On Sunday August 15, 2021, we Orthodox Christians will celebrate the Great Feast of the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Most Holy Mother of God. From August 1-14th, we have observed the Dormition Fast which precedes this Great Feastday dedicated to the Virgin Mary, through whom the mystery of the Incarnation took place.
According to Church tradition, the burial of the Most Holy Mother of God, took place in the village of Gethsemene, at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Just prior to her death, all the Apostles miraculously assembled from the corners of the earth to bid farewell to her, except the Apostle Thomas who, though beckoned did not arrive until the third day of her falling asleep.
According to our tradition, the Apostle Thomas arrived from India, and immediately went to her tomb on the third day, where he witnessed that it was empty having been “assumed” by God into the Heavenly kingdom of Christ in the fulness of her spiritual and bodily existence.
Just as he needed proof of Christ’s Resurrection by touching His wounds, so did he receive the precious belt of the Blessed Mother to show the other Apostles that her tomb was empty and that she indeed was resurrected from the dead.
This is the tradition which the hymnography of the Church sings, for the Church proclaims that Mary truly needed to be saved by Christ, as well as all human persons are saved from trials, sufferings and death of this world: and that having truly died, she was raised up by her Son as the Mother of Life and participates already in the eternal life of paradise which is prepared and promised to all who, “hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:27-28)
The services and hymns constantly repeat the main theme, that the Mother of Life, has “passed over into the Heavenly joy, into the divine gladness and unending delight of the Kingdom of her Son. (Vespers hymns)
In our theology, we Orthodox Christians believe that The Most Holy Theotokos intercedes for our salvation as the spiritual Mother of Christians. The elder Silouan of the Holy Mountain, whose relics, we have enshrined in our Church, wrote, “we cannot fathom the depth of the love of the Mother of God…The fuller the love, the fuller the knowledge of God, the more ardent the love, the more fervent the prayer.”
Silouan than tells of his own experience spiritual conversion through the soul- piercing love of the Theotokos while praying before her Icon. He says and concludes, “truly she is our advocate before God, and the very sound of her name gladden the soul. But all heaven and earth too rejoice in her love. (From the Wisdom of Mount Athos by the Elder Silouan)
On this Feast it is customary to bless flowers and herbage emblematic of Mary as the Mother of Life. So, as we have nurtured our gardens during this summer, let us bring and offer the beauty of God’s creation to His Loving Mother, the Most Holy Theotokos, sanctifying them with the blessed Holy Water in our Church, thereby sharing them with our families and friends.
Most Holy Theotokos Save Us!