His last. John had a home on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, in which the Theotokos then lived. She dwelt there to the end of her days on earth. By her prayers, kind guidance, meekness and patience, she greatly assisted Her Son’s apostles. She spent most of her remaining time on earth in Jerusalem, often visiting those places that reminded her of the great events and of the great works of her Son. She especially visited Golgotha, Bethlehem and the Mount of Olives. Of her few distant journeys, her visit to St. Ignatius the God-bearer [Theophorus] in Antioch is recorded; as is her visit to Lazarus (whom our Lord resurrected on the fourth day), the Bishop of Cyprus. She also visited the Holy Mountain [Athos], which she blessed; and she stayed in Ephesus with St. John the Evangelist [The Theologian] during the time of the great persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. In her old age, she often prayed to her Lord and God on the Mount of Olives, the site of His Ascension, that He take her from this world as soon as possible. On one of these occasions, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and revealed to her that she would find repose within three days. The angel gave her a palm-branch, which was to be carried in her funeral procession. She returned home with great joy, hoping in her heart to see her Son’s apostles just once more in this life. The Lord fulfilled her wish, and the apostles, borne by angels in the clouds, gathered together at the house on Mount Zion. With great rejoicing she saw them, encouraged them, counseled them, and comforted them. Then she peacefully gave up her soul to God without pain or physical illness. The apostles took up her coffin, from which a heavenly fragrance arose–and, in the company of many Christians, bore it to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the sepulchre of her parents, Saints Joachim and Anna. By God’s providence, the procession was concealed by a cloud from the evil Jews. Even so, Aphthonius [Anthony], a Jewish priest, grabbed the coffin with the intention of overturning it, but an angel of God severed both his hands. He then cried out to the apostles for help, and was healed upon declaring his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Thomas was absent–again, according to God’s providence–in order that a new and all-glorious mystery of the Holy Theotokos would be revealed. On the third day, Thomas arrived and desired to venerate [kiss] the body of the Holy Most-pure One. But when the apostles opened the sepulchre, they found only the winding sheet: the body was not in the tomb! That evening, the Theotokos, surrounded by a host of angels, appeared to the apostles and said to them: “Rejoice, I will be with you always.” It is not exactly known how old the Theotokos was at the time of her Falling Asleep, but the overwhelming opinion is that she was over sixty years of age.
Hymn Of Praise
The Most-Holy Birth-Giver Of God [The Theotokos]
Thus spoke the Lord Most-high:
“From your heart, Virgin pure,
Living water will flow,
That those who thirst will drink Christ.”
We all boast of you!
Those who thirst will drink Christ.
By Him, the bitter is sweetened;
By Him, the scales are washed from blind eyes;
And by Him, the grief of those in sorrow is healed.
We all boast of you!
Sweet drink sprung from eternity,
Our arid age, the brook filling:
Once more toward heaven raised,
Our exhausted world becomes refreshed.
We all boast of you!
Glory to You, O Most-pure One!
Glory to You, O Mother of God!
For us the Living Christ You did bear,
The living water of grace!
We all boast of you!
Each one of the faithful can learn much–indeed, very much–from the life of the Virgin Theotokos. I would like to mention only two things. First, she frequently went to Golgotha, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, Bethlehem, and other places redolent [reminiscent] of her Son. She prayed on bended knees at all of these places–especially at Golgotha. Thus she gave the first example and impetus to the faithful of visiting holy places out of love toward Him Who by His presence, His passion and His glory made these places holy and significant. Second, we learn how she prayed for a quick departure from this life, so that, when separated from her body, her soul would not encounter the prince of darkness and his horrors, and hidden from the dark regions would not see the punishment of those darkened by sin. Do you see how terrible it is for the soul to pass through the toll-houses [mitarstva]? When she–who gave birth to the Destroyer of hades, and who herself has tremendous power over demons–prayed thus, what then is left for us? Out of extreme humility, she commended herself to God, and did not trust in her own deeds. So much less should we trust in our deeds, and even more we should commend ourselves into the hands of God, crying out for His mercy, especially at the time of the departure of the soul from the body.
To contemplate the wondrous sign by which Samuel confirmed his words before the people (1 Samuel 12 - [also known as 1 Kings 12]):
- How Samuel told the people it was evil in the sight of the Lord that they sought a king for themselves other than the Lord, the true King;
- How for the confirmation of his words, he called upon God for thunder and rain;
- How the thunder and rain descended, and how the people were in fear of God, and of Samuel.
About the Most-glorious Child
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
In all of human history, to what mortal man could all of these titles, all of this authority, and all of this glory apply? There is no one. That is why St. Chrysostom says: “It is impossible to understand this in regard to any other man, but only in reference to Christ.” The prophet here clearly expresses two natures in the Savior: the human and the divine. A Child is born–this signifies a human nature. Unto us a Son is given–this unites the two natures in one person, the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin in the person of the Incarnate Lord. The remaining titles signify the Divine Nature of the Lord Jesus. His government is upon His shoulder–the government is His, His own, and is not borrowed. Mighty Counsel–is this not the Holy Trinity? The angel–or messenger and herald–of this Triune Counsel is the Son of God, the Pre-eternal Word. Wonderful Counseller–for all that is wonderful, all that is new that has come to mankind is from Him and through Him. The Mighty God–what would Arius and his modern adherents, who deny the divinity of the Lord Jesus, say to this? The Prince of Peace–for from Him is lasting peace; outside Him is war, without and within. The Everlasting Father [the Father of future times]–as He is the Lord of the past, so also is He the Lord of the future. Furthermore, He is also the Father of the Church, the Creator of the new world, the Founder of the Kingdom of God. Isaiah himself, the son of Amos, saw this wonderful and true vision some seven hundred years before it was revealed to the entire universe. O Lord Jesus, You are to the prophets the most glorious prophecy, and to the faithful the most glorious revelation. Unlock our minds, so that the wonderful glory of Your majesty can enter into our minds; and unlock our hearts, so that they would be filled by Your life-creating love. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.