August 15, 2022

On the Dormition of our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary (St. Theophan the Recluse)

By St. Theophan the Recluse

After the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross, His Most Pure Mother lived for about fifteen years in Jerusalem, in the house of the holy Apostle John the Theologian, to whom the Lord Himself entrusted her from the Cross. The time came for her to move on to the heavenly abode of her Son. When the Mother of God was praying on the Mount of Olives, the legend tells, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her, bringing a date branch, and announced her death would take place in three days.

The Most Pure One was overjoyed to hear such news, and began to prepare. By the day of her repose, by the command of God, there appeared miraculously in Jerusalem, except for the Apostle Thomas, all the apostles who had been scattered for preaching throughout the world. They were witnesses of Her peaceful, quiet, holy and blessed death. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in heavenly glory, surrounded by an innumerable multitude of angels and righteous spirits, appeared to receive the soul of His Most Pure Mother and with glory ascended her to heaven.

This is how the Most Holy Virgin Mary ended her earthly life! With lit lamps and the singing of psalms, the apostles carried the body of the Mother of God to Gethsemane, where her parents and Joseph were buried. The unbelieving high priests and scribes, struck by the grandeur of the funeral procession and embittered by the honors given to the Mother of God, sent servants and soldiers to disperse the mourners and burn the very body of the Mother of God. The excited people and soldiers rushed at the Christians with fury, but were stricken with blindness. At this time, the Jewish priest Athos passed by, who rushed to the tomb with the intention of throwing it to the ground; but as soon as he touched the bed with his hands, an angel cut off both his hands: their severed parts hung by the bed, and Athos himself fell to the ground with a cry.

The Apostle Peter stopped the procession and said to Athos: "Be assured that Christ is the true God." Athos immediately confessed Christ as the true Messiah. The Apostle Peter ordered Athos to turn to the Mother of God with fervent prayer and attach the remains of the hands to the parts hanging by the bed. By doing this, the hands grew together and healed, and only signs remained at the cut-off site. The blind people and the soldiers repentantly touched the bed and received sight not only of the body, but also of the soul, and all reverently joined the procession.

On the third day after the burial of the Mother of God, the Apostle Thomas, who was absent, by the will of God, arrived and wished to see Her coffin. At his request, the coffin was opened, but the body of the Mother of God was not found in it. In the evening of the same day, during their meal, the apostles saw in the air the Most Holy Virgin in heaven, alive, with many angels. The Mother of God, standing and radiant with indescribable glory, said to the apostles: “Rejoice! I am always with you"; the apostles exclaimed: "Most Holy Theotokos, help us." This appearance of the Mother of God completely convinced the apostles, and through them the whole Church, of Her resurrection. In imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who often visited the places that her Son and God sanctified with His most pure feet, a custom arose among Christians to visit holy places.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.  

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