My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only Lord, God, and Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
“In Thee All Creation Rejoices, O Thou Who Art Full of Grace.”
You are the sweetness of Angels,
The gladness of the afflicted ones,
A protection of all Christians,
O Virgin Mother of our Lord;
Grant me now help and save me
From eternal torments.
I have you as Mediator
Before God Who loves mankind;
May He not question my action
Before the hosts of Angels,
I ask of you, O Virgin,
Hasten now quickly to my aid.
You are a Tower adorned with gold,
A city surrounded by twelve walls,
A shining Throne touched by the sun,
A Royal Seat for the King,
O unexplainable Wonder
How do you nurse the Master?
Saint John Maximovitch writes, “No persecution against those who Venerate the Mother of God and all that is bound up with the memory of Her could lessen the love of Christians for their Intercessor. The rule was established that every series of hymns in the Divine services should end with a hymn or verse in honor of the Mother of God (the so-called “THEOTOKIA”). Many times, in the year Christians in all corners of the world gather in church, as before they gathered together, to praise Her, to thank Her for the benefactions She has shown, and to beg mercy.
But could the adversary of Christins, the devil, who “goeth about roaring like a lion, seeking whom he may devour” [1 Peter 5:8), remain an indifferent spectator to the glory of the Immaculate One? Could he acknowledge himself as defeated, and cease to wage warfare against the Truth through men who do his will? And so, when all the universe resounded with the Good News of the Faith of Christ, when everywhere the name of the Most Holy One was invoked, when the earth was filled with churches, when the houses of Christians were adorned with holy Icons depicting Her–then there appeared and began to spread a new false teaching about the Mother of God. This false teaching is dangerous in that many cannot immediately understand to what degree it undermines the True Veneration of the Mother of God.”
The Garden of Gethsemane, 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 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. Her sacred relics were interred with the greatest honor, while chanting and weeping took place. When the holy Apostles stepped before her bier to bid 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 (The All-Holy) then asked her Son if she could visit Hades to see where He Himself had gone to deliver the Forefathers. The radiant Angels escorted the soul of the Theotokos to this region. Saint John of Damascus makes mention of this in a hymn from the Office of Orthros (Matins) during the feast, chanting, “A strange wonder it ws to see the living heaven of the Ruler of all discend into the hollows of the earth.” Elsewhere, we hear, “Rejoice, O thou who didst trample upon the all-destructive Hades! Rejoice, thou who didst open the gates of Paradise to the Christian race who ever blesses thee!”
Icons of the Feast of the Dormition
Icons of the Feast of the Dormition (Koimisis) depict Christ in glory, surrounded by A MANDORLA, looking at the body of His Mother stretched on a litter, which is a richly draped bier. The Virgini is clad in her red and blue garments. We see Christ holding, in His arms, a small figure of a child clothed in white and crowned with a halo; it is the all-luminous soul of Mary, represented as a newborn infant, that He has just taken to Himself.
By the end of the eleventh century, the dormition scene had begun to appear in representations of the Orthodox Church cycle of feasts, which adorn the walls and vaults of Byzantine churches. Some of the earliest wall paintings of this feast may be seen above the entrance of the Monastery of Daphne and the Perivlepto of Mystra, which date from the fourteen century. As in so much of Christian art, the iconography of the dormition is based upon literary sources, of which the most important is the Greek apocryphal text of the fourth or fifth century, entitled, “The Discourse of Saint John the Theologian Concerning the Dormition (Keemeesis) of the Holy Mother of God.”
“In the falling asleep, death was without corruption.”
It must be remembered that it is NOT the assumption that the Holy Orthodox Church observes on the 15th of August, but THE FEAST OF THE DORMITION (KEEMEESIS OR KOIMISIS) OR “FALLING ALSEEP” OF the Holy Virgin. This Most Sacred (feast marks the falling asleep of the Mother of God, which was followed by the TRANSLATION (METASTASIS) OF HER SACRED BODY THREE DAYS LATER INTO HEAVEN. This feast, therefore, marks her soul being commended into her Son’s hands and the short sojourn of her body in the tomb. Death IS NOT THE ANNIHILATION OF OUR EXISTENCE, BUT A PASSAGE FROM EARTH TO HEAVEN.
The Theotokos is Bodily Translated on the Third Day
The holy Apostle Thomas
While Thomas was enlightening the lands of India by preching the Gospel, the honored dormition of the Mother of God took place. All the holy Apostles had been caught up from various lands on the clouds of heaven, and were transported to Gethsemane, to the bier of the All-Blessed Virgin. By God’s special arrangement, Thomas was not brought there. This was permitted by the will of God, that the faithful might be assured that the Mother of God WAS BODILY TRANSLATED INTO THE HEAVENS. For just as they were more greatly assured of the Resurrection of Christ THROUGH THE DISBELIEF OF THOMAS, Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, through the delay of Thomas.
On the third day after the burial, Thomas was suddenly caught up in a cloud in India. He was transported to a place in the air above the tomb of the Virgin. From that vantage point, HE BEHELD THE TRANSLATION (METASTASIS) OF HER BODY INTO THE HEAVENS, AND CRIED OUT TO HER, “Whither goest thou, O All-Holy One?” And, REMOVING HER CINCTURE, SHE GAVE IT TO THOMAS, SAYING, “RECEIVE THIS, MY FRIEND,” And then she was gone.
Thereafter, he descended to find the other Disciples keeping watch over the sepulcher of the Theotokos. He sad down beside them, with the cincture in his hand, greatly saddened that he had not been there when she reposed, as had been the other Apostles. Hence, he said, “We are all Disciples of the Master. We all preach the same thing. We are all servants of one Lord, Jesus Christ. How, then, is it that you were counted worthy to behold the repose of His Mother, and I was not? Am I not an Apostle? Can it be that God is not pleased with my preaching? I beseech you, my fellow disciples, Open the tomb, that I also may look upon her remains, and embrace them, and bid her farewell!”
Taking pity on him, the Apostles then did as Thomas requested and opened the tomb that he might at least behold and venerate the sacred relics. The holy Apostles then rolled away the stone and opened the tomb. All were aghast when they discovered that her remains had vanished, not realizing that just moments before she had been bodily transported to Paradise. All that remained were the burial clothes, which emitted a wonderful grangrance. Thus they stood in amazement and then each of them kissed the burial clothes which were lying in the tomb. They then prayed to the Lord that He would reveal to them where the body of the Theotokos had been transported.
The cincture of the Virgin
Now let us speak about the significance of the keepsake that the Theotokos entrusted with the Apostle Thomas. In biblical times, the cincture or girdle was made of leather or cloth. It is significant that the Virgin left her cloth cincture to the Apostle Thomas and, subsequently, to the Church. The girdle, placed around the middle of the loins, wherein is the set of desire, signifies THE MORTIFICATION OF CARNAL DESIRES. We know that the immaculate Virgin Mary subdued the passions/ We chant during the service of the Deposition of the Cincture of the Theotokos (Commemorated on the 31st of August) “that thy cincture as the garment of thy virginity and bridehood, is truly shown to be a most honorable wedding chamber, O Theotokos.” Saint Joseph the Hymnographer (812-886) understood that the precious relic of the Virgin’s cincture. or belt WAS LEFT TO US SO AS A SURETY OF HER MEDIATION AND ASSISTANCE TO ORTHODOX STRUGGLERS FOR PURITY AND CHASTITY.
“Rejoice, O joyful one, who in thy dormition has not forsaken us!”
Together then with Saint Theophanes the Poet, let us chant, “Forget not, O Lady, thy ties of kinship with those who
commemorate in faith the Feast of thine All-Holy Dormition.”
“All the company of the saints exclaimed at her ascension, “Thou hast fulfilled our predictions. Thou hast purchased our present joy for us. Through thee we have broken the chains of death. Come to us, divine and Life-Giving Receptacle. Come, our desire, thou who hast gained us our Desire.” (Saint John of Damascus, “Sermon 2, on the Dormition of the Virgin”)
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Divine and Glorious Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God