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August 17, 2022

Homily Three on the Dormition of the Theotokos (Archimandrite George Kapsanis)

By Archimandrite George Kapsanis

(Delivered in 1985 at Gregoriou Monastery on Mount Athos)

My fathers and brothers, throughout the holy vigil, and with the discourses of praise and with the sacred encomiums, our holy Church extols and praises and glorifies the Ever-Virgin Theotokos, and indeed today on her revered Dormition.

She ascended very high, higher than all men and Angels.

So it was said in the discourse of Saint Gregory Palamas that we read.

Of all the rational beings of God, the Panagia ascended higher and closer to God.

Why did she rise so high? Because she stooped so low.

If she had not descended in blessed humility and perfect obedience to the holy will of God, lower than all men on earth, she would not have risen higher than all.

This is the secret of the ascent of our Panagia, which presupposes her descent.

She said it herself in her hymn: "He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly."

And because she descended so much and ascended so much, the All-Good God found her worthy her to fulfill the greatest mission, which no one has ever fulfilled on earth; to become the Mother of the Redeemer and to be the one through whom, as the Sacred Hymns of the Church conclude for us, the great mercy of God comes to the world.

Did you notice them yesterday at Vespers? They said: "through you the great mercy".

The great mercy of the Holy Trinity - by which the world lives, the world exists, the world is sustained, and without which not even we could exist, comes to humanity, to believers and unbelievers, because both unbelievers and non-Christians live by the great mercy of God, because "His sun rises on the wicked and the good and rains on the just and the unjust" - this great mercy comes to the world through the Most Holy Theotokos, and especially to the Church and to the faithful and devout Christians.

Therefore, how can we express our gratitude to our Panagia for all that she has offered us?

We have been suffering here on Mount Athos for a few months from a lack of water and we came to think about what to do, because the water was dangerously low, and we did a litany a few days ago and we had our hope that the Superintendent of this sacred place, the Lady Theotokos, would not overlook our unworthy prayers.

It could have rained at that time. But it didn't rain.

When we were returning from the litany, I had a certainty in my soul, that the Panagia cannot help but listen to her children.

I said to the Deacon who was next to me: "It will rain in a few days." I had such a certainty in my soul.

Not because we are worthy to be heard by the Panagia or have offered our prayer and supplication with due faith, but because the Panagia loves us, because she is our mother, of all Christians, and in a special way the mother of those who have abandoned their mothers for the love of her Only Begotten Son, i.e. the monastics.

And so the miracle of the Panagia happened.

She waited today for it to rain, to show us, that indeed the rain which falls on her commemoration is her own blessing and her own gift.

But what happened today and makes our soul happy, is also about what happened with our salvation.

The world was an arid land before the coming of the God-man.

People's souls were dried up. Great drought, spiritual famine, spiritual deaths, all in one dryness, in one despair.

And the world waited for a heavenly rain to come to water the souls that were "in a desolate and uninhabited and waterless land". And the heavenly rain came.

But this heavenly rain, the God-man Christ, who came and watered our souls, was brought by the Heavenly Cloud, the Ombrophoros Cloud and the Ombrotokos Cloud, according to the holy Fathers of the Church.

Ombrophoros Cloud, which bears rain, and Ombrotokos Cloud, which gives birth to rain.

And this Ombrophoros and Ombrotokos Cloud our Panagia was a "Swift Cloud", according to the prophet Isaiah, light and beautiful.

Not a rapid cloud, that will bring a storm and drown the world, as it drowned in the time of the flood, but a cloud that will bring gladness to our hearts, bring comfort, bring the God of peace, bringing gentle and efficient rain.

This Ombrophoros Cloud is the Lady Theotokos and this Ombrophoros and Ombrotokos Cloud was buried by the holy Apostles, who had been lifted up in clouds and came to the holy Zion, to bury the Most Holy Body of the Most Holy Theotokos.

And we, together with them, venerate the all-revered Body of our Panagia and we beg and ask for her blessing and her grace. And because we learned and were taught both by her and by her Only Begotten Son that, only if we descend in humility and extreme obedience, then we will ascend, and because we know how difficult it is to descend in order to ascend, we beseech her today with humimility to help us to cut off our sick and selfish will, which is the main obstacle to our elevation to God.

To acquire the true, heartfelt, undiscerning obedience, without which blessed humility does not come. And so let us also have a portion and a lot with her.

For the Schema will not save us, the outward performance of the formulas of worship will not save us, the vigils and psalms will not save us, if behind all this there is not deep humility, a broken heart, submission to the will of God and to our spiritual father.

These things, fathers, let us ask today of our Panagia and let us be sure that she will give them to us, because she is invisibly and secretly preeminent in our celebration, she also has her ears especially open and listens to our pious desires and sacred expectations and supplications.

We thank her, we venerate her and we ask her to mediate to her Only Begotten Son.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.