Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

The Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church,
celebrated on August 15. It is for this feast that we have been preparing through fasting since the
first day of the month. This feast, which is also sometimes called the Assumption, commemorates
the death, resurrection and glorification of Christ's mother. It proclaims that Mary has been
"assumed" by God into the heavenly
kingdom of Christ in the fullness of her
spiritual and bodily existence.
According to Orthodox Tradition, Mary died
like all humanity, "falling asleep," so to
speak, as the name of the feast indicates.
She died as all people die, not "voluntarily"
as her Son, but by the necessity of her
mortal human nature which is indivisibly
bound up with the corruption of this world.
The Holy Scriptures tell us that when our
Lord was dying on the Cross, He saw His
mother and His disciple John and said to the
Virgin Mary, "Woman, behold your son!"
and to John, "Behold your mother!" (John
19:25-27). From that hour, the Apostle took
care of the Theotokos in his own home.
Along with the biblical reference in Acts
1:14 that confirms that the Virgin Mary was
with the Holy Apostles on the day of
Pentecost, the tradition of the Church holds
that she remained in the home of the
Apostle John in Jerusalem, continuing a ministry in word and deed.
At the time of her death, the disciples of our Lord who were preaching throughout the world were
miraculously summoned to Jerusalem to see the Theotokos. Except for the Apostle Thomas, all of
them including the Apostle Paul were gathered together at her bedside. At the moment of her
death, Jesus Christ himself descended and carried her soul into heaven.

Following her repose, the body of the Theotokos was taken in procession and laid in a tomb near
the Garden of Gethsemane. When the Apostle Thomas arrived three days after her repose and
desired to see her body, the tomb was found to be empty. The bodily assumption of the Theotokos
was confirmed by the message of an angel and by her appearance to the Apostles.
As with the nativity of the Virgin and the feast of her entrance to the temple, there are no biblical
or historical sources for this feast. The Orthodox Church teaches that Mary is without personal sin,
also that Mary truly needed to be saved by Christ as all human persons are saved from the trials,
sufferings, and death of this world. She truly died and was raised up by her Son as the Mother of
Life and participates already in the eternal life of paradise. This life of paradise is prepared and
promised to all who "hear the word of God and keep it." (Luke 11:27-28)

                                                                   The Icon of the Feast

The Icon of the Feast of the Dormition
of the Theotokos shows her on her
deathbed surrounded by the Apostles.
Christ is standing in the centre looking
at His mother. He is holding a small
child clothed in white representing the
soul of the Virgin Mary. With His
golden garments, the angels above His
head, and the mandorla surrounding
Him, Christ is depicted in His divine

The posture of the Apostles direct
attention toward the Theotokos. On
the right Saint Peter censes the body
of the Theotokos. On the left Saint
Paul bows low in honour of her.
Together with the Apostles are
several bishops and women. The
bishops traditionally represented are
James, the brother of the Lord,
Timothy, Heirotheus, and Dionysius
the Areopagite. They are shown
wearing episcopal vestments. The
women are members of the church
in Jerusalem.
In front of the bed of the Theotokos
is a candle that helps to form a central axis in the icon.
                                                           Troparion of the Feast
In giving birth thou didst preserve thy virginity; in falling asleep thou
didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
Thou wast translated to life, O Mother of Life, and by your prayers
you deliver our souls from death.