August 23, 2020

Homily on the All-Revered Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos (Elder Philotheos Zervakos)

By Elder Philotheos Zervakos

When the Patriarch Jacob fled from his father's presence because of the threat posed to him by his brother Esau, he came to a deserted place around sunset, took a rock, put it under his head, and fell asleep. Then he saw a ladder resting on the earth, and its top reached to heaven, and the Angels of God ascended and descended on it, and the Lord supported it above. When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said: “How awesome this place is! This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:17).

That mystical ladder was a type and image of the noetic ladder, of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, whose revered Dormition we joyously celebrate.

After the transgression and disobedience of the first-formed, there was no communication between heaven and earth. When people died, they went to Hades. About five thousand years passed and there was no means for the earth to communicate with heaven, mankind with God. There was a wall. There was an unbreakable barrier. Finally, the medium was found that broke the partition, broke the barrier, lowered God from the heavens, raised mankind to heaven, united the earthly with the heavenly, and made it easy for people to pass and ascend from earth to heaven. You know all this, my beloved, you know who did it? The all-hymned Virgin we celebrate today!

Oh the greatness, greatness of the Virgin! Who will narrate, O Virgin, your greatness! If that heavenly archangel Gabriel, who served in this great mystery, was astonished out of admiration, how can we, the afflicted, materialistic and earthly, not come to wonder and ecstasy? But let us omit the height of the mystery, and let us turn to the question of salvation. In other words, how will we be saved and how will we be able to ascend to heaven through the noetic ladder of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Those who, my beloved brethren, wish to ascend from earth to heaven, to become citizens of the Jerusalem above, fellow citizens of the Angels and relatives of God, children of God and gods by grace, come and listen. Turn the ears of the soul and the body and pay attention to my words, I who am the least and the lowest. I speak to you with love and truth and with heartfelt emotion. I tell you with complete conviction that you will not find any other way, neither easier nor safer, to ascend to heaven than with this noetic ladder, the All Holy Virgin and Theotokos Mary.

Let no one hesitate. Let no one be afraid. Let no one doubt. And if one is burdened and heavy-laden by many and varied sins, let them be willing, let them have courage, let them not despair.

"But how and in what way is it possible to ascend from earth to heaven? Such a height! This is laborious, dangerous, fearful." I also admit that it is laborious and painful, but there is an easy means, the Virgin Panagia, the noetic ladder, through which we will ascend to the heavens.

Those of you who believe in God believe that there is a future judgment and retribution, and that "those who have done good will be resurrected to life, and the wicked will be resurrected to judgment" (John 5:29), and therefore live a virtuous life to be found worthy of the heavenly kingdom, do not forget, but always, in the stadium of this present life, invoke the Theotokos, because she through her mediation can bring you to the heavens.

Those of you who are sinners, reject your sins with sincere and pure repentance and confession, and invoke the Theotokos with all your soul, so that you may ascend to heaven. There is no other way to help you more than the Panagia. "There is much power in the prayers of a Mother to win the favor of the Master."

She is the cause of our salvation. She broke down the wall of enmity between us and God. She reconciled us to God and freed us from eternal damnation and caused us to be incorrupt. She is the bridge that leads to eternal life, the ladder that takes us to the heavens and the the ship that leads us to the still harbor of Paradise. She is the salvation of sinners and the sweetness of angels. The physician of the sick and the food of the hungry. The wealth of the afflicted and the staff of the blind. The protector of the wronged and the comfort of strangers.

What can I say? The Mother of God is everything to everyone and the mother of us Christians. All of us who are in sorrow, calamity and need, to her do we resort, and all of us who turn to her with faith receive our requests. "No one that hastens to you, goes away disheartened, O pure Virgin Mother of God."

But those who are unbelievers, those who are blasphemous and abusive of the Theotokos, not only do not receive their requests, but will also have an adversary in the Panagia, if they do not hasten to repent.

Let us hasten, beloved Christ-lovers, with repentance and confession to cleanse ourselves from all sin, before the time and moment of death comes. Let us always invoke the Panagia - elders, young people, women, children. Let us all have the name of the Panagia on our lips. In the morning when we get up, in the evening when we are going to rest, let the name of the Panagia, Jesus and His Saints not be missing from our lips. And when we are healthy and when we are sick and when we are in agony, let us breathe with the name of the Panagia and Jesus on our lips, to be glorified with them unto the ages. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.