FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:
The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
The Reading is from Luke 1:39-49, 56
In those days, Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name." And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.
Κατὰ Λουκᾶν 1.39-49, 56
Ἐν ταῖς ἡμέρας ἐκείνας, ἀναστᾶσα δὲ Μαριὰμ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν μετὰ σπουδῆς εἰς πόλιν ᾿Ιούδα, καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον Ζαχαρίου καὶ ἠσπάσατο τὴν ᾿Ελισάβετ. καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤκουσεν ἡ ᾿Ελισάβετ τὸν ἀσπασμὸν τῆς Μαρίας, ἐσκίρτησε τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ αὐτῆς· καὶ ἐπλήσθη Πνεύματος ῾Αγίου ἡ ᾿Ελισάβετ καὶ ἀνεφώνησε φωνῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εἶπεν· εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξὶ καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου. καὶ πόθεν μοι τοῦτο ἵνα ἔλθῃ ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ Κυρίου μου πρός με; ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὡς ἐγένετο ἡ φωνὴ τοῦ ἀσπασμοῦ σου εἰς τὰ ὦτά μου, ἐσκίρτησε τὸ βρέφος ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ μου. καὶ μακαρία ἡ πιστεύσασα ὅτι ἔσται τελείωσις τοῖς λελαλημένοις αὐτῇ παρὰ Κυρίου. Καὶ εἶπε Μαριάμ· Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν Κύριον καὶ ἠγαλλίασε τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ Θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου, ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσί με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί· ὅτι ἐποίησέ μοι μεγαλεῖα ὁ δυνατὸς καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ. ῎Εμεινε δὲ Μαριὰμ σὺν αὐτῇ ὡσεὶ μῆνας τρεῖς καὶ ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς.
The Reading is from St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians 2:5-11
BRETHREN, have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Πρὸς Φιλιππησίους 2:5-11
Ἀδελφοί, τοῦτο γὰρ φρονείσθω ἐν ὑμῖν ὃ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ· ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἶσα θεῷ, ἀλλʼ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν, μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος· καί σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος, ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτόν, γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ. Διὸ καὶ ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσεν, καὶ ἐχαρίσατο αὐτῷ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα· ἵνα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων, καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσηται ὅτι κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός.
The Reading is from Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28
At that time, Jesus entered a village; and a woman called Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve you alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her." As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!" But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"
Κατὰ Λουκᾶν 10.38-42, 11.2
Τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ, εἰσῆλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς κώμην τινά· γυνὴ δέ τις ὀνόματι Μάρθα ὑπεδέξατο αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς. καὶ τῇδε ἦν ἀδελφὴ καλουμένη Μαρία, ἣ καὶ παρακαθίσασα παρὰ τοὺς πόδας τοῦ ᾿Ιησοῦ ἤκουε τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ. ἡ δὲ Μάρθα περιεσπᾶτο περὶ πολλὴν διακονίαν· ἐπιστᾶσα δὲ εἶπε· Κύριε, οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι ἡ ἀδελφή μου μόνην με κατέλιπε διακονεῖν; εἰπὲ οὖν αὐτῇ ἵνα μοι συναντιλάβηται.ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· Μάρθα Μάρθα, μεριμνᾷς καὶ τυρβάζῃ περὶ πολλά· ἑνὸς δέ ἐστι χρεία· Μαρία δὲ τὴν ἀγαθὴν μερίδα ἐξελέξατο, ἥτις οὐκ ἀφαιρεθήσεται ἀπ᾿ αὐτῆς. ᾿Εγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ λέγειν αὐτὸν ταῦτα ἐπάρασά τις γυνὴ φωνὴν ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου εἶπεν αὐτῷ· μακαρία ἡ κοιλία ἡ βαστάσασά σε καὶ μαστοὶ οὓς ἐθήλασας.αὐτὸς δὲ εἶπε· μενοῦνγε μακάριοι οἱ ἀκούοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ φυλάσσοντες αὐτόν.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ ΙΕ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, μνήμη τῆς πανσέπτου Μεταστάσεως τῆς ὑπερενδόξου Δεσποίνης ἡμῶν καὶ ἀειπαρθένου Μαρίας.
Οὐ θαῦμα θνῄσκειν κοσμοσώτειραν Κόρην,
Τοῦ κοσμοπλάστου σαρκικῶς τεθνηκότος.
Ζῇ ἀεὶ Θεομήτωρ, κἂν δεκάτῃ θάνε πέμπτῃ.
Ἧς ταῖς ἁγίαις πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεός, ἐλέησον καὶ σῶσον ἡμᾶς, ὡς ἀγαθὸς καὶ φιλάνθρωπος.
Concerning the Dormition of the Theotokos, this is what the Church has received from ancient times from the tradition of the Fathers. When the time drew nigh that our Savior was well-pleased to take His Mother to Himself, He declared unto her through an Angel that three days hence, He would translate her from this temporal life to eternity and bliss. On hearing this, she went up with haste to the Mount of Olives, where she prayed continuously. Giving thanks to God, she returned to her house and prepared whatever was necessary for her burial. While these things were taking place, clouds caught up the Apostles from the ends of the earth, where each one happened to be preaching, and brought them at once to the house of the Mother of God, who informed them of the cause of their sudden gathering. As a mother, she consoled them in their affliction as was meet, and then raised her hands to Heaven and prayed for the peace of the world. She blessed the Apostles, and, reclining upon her bed with seemliness, gave up her all-holy spirit into the hands of her Son and God.
With reverence and many lights, and chanting burial hymns, the Apostles took up that God-receiving body and brought it to the sepulchre, while the Angels from Heaven chanted with them, and sent forth her who is higher than the Cherubim. But one Jew, moved by malice, audaciously stretched forth his hand upon the bed and immediately received from divine judgment the wages of his audacity. Those daring hands were severed by an invisible blow. But when he repented and asked forgiveness, his hands were restored. When they had reached the place called Gethsemane, they buried there with honor the all-immaculate body of the Theotokos, which was the source of Life. But on the third day after the burial, when they were eating together, and raised up the artos (bread) in Jesus' Name, as was their custom, the Theotokos appeared in the air, saying "Rejoice" to them. From this they learned concerning the bodily translation of the Theotokos into the Heavens.
These things has the Church received from the traditions of the Fathers, who have composed many hymns out of reverence, to the glory of the Mother of our God (see Oct. 3 and 4).
Apolytikion in the First Tone
Εν τή Γεννήσει τήν παρθενίαν εφύλαξας, έν τή Κοιμήσει τόν κόσμον ού κατέλιπες Θεοτόκε, Μετέστης πρός τήν ζωήν, μήτηρ υπάρχουσα τής ζωής, καί ταίς πρεσβείαις ταίς σαίς λυτρουμένη, εκ θανάτου τάς ψυχάς ημών.
In birth, you preserved your virginity; in death, you did not abandon the world, O Theotokos. As mother of life, you departed to the source of life, delivering our souls from death by your intercessions.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Τήν εν πρεσβείαις ακοίμητον Θεοτόκον, καί προστασίαις αμετάθετον ελπίδα, τάφος καί νέκρωσις ουκ εκράτησεν, ως γάρ ζωής Μητέρα, πρός τήν ζωήν μετέστησεν, ο μήτραν οικήσας αειπάρθενον.
Neither the grave nor death could contain the Theotokos, the unshakable hope, ever vigilant in intercession and protection. As Mother of life, He who dwelt in the ever-virginal womb transposed her to life.
Σήμερα η Εκκλησία εορτάζει με πνευματική ευφροσύνη και λατρευτική λαμπρότητα την Κοίμηση και την Μετάσταση της Υπεραγίας Θεοτόκου. Καμμιά γυναίκα δεν αξιώθηκε στον κόσμο την μεγίστη τιμή της αγίας παρθένου της Ναζαρέτ, που έγινε μητέρα του Θεού στη γη. Οι γενεές των ανθρώπων μακαρίζουν την Θεοτόκο, που είναι "το αμόλυντον της παρθενίας κειμήλιον", καθώς την εγκωμιάζει ο άγιος Πρόκλος. Η Εκκλησία εφύλαξε τους ωραιότερους ύμνους για την Παναγία και κάθε ψυχή χριστιανού στρέφεται πάντα με εμπιστοσύνη προς την μητέρα του Κυρίου. Είναι ακριβώς η μητέρα, και στο πανάγιο πρόσωπό της βλέπει ο κάθε πιστός την δική του μητέρα, την γυναίκα που τον έθρεψε στα σπλάχνα της, που τον θήλασε το γάλα της, που τον προστάτεψε στην αγκαλιά της. "...μητρώαν έχουσα προς τον Θεόν την ισχύν, και τοις καθ' υπεροχήν αμαρτάνουσι καθ' υπερβολήν την συγχώρησιν εξανύει".
Ἡ Κοίμησις τῆς Ὑπεραγίας Θεοτόκου
Ὅπως εἶναι γνωστό, ἐπάνω ἀπὸ τὸ Σταυρὸ ὁ Κύριός μας Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, ἔδωσε ἐντολὴ καὶ τὴν Παναγία μητέρα του παρέλαβε ὁ Ἰωάννης ὁ Εὐαγγελιστὴς στὸ σπίτι του, ὅπου διέμενε μαζὶ μὲ τὸν ἀδελφό του Ἰάκωβο καὶ τὴν μητέρα του Σαλώμη, συγγενῆ τῆς Θεοτόκου. Ὅταν δὲ ἦλθε ἡ στιγμὴ νὰ τελειώσει τὴν ἐπίγεια ζωή της, ἄγγελος Κυρίου τῆς τὸ ἔκανε γνωστὸ τρεῖς μέρες πρίν. Ἡ χαρὰ τῆς Θεοτόκου ὑπῆρξε μεγάλη, διότι θὰ συναντοῦσε τὸ μονογενῆ της Υἱὸ καὶ Θεὸ ὅλων τῶν ἀνθρώπων. Πῆγε, λοιπόν, καὶ προσευχήθηκε στὸ ὄρος τῶν Ἐλαίων, ὅπου συνήθιζε νὰ προσεύχεται καὶ ὁ Κύριος Ἰησοῦς. Ἔπειτα, γύρισε στὸ σπίτι τοῦ Ἰωάννη, ὅπου ἔκανε γνωστὴ τὴν ἐπικείμενη κοίμησή της. Ἡ παράδοση ἀναφέρει ὅτι τὴν τρίτη ἡμέρα ἀπὸ τὴν ἐμφάνιση τοῦ ἀγγέλου, λίγο πρὶν κοιμηθεῖ ἡ Θεοτόκος, οἱ Ἀπόστολοι δὲν ἦταν ὅλοι στὰ Ἱεροσόλυμα, ἀλλὰ σὲ μακρινοὺς τόπους ὅπου κήρυτταν τὸ Εὐαγγέλιο. Τότε, ξαφνικὰ νεφέλη τοὺς ἅρπαξε καὶ τοὺς ἔφερε ὅλους μπροστὰ στὸ κρεβάτι, ὅπου ἦταν ξαπλωμένη ἡ Θεοτόκος καὶ περίμενε τὴν κοίμησή της. Ὅταν ἐκοιμήθη, μὲ ψαλμοὺς καὶ ὕμνους τὴν τοποθέτησαν στὸ μνῆμα τῆς Γεθσημανῆ. Μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρες, ἄνοιξαν τὸν τάφο καὶ ἔκπληκτοι διαπίστωσαν ὅτι ἡ Παναγία ἀναστήθηκε σωματικὰ καὶ ἀνελήφθη στοὺς οὐρανούς. Καὶ βέβαια, ὅλη ἡ ἀνθρωπότητα, μὲ εὐγνωμοσύνη γιὰ τὶς πρεσβεῖες της στὸ Σωτῆρα Χριστό, ἀναφωνεῖ: «Χαῖρε, ὦ Μῆτερ τῆς ζωῆς».
Ἀνάμνηση θαύματος Ὑπεραγίας Θεοτόκου
Πρόκειται γιὰ συντριβὴ τῶν Σαρακηνῶν, μὲ θαυματουργικὸ τρόπο ἀπὸ τὴν Ὑπεραγία Θεοτόκο, στὰ χρόνια ποὺ βασιλιὰς τῆς Κωνσταντινουπόλεως ἦταν ὁ Λέων ὁ Ἴσαυρος (716).
Ὁ Ἅγιος Ταρσίζιος
Ὁ Ἅγιος μάρτυς Ταρσίζιος, μαρτύρησε στὴ Ρώμη, σὲ πολὺ νεαρὴ ἡλικία, τὸν καιρὸ ποὺ ἦταν αὐτοκράτορες ὁ Οὐαλεριανὸς καὶ Γαλιηνὸς (257 μ.Χ.). Ἦταν μαθητὴς τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἱερομάρτυρος Στεφάνου, ἐπισκόπου Ρώμης, ποὺ ἡ Ἐκκλησία μας τιμᾶ τὴ μνήμη του στὶς τρεῖς Αὐγούστου. Ἀπὸ μικρὴ ἡλικία ὁ Ταρσίζιος βοηθοῦσε τοὺς ἱερεῖς στὶς λειτουργικὲς συνάξεις καὶ γι᾿ αὐτὸ τὸ λόγο, τὰ μαρτυρολόγια τὸν ἀναφέρουν ὡς «Ἀκόλουθο», ποὺ σημαίνει ἀκόλουθος-βοηθὸς τῶν ἱερέων στὸ ἔργο τους. Τὸ χαρακτηριστικὸ γεγονὸς μὲ τὸν Ταρσίζιο ἔχει ὡς ἑξῆς: ὅταν εἶχε ξεσπάσει διωγμὸς κατὰ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας ἐκεῖνα τὰ χρόνια, κάποια μέρα, ἐμπιστεύθηκαν στὸν Ταρσίζιο τὰ Τίμια Δῶρα, τὸ Σῶμα καὶ τὸ Αἷμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, γιὰ νὰ τὰ μεταφέρει στοὺς συλληφθέντες μελλοθάνατους χριστιανούς, ποὺ βρίσκονταν στὶς φυλακές. Στὸ δρόμο ὅμως, τὸν κύκλωσαν εἰδωλολάτρες καὶ τοῦ ζητοῦσαν ἐπίμονα νὰ τοὺς παραδώσει αὐτὸ ποὺ κρατοῦσε στὸ στῆθος του. Ὁ Ταρσίζιος ἀρνήθηκε σθεναρὰ καὶ τότε αὐτοὶ τὸν ξυλοκόπησαν μέχρι θανάτου. Ὅταν ὅμως ἔσκυψαν γιὰ νὰ πάρουν αὐτὸ ποὺ κρατοῦσε ὁ Ταρσίζιος, διαπίστωσαν ἔντρομοι, ὅτι τὰ Τίμια Δῶρα εἶχαν ἐξαφανιστεῖ θαυματουργικὰ καὶ στὰ χέρια τοῦ νεαροῦ Ἁγίου ἦταν μόνο τὸ πανὶ ποὺ τὰ κάλυπτε. Οἱ χριστιανοὶ παρέλαβαν εὐλαβικὰ τὸ ἅγιο λείψανό του καὶ τὸ μετέφεραν στὸ κοιμητήριο (κατακόμβη) τοῦ τάφου τοῦ Ἁγίου Καλλίστου (στὴ Ρώμη), ὅπου μέχρι σήμερα δείχνουν τὸ σημεῖο τοῦ τάφου του. Ἀργότερα ὁ ἐπίσκοπος Ρώμης Δάμασος τοποθέτησε πάνω στὸν τάφο του, τὸ ἑξῆς ἐπίγραμμα: «... Ἐνῷ ὁ Ἅγιος Ταρσίζιος ἔφερε τὰ μυστήρια τοῦ Χριστοῦ, κάποιος μὲ χέρι βέβηλο πῆγε νὰ τὰ μολύνει. Κεῖνος ὅμως προτίμησε νὰ δώσει τὴν ζωή του, παρὰ νὰ δώσει «τοῖς κυσίν... τοὺς θείους μαργαρίτες». Τὸ παραπάνω κείμενο στηρίζεται στὸ ῥωμαϊκὸ μαρτυρολόγιο: ACTA SANCTORUM, AUGUSTΙTOMUS ΙΙΙ. Σήμερα στὸν Ἱερὸ Ναὸ τῶν Ἁγίων Ἀναργύρων Καραβᾶ τῆς Ἱ. Μητροπόλεως Πειραιῶς, τελεῖται πανηγυρικὴ Σύναξις πρὸς τιμὴν τοῦ Ἁγίου Ταρσιζίου, τὸ πρῶτο Σάββατο μετὰ τὴν γιορτὴ τῆς Ὑπαπαντῆς ἀπὸ ὅλη τὴν Νεανικὴ Κίνηση τῆς Ἱ. Μητροπόλεως Πειραιῶς.
Τὶς παραπάνω πληροφορίες, σχετικὰ μὲ τὴν βιογραφία του Ἁγίου Ταρσιζίου, μᾶς παραχώρησαν οἱ ἱερεῖς τοῦ προαναφερθέντος ἐνοριακοῦ Ἱεροῦ ναοῦ π. Γεώργιος Κρητικὸς καὶ π. Μεθόδιος Κρητικός.
The Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.
On the Cross, the Lord charged the Apostle John to care for His holy Mother. The Apostle settled her in a house in Jerusalem, where she lived for the rest of her days on earth, praying and offering counsel and encouragement to the Apostles. In her old age, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and told her that in three days' time she would enter into her rest. Giving thanks to God, she hastened to the Mount of Olives where she prayed continually, preparing herself to meet the Lord. Meanwhile, the Apostles, scattered in various parts of the earth, were caught up in clouds and miraculously brought by the holy Angels to Jerusalem, so that they might all be with the Theotokos at her repose. After she had blessed them, she gave up her soul to God. The Apostles buried her with all honor, solemnity and joy at Gethsemane. The Apostle Thomas, who was delayed (again!) by God's providence, arrived on the third day and went to her tomb, intending to honor her. But when the Apostles opened her grave, they found her holy body gone and only the winding-sheet remaining. That evening the Theotokos appeared to them surrounded by angels, and said to them, 'Rejoice: I will be with you always!'. Thus they learned that she had been bodily translated to heaven, anticipating the general resurrection of all. Her age at her repose is not known, but many say that she was about sixty years old.
The "Falling-Asleep" or "Repose" ("Dormition", "Uspenie", "Koimesis") of our MostHoly Lady Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary: After the Ascension of the Lord, the Mother of God remained in the care of the Apostle John the Theologian, and during his journeyings She lived at the home of his parents, near Mount Eleon (the Mount of Olives, or Mount Olivet). She was a source of consolation and edification for both the Apostles and for all the believers. Conversing with them, She told them about miraculous happenings: the Annuniciation (Blagoveschenie), the Conception (Zachatie) without seed and without defilement of Christ born of Her, about His early childhood, and about all His earthly life. And just like the Apostles, She helped plant and strengthen the Christian Church by Her presence, Her discourse and Her prayers. The reverence of the Apostles for the MostHoly Virgin was extraordinary. After the receiving of the Holy Spirit on the remarkable day of Pentecost, the Apostles remained basically at Jerusalem for about 10 years attending to the salvation of the Jews, and wanting moreover to see the Mother of God and hear Her holy discourse. Many of the newly-enlightened in the faith even came from faraway lands to Jerusalem, to see and to hear the All-Pure Mother of God.
During the time of the persecution, initiated by king Herod against the young Church of Christ (Acts 12: 1-3), the MostHoly Virgin together with the Apostle John the Theologian withdrew in the year 43 to Ephesus. The preaching of the Gospel there had fallen by lot to the Apostle John the Theologian. The Mother of God was likewise on Cyprus with Saint Lazarus the Four-Days-Entombed, where he was bishop. She was also on Holy Mount Athos, about which, as says Saint Stephen Svyatogorets (i.e. Saint Stephen of the "Holy Mount"), the Mother of God prophetically spoke: "This place shalt be allotted Me, given unto Me by My Son and My God. I wilt be the Patroness for this place and Intercessor to God for it".
The respect of ancient Christians for the Mother of God was so great, that they preserved what they could about Her life, what they could take note of concerning Her sayings and deeds, and they even passed down to us the regards of Her outward appearance.
According to tradition, based on the words of the PriestMartyrs Dionysios the Areopagite (+ 3 October 96), Ignatios the God-Bearer (+ 20 December 107), -- Sainted Ambrose of Mediolanum-Milan (Comm. 7 December) had occasion to write in his work "On Virgins" concerning the Mother of God: "She was the Virgin not only of body, but also of soul, humble of heart, circumspect in word, wise in mind, not overly given to speaking, a lover of reading and of work, and prudent in speech. Her rule of life was -- offend no one, intend well for everyone, respect the aged, be not envious of others, avoid bragging, be healthy of mind, and love virtue. When did She ever in the least hurl an insult in the face of Her parents, when was She at discord with Her kin? When did She ever puff up haughtily before a modest person, or laugh at the weak, or shun the destitute? With Her there was nothing of glaring eyes, nothing of unseemly words, nor of improper conduct: She was modest of body-movement, Her step was quiet, and Her voice straightforward; -- such that Her bodily visage was an expression of soul, and personification of purity. All Her days She was concerned with fasting: She slept only when necessary, and even then, when Her body was at rest, She was still alert in spirit, repeating in Her dreams what She had read, or the pondered implementation of proposed intentions, or those planned yet anew. She was out of Her house only for church, and then only in the company of kin. Otherwise, She but little appeared outside Her house in the company of others, and She was Her own best overseer; others could protect Her only in body, but She Herself guarded Her character". [trans. note: In context, we must realise that Saint Ambrose wrote this discourse in exhortation to young women to conduct themselves maturely and with concern for the reputation of their good-name, an exhortation equally incumbent upon young men].
According to tradition, that from the compiler of Church history Nicephoros Kallistos (XIV Century), the Mother of God "was of average stature, or as others suggest, slightly more than average; Her hair golden in appearance; Her eyes bright with pupils like shiny olives; Her eyebrows strong in character and moderately dark, Her nose pronounced and Her mouth vibrant bespeaking sweet speech; Her face was neither round nor angular, but somewhat oblong; the palm of Her Hands and fingers were longish... In conversation with others She preserved decorum, neither becoming silly nor agitated, and indeed especially never angry; without artifice, and direct, She was not overly concerned about Herself, and far from any pampering of Herself, She was distinctly full of humility. Regarding the clothing which She wore, She was satisfied to have natural colours, which even now is evidenced by Her holy head-covering. Suffice it to say, an especial grace attended all Her actions". (Nicephoros Kallistos borrowed his description from Sainted Epiphanios of Cyprus, + 12 May 403, from the "Letter to Theophilos concerning icons".
The circumstances of the Falling-Asleep or Dormition of the Mother of God were known in the Orthodox Church from times apostolic. Already in the I Century, the PriestMartyr Dionysios the Areopagite wrote about Her "Falling-Asleep". In the II Century, the account about the bodily Assumption of the MostHoly Virgin Mary to Heaven is found in the works of Meliton, Bishop of Sardis. In the IV Century, Saint Epiphanios of Cyprus refers to the tradition about the "Falling-Asleep" of the Mother of God. In the V Century Sainted Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem, told the holy Byzantine empress Pulcheria: "Although in Holy Scripture there be no account about the circumstances of Her end, we know about them otherwise from the most ancient and credible tradition". This tradition in detail was gathered and expounded in the Church history of Nicephoros Kallistos during the XIV Century.
At the time of Her blessed "Falling-Asleep", the MostHoly Virgin Mary was again at Jerusalem. Her fame as the Mother of God had already spread throughout the land and had aroused against Her many of the envious and the spiteful, who wanted to make attempts on Her life; but God preserved Her from enemies.
Day and night She spent at prayer. The MostHoly Mother of God went often to the Holy Sepulchre of the Lord, and here She offered up incense and the bending of knees. More than once enemies of the Saviour sought to hinder Her from visiting her holy place, and they besought of the high-priest a guard to watch over the Grave of the Lord. But the Holy Virgin Mary, unseen by anyone, continued to pray in front of them. In one suchlike visit to Golgotha, the Archangel Gabriel appeared before Her and announced Her approaching transfer from this life into the Heavenly life of eternal beatitude. In pledge of this, the Archangel entrusted Her a palm branch. With these Heavenly tidings the Mother of God returned to Bethlehem with the three girls attending Her (Sepphora, Evigea and Zoila). She thereupon summoned Righteous Joseph of Aramathea and other disciples of the Lord, and told them of Her impending Repose (Uspenie). The MostHoly Virgin prayed also, that the Lord would have the Apostle John come to Her. And the Holy Spirit transported him from Ephesus, setting him alongside that very place, where lay the Mother of God. After the prayer, the MostHoly Virgin offered up incense, and John heard a voice from Heaven, closing Her prayer with the word "Amen". The Mother of God took notice, that this voice meant the speedy arrival of the Apostles and the Disciples and the holy Bodiless Powers. The Disciples, whose number then it was impossible to count, flocked together, -- says Saint John Damascene, -- like clouds and eagles, to hearken to the Mother of God. Seeing one another, the Disciples rejoiced, but in their confusion they asked each other, why had the Lord gathered them together in one place? Saint John the Theologian, greeting them with tears of joy, said that for the Mother of God had begun the time of repose unto the Lord. Going in to the Mother of God, they beheld Her augustly lying upon the cot, and filled with spiritual happiness. The Disciples gave greeting to Her, and then they told about their being miraculously transported from their places of preaching. The MostHoly Virgin Mary glorified God, in that He had hearkened to Her prayer and fulfilled Her heart's desire, and She began speaking about Her immanent end. During the time of this conversation the Apostle Paul likewise appeared in miraculous manner together with his disciples: Dionysios the Areopagite, wondrous Hierotheos, and Timothy and others from amongst the Seventy Disciples. The Holy Spirit had gathered them all together, so that they might be vouchsafed the blessing of the All-Pure Virgin Mary, and all the more fittingly to see to the burial of the Mother of the Lord. Each of them She called to Herself by name, She blessed them and extolled them in their faith and hardships in the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and to each She wished eternal bliss and prayed with them for the peace and welfare of all the world.
There ensued the third hour, when the Uspenie-Repose of the Mother of God was to occur. A multitude of candles blazed. The holy Disciples with song encircled the felicitously adorned sick-bed, upon which lay the All-Pure Virgin Mother of God. She prayed in anticipation of Her demise and of the arrival of Her longed-for Son and Lord. Suddenly the inexpressible Light of Divine Glory shone forth, before which the blazing candles paled in comparison. All that saw took fright. Sitting atop as though immersed in the rays of the indescribable Light, was Christ the King of Glory Himself come down, surrounded by hosts of Angels and Archangels and other Heavenly Powers, together with the souls of the fore-fathers and the prophets, formerly having foretold of the MostHoly Virgin Mary. Seeing Her Son, the Mother of God exclaimed: "My soul doth magnify My Lord, and My spirit rejoiceth in God My Saviour, for He hath regarded the lowliness of His Handmaiden" -- and, getting up from Her bed to meet the Lord, She bowed down to Him. And the Lord bid Her come enter the habitations of Life Eternal. Without any bodily suffering, as though in an happy sleep, the MostHoly Virgin Mary gave up Her soul into the hands of Her Son and God.
Then began joyous Angelic song. Accompanying the pure soul of the God-betrothed and with reverent awe for the Queen of Heaven, the Angels exclaimed: "Hail Thou, Full-of-Grace, the Lord is with Thee, blessed art Thou amongst women! For lo, it be the Queen, God's Maiden doth come, take up the gates, and with the Ever-Existent take ye up the Mother of Light; for of Her is salvation come to all the human race. Upon Her tis impossible to gaze and to Her tis impossible to render due honour" (Stikherion verse on "Lord, I have cried"). The Heavenly gates were raised, and meeting the soul of the MostHoly Mother of God, the Cherubim and the Seraphim with joy glorified Her. The graced face of the Mother of God was radiant with the glory of Divine virginity, and of Her body there exuded fragrance.
Miraculous was the life of the All-Pure Virgin, and wondrous was Her Repose, as Holy Church doth sing: "In Thee, O Queen, the God of all hath wrought a miracle, that transcendeth the laws of nature. Just as in the Birth-Giving He did preserve Thine virginity, so also in the grave He did preserve Thy body from decay" (Kanon 1, Ode 6, Tropar 1). Giving kiss to the all-pure body with reverence and in awe, the Disciples in turn were blessed by it and filled with grace and spiritual joy. Through the great glorification of the MostHoly Mother of God, the almighty power of God healed the sick, who with faith and love gave touch to the holy cot. Bewailing their separation on earth from the Mother of God, the Apostles set about the burying of Her all-pure body. The holy Apostles Peter, Paul, James and others of the 12 Apostles carried the funeral bier upon their shoulders, and upon it lay the body of the ever-Virgin Mary. Saint John the Theologian went at the head with the resplendent palm-branch from Paradise, and the other saints and a multitude of the faithful accompanied the funeral bier with candles and censers, singing sacred song. This solemn procession went from the Sion-quarter through all Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemane.
With the start of the procession there suddenly appeared over the all-pure body of the Mother of God and all those accompanying Her a vast and resplendent circular cloud, like a crown, and to the choir of the Apostles was conjoined the choir of the Angels. There was heard the singing of the Heavenly Powers, glorifying the Mother of God, which echoed that of the worldly voices. This circle of Heavenly singers and radiance moved through the air and accompanied the procession to the very place of burial. Unbelieving inhabitants of Jerusalem, taken aback by the extraordinarily grand funeral procession and vexed at the honours accorded the Mother of Jesus, denounced this to the high-priests and scribes. Burning with envy and vengefulness towards everything that reminded them of Christ, they sent out their own servants to disrupt the procession and to set afire the body of the Mother of God. An angry crowd and soldiers set off against the Christians, but the aethereal crown, accompanying the procession in the air, lowered itself to the ground and like a wall fenced it off. The pursuers heard the footsteps and the singing, but could not see any of those accompanying the procession. And indeed many of them were struck blind. The Jewish priest Aphthoniah out of spite and hatred for the Mother of Jesus of Nazareth wanted to topple the funeral bier, on which lay the body of the MostHoly Virgin Mary, but an Angel of God invisibly cut off his hands, which had touched the bier. Seeing such a wonder, Aphthoniah repented and with faith confessed the majesty of the Mother of God. He received healing and joined in with the crowd accompanying the body of the Mother of God, and he became a zealous follower of Christ. When the procession reached the Garden of Gethsemane, then amidst the weeping and the wailing began the last kiss to the all-pure body. Only towards evening time were the Apostles able to place it in the tomb and seal the entrance to the cave with a large stone. For three days they did not depart the place of burial, during this time making unceasing prayer and psalmody. Through the wise providence of God, the Apostle Thomas had been destined not to be present at the burial of the Mother of God. Arriving late on the third day at Gethsemane, he lay down at the sepulchral cave and with bitter tears bespeaking loudly his desire, that he might be vouchsafed a final blessing of the Mother of God and have final farewell with Her. The Apostles out of heartfelt pity for him decided to open the grave and permit him the comfort of venerating the holy remains of the Ever-Virgin Mary. But having opened the grave, they found in it only the grave wrappings and were thus convinced of the bodily ascent or assumption of the MostHoly Virgin Mary to Heaven.
On the evening of the same day, when the Apostles had gathered at an house to strengthen themselves with food, the Mother of God Herself appeared to them and said: "Rejoice! I am with ye -- throughout all the length of days". This so gladdened the Apostles and everyone with them, that they took a portion of the bread, set aside at the meal in memory of the Saviour ("the Portion of the Lord"), and they exclaimed also: "MostHoly Mother of God, help us". (This marks the beginning of the rite of offering up a "Panagia" ("All-Blessed") -- the custom of offering up at meals a portion of bread in honour of the Mother of God, which even at present is done at monasteries).
The sash of the Mother of God, and Her holy garb, -- preserved with reverence and distributed over the face of the earth in pieces -- both in past and in present has worked miracles. Her numerous icons everywhere issue forth with outpourings of signs and healings, and Her holy body -- taken up to Heaven, witnesses to our own future mode of life therein. Her body was not left to the chance vicissitudes of the transitory world, but was all the more incomparably exalted by its glorious ascent to Heaven.
The feast of the Repose-Uspenie of the MostHoly Mother of God is celebrated with especial solemnity at Gethsemane, at the place of Her burial. Nowhere else is there such sorrow of heart at the separation from the Mother of God and nowhere else such uplift, persuaded of Her intercession for the world.
The holy city of Jerusalem is separated from the Mount of Olives (Olivet) by the valley of Kedron on Josaphat. At the foot of the Mount of Olives is situated the Garden of Gethsemane, where olive trees bear fruit even now.
The holy Ancestor-of-God Joakim had himself reposed at 80 years of age, -- some several years after the Entry ("Vvedenie vo Khram") of the MostHoly Virgin Mary into the Jerusalem Temple (Comm. 21 November). Saint Anna, having been left a widow, resettled from Nazareth to Jerusalem, and lived near the Temple. At Jerusalem she bought two pieces of property: the first at the gates of Gethsemane, and the second -- in the valley of Josaphat. At the second locale she built a crypt for the repose of members of her family, and where also she herself was buried with Joakim. And it was there in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Saviour often prayed with His disciples.
The most-pure body of the Mother of God was buried in the family cemetery-plot. With Her burial Christians also reverently honoured the sepulchre of the Mother of God, and they built on this spot a church. Within the church was preserved the precious funeral cloth, which wrapped Her all-pure and fragrant body.
The holy Jerusalem Patriarch Juvenal (420-458) attested before the emperor Marcian (450-457) as to the authenticity of the tradition about the miraculous assumption of the Mother of God to Heaven, and he likewise sent to the empress, Saint Pulcheria (+ 453, Comm. 10 September), the grave wrappings of the Mother of God, which he had taken from Her grave. Saint Pulcheria then placed these grave-wrappings within the Blakhernae church.
Accounts have been preserved, that at the end of the VII Century an overhead church had been situated atop the underground church of the Dormition-Repose of the MostHoly Mother of God, and that from its high bell-tower could be seen the dome of the Church of the Resurrection of the Lord. Traces of this church are no longer to be seen. And in the IX Century near the subterranean Gethsemane church was built a monastery, at which more than 30 monks asceticised.
Great destruction was done the Church in the year 1009 by the despoiler of the holy places, Hakim. Radical changes, the traces of which remain at present, also transpired under the crusaders in the year 1130. During the XI-XII Centuries there disappeared from Jerusalem the piece of excavated stone, at which the Saviour had prayed on the night of His betrayal. This piece of stone from the VI Century had been situated within the Gethsemane basilica.
But in spite of the destruction and the changes, the overall original cruciform (cross-shaped) plan of the church has been preserved. At the entrance to the church along the sides of the iron gates stand four marble columns. To enter the church, it is necessary to go down a stairway of 48 steps. At the 23rd step on the right side is a chapel in honour of the holy Ancestors-of-God Joakim and Anna together with their graves, and on the left side opposite -- the chapel of Righteous Joseph the Betrothed with his grave. The rightside chapel belongs to the Orthodox Church, and the leftside -- to the Armenian-Gregorian Church (since 1814).
The church of the Repose of the Mother of God has the following dimensions: in length it is 48 arshin, and in breadth 8 arshin [1 arshin = 28 inches]. At an earlier time the church had also windows beside the doors. The whole temple was adorned with a multitude of lampadas and offerings. Two small entrances lead into the burial-chamber of the Mother of God: entrance is made through the western doors, and exit at the northern doors. The burial-chamber of the All-Pure Virgin Mary is veiled with precious curtains. The burial laying-place was hewn out of stone in the manner of the ancient Jewish grave and is very similar to the Sepulchre of the Lord. Beyond the burial-chamber is situated the altar of the church, in which daily is celebrated Divine Liturgy in the Greek language.
The olive woods on the eastern and northern sides of the temple was acquired from the Turks by the Orthodox during the VII-VIII Centuries. The Catholics acquired the olive woods on the east and south sides in 1803, and the Armenian-Gregorians on the west side in 1821.
On 12 August, at Little Gethsemane, at the 2nd hour of the night, the clergy-head of the Gethsemane church celebrates Divine Liturgy. With the close of Liturgy, at the 4th hour of the morning, the clergy-head in full vesture makes a short molieben before the resplendent plaschenitsa, lifts it in his hands and solemnly carries it beyond the church to Gethsemane proper where the holy sepulchre of the Mother of God is situated. All the members of the Russian Spiritual Mission in Jerusalem, with the head of the Mission leading, participate each year in the procession with the holy plaschanitsa [of the Mother of God], called the "Litania".
The rite of the Burial of the Mother of God at Gethsemane begins customarily on the morning of 14 August. A multitude of people with hierarchs and clergy at the head set off from the Jerusalem Patriarchate (nearby the Church of the Resurrection of Christ) in sorrowful procession. Along the narrow alley-ways of the Holy City the funeral procession makes its way to Gethsemane. Towards the front of the procession is carried an icon of the Dormition-Uspenie of the MostHoly Mother of God. Along the way pilgrims meet the icon, kissing the image of the All-Pure Virgin Mary and lift children of various ages to the icon. After the clergy, in two rows walk the black-robed -- monks and nuns of the Holy City: Greeks, Roumanians, Arabs, Russians. The procession, going along for about two hours, concludes with a lamentations at the Gethsemane church. In front the altar-table, beyond the burial chamber of the Mother of God, is set a raised-up spot, upon which amidst fragrant flowers and myrtle and with precious coverings rests the plaschanitsa of the MostHoly Mother of God.
"O marvelous wonder! The Fount of Life is placed in the grave, and the grave doth become the ladder to Heaven...", -- here at the grave of the All-Pure Virgin, these words strike deep with their original sense and grief is dispelled by joy: "Hail, Full-of-Grace, the Lord is with Thee, granting the world through Thee great mercy!"
Numerous pilgrims, having kissed the icon of the Dormition-Uspenie of the MostHoly Mother of God, -- following an ancient custom, then stoop down and go beneathe it.
On the day of the Leave-taking of the feast (23 August), solemn procession is again made. On the return path, the holy plaschanitsa is carried by clergy headed by the Gethsemane archimandrite.
About the rite of the litany and feast of the Uspenie-Dormition of the Mother of God in the Holy Land, there is an article in the "Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate", 1979, No. 3.
DISCOURSE ON THE ALL-BLESSED DORMITION-REPOSE OF OUR
MOST-PURE LADY MOTHER OF GOD AND EVER-VIRGIN MARY
by Sainted Gregory Palamas, ArchBishop of Thessalonika
My present talk for your appreciation is occasioned both by love, and by necessity. I speak not only by reason of my love for you, and whereof I desire that the word of salvation should gain way to your God-loving hearing, and in such manner, be imbibed of by your souls; but also, wherein it be very needful for me, in conjunction with the churchly laudations, to expound on the majesty of the ever-Virgin Mother of God. And howso this wish, being twofold against the customary wont, doth impel and incline, and thus also inevitably need compel; though word canst not comprehend, that which is higher than any word, like as the sight canst not fix its gaze upon the sun. And insofar as it be not proper to speak about that which is beyond all words, therein ought primarily the love for the Mother of God to be consecrated in psalmody. If "venerable in the eyes of the Lord be the death of His holy ones" (Ps. 115 : 15), and "the memory of the righteous one is with praises" (Prob. 10:7), then how much moreso -- is the memory of the Holiest of the holy ones, through Whom -- hath become all sanctification for the holy ones, -- is the memory of the Ever-Virgin Mother of God, She Whose memory it now becometh us to celebrate with most exalted praises? We now make celebration of the holy Dormition, or Repose, through which was She brought low before the Angels, and yet did She excel beyond compare the Angels and the Archangels, and being over them by the consequent Power of Her closeness to God and by the fore-ordained over the ages wondrous deeds wrought over Her. It was on Her account that the God-inspired prophets did prophesy, and the miracles that beforehand did point out this great and universal wonder -- the ever-Virgin Mother of God; manifest of the Spirit; in various ways being the foretype of the future actuality; manifesting the promise to beget without seed He born of God the Father in eternity... The King of all greatly desired the mysteried beauty of the ever-Virgin, and within Her did transpire the incarnating of the Power of the MostHigh, not through darkness and fire as it was for the God-inspired Moses, and not through means of storm and clouds as was manifest His Presence to the Prophet Elias (Elijah), nor by means of some pretext did the Power from on High overshadow the all-pure and virginal womb. What inexpressibly transpired within Her and of Her was that the Word of God came forth incarnated in the flesh, "to appear upon earth and live amongst mankind" (Baruch 3: 38), deifying our nature and granting us, according to the Divine Apostle, that "which the Angels have desire to look forward to" (1 Pet. 1: 12) -- and in this is the wondrous glorification and the all-pure glory of the ever-Virgin Mary.
And what words are there, appropriate to explain what transpired after the inexplicable birth? Whereof, the Word of God issuing from on high and begotten through Her in Her co-operating and co-willing, She also is glorified together with Him in the dignity with which He is exalted, conjoined in His great and wondrous majesty. But with the going up to Heaven of He Incarnate of Her, She in turn through what came to Her of Him, -- the excelling majesty of mind and word, as it were emulating Him with manifold deeds and prayers, and likewise solicitude for all the world, and the inspiring of preachers to all the ends of the earth. And all and everywhere She was the sole support and consoler, and in every way co-operating in the proclamation of the Gospel good-news, and clearly proving Herself in it with a life filled with struggle and mastery over mind and word. Whereof, certainly, Her life and death hath carried over into Heavenly and immortal life; and the remembrance of it is a joyous feast and universal solemnity. Into the hands of Her Son was taken the God-bearing spirit of the Ever-Virgin Mary; and indeed a short while afterwards, Her kindred body was translated by Him into the eternal Heavenly habitations. And all this was fully just and proper. In actual fact, many were vouchsafed over the ages the Divine condescension, glory and might, as David likewise sayeth: "For me exceedingly be esteemed Thine company, O God, and exceedingly assured be their dominion. I do look over them, and more than the sands be they numbered" (Ps. 138 : 17-18). "Many a daughter, -- according to Solomon, -- hath acquired riches, and many have wrought power" (Prov. 31: 29-30). And here is She -- the All-Pure Virgin Mary, and She is most exceedingly exalted over all and for all: She alone hath come betwixt God and the human race, She hath wrought God the Son of Man, and humankind She hath co-made the sons of God; She hath co-made Heaven of earth and wrought of God the race of man; She alone of all surpassing all nature is manifest the Mother of God by nature, and through the mysteried Birth-giving She hath become the Queen of everything both in the world and of transcendent creation. And in such manner being exalted over all subject to Her through Her Herself, and having Herself been made participant of utmost choosing through the Divine Spirit, She is become the highest of any of the most exalted and most-blest Queen of blessed lineage.
And now indeed She hath celestial proper habitation, as it were a palace most becoming Her, into which today She be translated from earth, to stand at the right side of the Almighty "adorned in golden robes, aglitter" (Ps. 44 : 9-10), as expressed of Her by the psalmodist prophet. Beneathe the gilded garb Her God-worthy body is aglitter with manifold virtues -- wherefore She alone with the Son in God-glorified body hath celestial habitation: for the earth, the grave and death have not power to hold on ultimately to the life-originative and God-receiving body more radiant than the heavens and of heaven the habitation of the heavens. And actually, if a soul having habitation (within it) of the grace of God, forsaking the mundane, it is borne up to heaven, as becometh clear from many an example, and we do believe this: therefore, how could there not be carried up from earth to heaven that body, not only having accepted within itself the Only-Begotten and Praeternal Son of God, the inexhaustible well-spring of grace, but moreover having begotten and manifest Him? How didst Thou, though dust subject to decay, Who being yet three years of age, and not yet having in Thyself the Prae-Celestial Indwelling, not yet having begotten the Incarnated One, -- how didst Thou come to take up habitation in the Holy of Holies? [Vide 21 November account of feast of Entry of the Virgin into the Temple.] Wherefore, it is in that the body, having by nature begotten, is co-glorified with the God-becoming glory (together) with He-Begotten, and it is co-resuscitated, as expressed in prophetic song, together with the three-day first-resurrected Christ, in being His "Ark of Holiness" (Ps. 131 : 8). There was, moreover, the evidence of Her resurrection from the dead for the Apostles -- the plaschanitsa and burial cloths, which alone remained in the grave and which alone were found in it by those having come to look things over: just precisely the way formerly it had transpired with Her Son and Lord. But here it was unnecessary that She should tarry a certain while upon the earth, as formerly had Her Son and God; and therefore, She was straightaway taken up from the grave into celestial habitation, from whence to shine with a resplendid radiance, illumining from thence all the earthly realm. And for all the faithful this is something worthy of veneration, worthy of praise and of song. Moreover, with what was said at the start, -- that She was diminished for a short time before the Angels (in the sense of tasting of death), -- this also should serve to the increase in everything in the majesty of the Mother of God. Wherefore also it be entirely proper that everything be united together and considered for the presentday solemnity.
And thus it is proper, that She containing the Fulfillment of all and the Existant before all should Herself achieve all and become foremost of all by Her virtues and utmost worthiness. And thus it is, that over all the ages it helped matters that all that all the best individual figures were the best, but that they possessed only the beneficences of God (each individually) whether angelic or human, -- but all this She doth combine within Herself, and She alone inexpressibly and supra-abundantly: finding immortality through mortality, and in the flesh finding heaven together with Her Son and God, and from that time thereof there is the abundant outpouring of supra-abundant grace for all those honouring Her. She moreover doth bestow the boldness to hasten unto Her, the vessel of so many a beneficence: generously doth She distribute blessings and for us doth never cease this useful bestowing and gracious help.
Seeing in Her the source and treasury of every blessing, whosoever declares, that the Virgin is made perfect by virtue and by living virtuously, is as one for whom there is the sensory light for the creatures living beneathe it -- which is the sun. But if he transfer his mental gaze to the Sun, eternally shining forth to mankind from This Virgin, -- if gazing towards this Sun, Which by nature and supra-abundance hath everything, which be granted Her by grace, then the Virgin therewith doth stand forth amidst the heavens. And this be so because of the deigning of God through all blessedness, that She hath attained to an inheritance, by far the most precious, moreso than any beneficence beneathe or beyond the skies, -- just as the sky is more vast than the sun, but the sun doth shine brighter than the sky.
What word is there to describe Thine God-seemly beauty, O Virgin Mother? It is impossible indeed to explain all about Thee in reasonings and words: so much doth it exceed both mind and word. But I mustneed sing Thine praises, if Thou permit out of love for mankind. For in as Thou -- art the fount of all gracious gifts and the fullness of all righteousness, the chosen and inspired image of every blessing and every good, as only alone worthy of the gifts of the Spirit, and particularly alone as having held in Thine womb He its treasure, and having co-wrought miraculous habitation for Him; and wherefore now, having passed through mortality into immortality, and rightly gone forth from earth to Heaven, into the Praeternal habitation, Thou art become co-residing in eternal time, and there (dwellest Thou), not forsaking care for Thine inheritance, but with incessant supplications to Him moving Him to mercy for all. How much closer to God of all those closest to God is the Mother of God, and how much the greatest hath She been vouchsafed, in comparison with all (meaning not only the earth-born, but all even of the Angelic holy ranks).
It was about the angelic chief-ranks that Isaiah earlier once wrote: "and the Seraphim do stand round about Him" (Is. 6: 2). But concerning Her [the Mother of God] on the other hand is David: "the Queen stood at Thy right side" (Ps. 44 : 9-10). Do you not see the variance of standing? And from this variance it is possible to discern also the variance of rank according to worthiness: since the Seraphim -- are but around God, while next right beside Him -- the One-Only Queen, Which be praised of and glorified by God Himself, announcing as it were concerning Her to His (Angelic) Powers that are round about and saying, as was said in the Song of Songs: "Thou art fair, My Dear" (Song 6: 4), a light most sparkling, a Divine paradise most sweet and of all the world both visible and invisible the most beautiful. And She in all due justice doth stand not only nearby, but at the right side: since that, where Christ is enthroned in the Heavens, She also there now doth stand, having gone up from earth to Heaven, -- not only that She did desire this, nor mutually most of all it was wanted thus in accord with some most essential laws, but rather, it was because She is His true Throne. This Throne saw also Isaiah amidst the choir of the Seraphim and he called it high and exalted (Is. 6: 1), thus indicating (by this) the exalting of the Mother of God over the Heavenly Powers. Wherefore the prophet also did present these angels as glorifying God of Her and proclaiming: the blessing of the Glory of the Lord from His place (Ezek. 3: 12). The Patriarch Jacob, contemplatively surmising this, cried out: "for awesome be this place: this be naught other than the house of God, and this the Heavenly gate" (Gen. 28: 17). And David again, in gathering together with the multitude of the saved, as though it were to avail himself of certain tonal strings or the consonant varied notes about Her the Ever-Virgin into one harmony from over the various generations, expresses it in psalmody concerning Her, saying: "I wilt remember Thy name from every generation unto generation: whereof people shalt confess Thee unto ages of ages forever" (Ps. 44 : 17-18).
Do ye not see, that the whole of creation doth glorify This the Virgin Mother, and not only over the course of some prescribed interval, but rather unto ages of ages forever? It is possible hence to deduce, moreover, that She ceaseth not through all the ages to be of benefit to all creatures. I speak not only about us as creatures, but also about the utmost incorporeal and supernatural hierarchies, since they together with us through Her alone become conjoined and contingent to God, the Intangible Existant. Isaiah pointed this out clearly: he saw, that the Seraphim did not directly take hold the offertory coal, but took hold of it by means of a tong, by which he touched it to the mouth of the prophet, bestowing cleansing (Is. 6: 6). This vision of the tongs was identical with that great sight which Moses did contemplate -- the bush amidst the flame not consumed (Ex. 3: 2). Who knows, is not this bush and these tongs the Virgin Mother, without burn receiving the Fire of Divinity, , such that there was the Archangel present at the Conception [during the Annunciation], by which through Her was adjoined to the human race the Burier of the sin of the world cleansing us through this inexplicable conjoining? And whereof She is the one only Mediatrix betwixt the created and uncreated nature; and no one can come to God save that they be lighted forth through Her as through a truly Godly-mete luminant, since that "God is amidst Her, and wilt not be stirred therefrom" (Ps. 45 : 5-6).
If recompense be in measure of love towards God, and the loving Son be beloved of by His Father, and there be manifest the abode of Both, mysteriedly abiding and dwelling in such as conform to the promise of the Lord (Jn. 14: 21), -- then who would love Him more than His Mother, for Whom be He the Only-Begotten, but also begotten virginally, so that for Her there be a twofold cause of love of Him co-united and conjoined (with Her)? And who more than His Mother would be beloved by the Only-Begotten, -- and moreover Begotten of Her inexplicably in the fullness of time while yet having been Begotten of the One Only Father in eternity, -- how could there not be increase in conformity in mete propriety and honour befitting Her under the law, from Him Who was come to fulfill the law?
And thus, since through Her alone was come unto us He that did "appear upon earth and live amongst mankind" (Baruch 3: 38), and before Her being unseen, such that in the time following He manifest Himself to all as the fount of Divine illumination, and the fulfilled revelation of the Divine mysteries, and the full embodiment of spiritual gifts, being moreover uncontained of all, save Her. She Herself, foremost amongst all the repository of the most exceedingly excellent plenitude of He That filleth all in all, Herself doth furnish to all of Him That containeth all, bestowing to each as is possible in accord and in proportion to the purity of each, since that She is both the repository and the Mediatrix of the riches of God.
If such be the eternal law in the heavens, that through the less there enter into communion those having great power amidst the great, then certainly the Virgin Mother doth possess farmost exceedingly incomparable influence. It is through Her that there be conjoined to God all, who otherwise would not be conjoined. And Her they do recognise as the repository of He That containeth all, which but know God, and would praise Her together with God all who but praise God. She Herself is the pardoner of all that went before Her, and intercessor of all that came after Her, and Mediatrix of eternal blessings. She -- is the reason of the prophesies of the prophets, the principal of the Apostles, the affirmation of the martyrs, the foundation of the teachers. She -- is the glory of the earth-born, the joy of the Heavens, and the praise of all creatures. She -- is the source, the fount and tap-root of inexpressible blessings; She -- is the supreme perfecting of all the holy.
O Virgin Divine and now Heavenly! How can I relate everything about Thee? How might I glorify Thee, Thou the Treasury of Glory? Through Thee is illumined the gaze of reason, through Thee is enlightened the spirit discerned of the Holy Spirit, in as Thou art rendered repository and vessel of Its gifts; yet not such which Thou wouldst affirm unto Thyself, but such as Thou wouldst fulfill all with the gifts of grace. For the Master of inexhaustible treasures foreordaineth them unto Thee for the bestowing; else why would He have wrought the blessings, and otherwise remain hidden and unbegotten? Wherefore, O Lady, grant abundantly to all Thy people and this Thine inheritance both Thy mercy and Thine gifts. Grant deliverance from the misfortunes afflicting us; behold, how much and how greatly we are oppressed from both without and within. By Thy might transform all for the best; bestow for our sufferings Thine help and healing, granting unto our souls and our bodies abundant grace for every need. And if we be not, make us worthy receptacles and as such vouchsafe that we, saved and strengthened by Thy grace, might glorify Him Incarnated of Thee for our sakes -- the Praeternal Word, together with His Father Without-Beginning and Life-Creating Spirit, both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. THE DORMITION [THE FALLING ASLEEP - THE ASSUMPTION] OF THE MOST-HOLY BIRTH-GIVER OF GOD
The Lord Who, on Mt. Sinai, commanded by His Fifth Commandment: "Honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12), showed by His own example how one should respect one's parent. Hanging on the Cross in agony, He remembered His mother and indicating to the Apostle John, said to her: "Woman behold your son" (St. John 19:26). After that, He said to John: "Behold your mother" (St. John 19:27). And so providing for His mother, He breathed His last. John had a home on Zion in Jerusalem in which the Theotokos settled and remained there to live out the end of her days on earth. By her prayers, gentle counsels, meekness and patience, she greatly assisted the apostles of her Son. Primarily, she spent her entire time in Jerusalem often visiting those places which 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 distant journeys, her visit to St. Ignatius the Theophorus [God-bearer] in Antioch is mentioned, as well as her visit to Lazarus (whom our Lord resurrected on the fourth day), the Bishop of Cyprus, her visit to the Holy Mountain [Athos] which she blessed and her stay 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 the Lord and her God on the Mount of Olives, the site of His Ascension, that He take her from this world as soon as possible. On one occasion, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and revealed to her that within three days she will find repose. The angel gave her a palm-branch to be carried at the time of her funeral procession. She returned to her home with great joy, desiring in her heart once more to see in this life, all of the apostles of Christ. The Lord fulfilled her wish and all of the apostles, borne by angels in the clouds, gathered at the same time at the home of John on Zion. With great rejoicing, she saw the holy apostles, encouraged them, counseled them and comforted them. Following that, she peacefully gave up her soul to God without any pain or physical illness. The apostles took the coffin with her body from which an aromatic fragrance emitted 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, they were concealed from the evil Jews by a cloud. Anthony, a Jewish priest, grabbed the coffin with his hands with the intention of overturning it but, at that moment, an angel of God severed both his hands. He then cried out to the apostles for help and was healed since 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 again be revealed. On the third day, Thomas arrived and desired to venerate [kiss] the body of the Holy All-pure one. But when the apostles opened the sepulchre, they found only the winding sheet and the body was not in the tomb. That evening, the Theotokos appeared to the apostles surrounded by a myriad of angels 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, to flow,
That, those who thirst, drink Christ -
We are all boastful of you!
So that the thirsty, drink Christ:
By Him, the bitter to be sweetened,
By Him, the blind to be washed
And by Him, the sorrowful, to heal their grief
We are all boastful of you!
Beverage, from eternity arrived,
The arid time, the brook filled,
And again, toward the heavens raised;
The world exhausted, became refreshed-
We are all boastful of you!
O All-pure One, glory to You,
O Mother of God, glory to You!
For us, to the Living Christ, You gave birth
The living water of grace -
We are all boastful of you!
Each one of the faithful can learn much, indeed very much, from the life of the Virgin Theotokos. However, I would like to mention here only two things. First, she had the habit to frequently on Golgotha, on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane, to go to Bethlehem and to other places famous because of her Son. At all of these places, especially Golgotha, she prayed on bended knees. By this, she gave the first example and incentive to the faithful to visit the holy places out of love toward Him Who, by His presence and by His passion and glory, made these places holy and significant. Second, we learn how she, in her prayer, prayed for a quick departure from this life that her soul, at the time of her separation from the body, not see the prince of darkness and his horrors, and hidden from the dark regions not encounter the power of Satan. Do you see how terrible it is for the soul to pass through the toll-gates [mitarstva]! When she, who gave birth to the Destroyer of Hades and, who herself has frightening power over demons prayed thusly, what then is left for us? Out of very great 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 for mercy at the time of the departure of the soul from the body.
To contemplate the wondrous proof by which Samuel confirmed his words before the people (1 Samuel 12 - 1 Kings 12):
1. How Samuel told the people it is evil before the Lord that they seek a king for themselves beside the Lord, the King;
2. How for the confirmation of his words, he called upon God to permit thunders and rain;
3. How the thunders and rain descended and how the people were frightened 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).
Upon whom of mortal man, in human history could all of these titles, all of this authority, 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 of the world: the Human and the Divine. "A Child is born," this signifies a purely 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. However, the remaining titles signify the divine nature of the Lord Jesus. His government is "upon His shoulder," i.e., the government is His. His own government and is not borrowed. "Mighty Counseller," 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 an amazement, all that is new which came 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 mind that the wonderful glory of Your majesty can enter into it and unlock our heart so that it would be filled by Your life-creating love.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.