Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Shunoyo Feast/ Assumption of St. Mary
Volume 6 No. 362 August 12, 2016
III. Articles on Shunoyo Feast

Dormition versus Assumption
The Dormition of the Theotokos is celebrated on August 15 (August 28, N.S. for those following the Julian Calendar), the same calendar day as the Roman Catholic Feast of the Assumption of Mary. The Dormition and the Assumption are different names for the same event, Mary's departure from the earth, although the beliefs are not necessarily identical.

The Orthodox Church specifically holds one of two Roman Catholic alternative beliefs, teaching that Mary died a natural death, like any human being; that her soul was received by Christ upon death; and that her body was resurrected on the third day after her repose, at which time she was taken up, bodily only, into heaven when the apostles, miraculously transported from the ends of the earth, found her tomb to be empty.

While some Roman Catholics agree with the Orthodox that this happened after Mary's death, others hold that she did not experience death and she was "assumed" into heaven in bodily form, just as her son Jesus ascended. However, Pope Pius XII alludes to the fact of her death at least five times, but left open the question of whether or not Mary actually underwent death in connection with her departure, in his Apostolic constitution, Munificentissimus Deus (1950), which dogmatically defined ex cathedra (i.e., infallibly) the Assumption.

On 25 June 1997, during a General Audience, Pope John Paul II affirmed that Mary did indeed experience natural death prior to her assumption into Heaven, stating:

It is true that in Revelation death is presented as a punishment for sin. However, the fact that the Church proclaims Mary free from original sin by a unique divine privilege does not lead to the conclusion that she also received physical immortality. The Mother is not superior to the Son who underwent death, giving it a new meaning and changing it into a means of salvation. Involved in Christ's redemptive work and associated in his saving sacrifice, Mary was able to share in his suffering and death for the sake of humanity's Redemption.

What Severus of Antioch says about Christ also applies to her: "Without a preliminary death, how could the Resurrection have taken place?" (Antijulianistica, Beirut 1931, 194f.). To share in Christ's Resurrection, Mary had first to share in his death. The New Testament provides no information on the circumstances of Mary's death. This silence leads one to suppose that it happened naturally, with no detail particularly worthy of mention. If this were not the case, how could the information about it have remained hidden from her contemporaries and not have been passed down to us in some way?

As to the cause of Mary's death, the opinions that wish to exclude her from death by natural causes seem groundless. It is more important to look for the Blessed Virgin's spiritual attitude at the moment of her departure from this world. In this regard, St Francis de Sales maintains that Mary's death was due to a transport of love. He speaks of a dying "in love, from love and through love", going so far as to say that the Mother of God died of love for her Son Jesus (Treatise on the Love of God, bk. 7, ch. XIII-XIV).

Whatever from the physical point of view was the organic, biological cause of the end of her bodily life, it can be said that for Mary the passage from this life to the next was the full development of grace in glory, so that no death can ever be so fittingly described as a "dormition" as hers."

Both views agree that she was taken up into heaven bodily. The specific belief of the Orthodox is expressed in their liturgical texts used of the feast of the Dormition.

The Eastern Catholic observance of the feast corresponds to that of their Orthodox counterparts, whether Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox.

The Dormition is known as the Death of the Virgin in Catholic art, where it is a reasonably common subject, mostly drawing on Byzantine models, until the end of the Middle Ages. The Death of the Virgin by Caravaggio, of 1606, is probably the last famous Western painting of the subject.

Source: wikipedia

A Homily on the Dormition of the Theotokos

By Rev. Fr. Matthew Baker

Today we celebrate a great and joyous solemnity: the falling asleep of the Mother of God in Jerusalem, and her bodily translation into glory.

"The Whole Mystery of the Economy"

The readings from Genesis, Ezekiel, and Proverbs – present us with a series of images, all with reference to the Theotokos. She is the ladder ascending from earth to heaven, beheld by the patriarch Jacob in a vision (Gen. 28:12). She is Bethel, God's house, and the gate of heaven (Gen. 28:17). She is the east gate of the Temple sanctuary, which remains shut – virginal: no man enters, "for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it," as Ezekiel prophesies (Ez. 44:2). She is wisdom, or the house of wisdom, of which king Solomon speaks (Prov. 9:1).

These readings– from Genesis, Ezekiel, and Proverbs – represent the 3 divisions of the Jewish Bible: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. Together, they comprise a "bouquet" representing the whole of what we call the Old Covenant. It is as if to say: Mary is the sum towards which the whole history of Israel was pointing all along. She is the daughter of Zion, the hinge of salvation history. In her is the beginning of the New Covenant.

In the words of St John of Damascus, "in the name Theotokos is contained the whole mystery of the economy." Economy – oikonomia, refers to God's ordering of his "household," his governance of creation and history according to his plan for our salvation and glorification. There is an order to God's plan, and a unity of meaning. This unity is revealed in the person of the Holy Virgin.

Mary's role in this economy, her identity as "Mother," does not end with giving birth or rearing her child. We see her not only at the Annunciation and the birth of Jesus, but also at his first miracle in Cana, at the foot of the Cross, and with the Church at Pentecost. As St John of Damascus said, "the whole mystery of the economy."

A Woman clothed with the Sun

At the end of his life, in exile on the island of Patmos, the Apostle John had a vision.

"A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head"
(Rev. 12:1).

Most commentators take this image from the book of Apocalypse to be referring to the Church, or the remnant Israel. Some, however, see here an image of Mary, especially as she is the daughter of Zion, and she typifies the Church. Some even see an image of her bodily assumption.

"A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun" (Rev. 12:1).

In the bodily "translation" of the Virgin, the Church recognizes a "great sign." A prophetic sign, that speaks to us of our destiny, of the meaning of death, of bodies, of human relations.

This sign tells us: death is not the final end of the human being. We are not lastly, as the philosopher Heidegger thought, only "being-unto-death." Finite time and death are not our ultimate horizon. The mother of Jesus was "translated unto life."

This sign tells us: a "heaven" of pure spirits is not our last estate. Christians are not Platonists! The body is not the soul's prison, a cocoon to be sloughed off for the "true self" to emerge like a butterfly. Plato was wrong: our true person, as God intended it, is not just soul, but also body. Salvation of the person means salvation of the body.

This sign tells us: through the resurrection of Jesus, each one of us will rise again in our body, restored, as we were also once conceived in our mother's womb: as male or female.

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun (Rev. 12:1).

Risen to glory, Mary is still Woman.

Certain ancient heretics, called Gnostics, believed that here was something to be overcome: in the kingdom of heaven, there would be no male and female, or perhaps women would become like men (Gospel of Thomas, logion 114). These Gnostics scorned marriage, and especially procreation. They sought liberation from the bonds of nature.

We still have our Gnostics today. Our Gnostics would like us to think of man and woman, mother and father, as interchangeable, shifting identities: not the Creator's good and lasting design, but inventions of society, or plastic self-constructions.

But today the Church holds out to us a different vision. It is a sign to our age, "a sign of contradiction" (Lk. 2:34). "You were translated to life, O Mother of Life." This sign says: risen to glory, Mary is still Mother. In the bodily glorification of Mary, we are given an image, a pre-installment, of the glory of the Kingdom which we hope to inherit. It is fully embodied glory, wherein the beauty of created difference is preserved. A glory in which natural bonds of love will not be dissolved. A glory in which each of us will remain mother or father, and son or daughter, to someone. And to everyone who, like the beloved disciple, has rested a head upon the Lord's bosom, or stood by his Cross in prayer, Christ will say: "Son, behold thy Mother" (Jn. 19:27).

There is no human person more exalted than the Virgin Mary, the Panagia. And there is no greater title for her in our theological glossary than "Mother." This should tell us something. This word, mother, extends far beyond physical childbearing. It names an all-encompassing human concern, a spiritual bond, a calling from God. This spiritual maternity, beyond blood offspring, is the gift and calling of every woman: married or unmarried; bearer of many, one or none. It is a gift, of which every one of us — all humanity — is the blessed beneficiary. This is the good gift of our Creator — not our fashioning. And as today's feast reminds us, it does not end in death.

Source: The Orthodox Christian Network

Assumption Homily

By Father Mark

Assumpta Est Maria

Mary has been taken up into heaven; the angels rejoice and, praising, bless the Lord! The Virgin in whose womb reposed the Author of Life is preserved from the corruption of the tomb. The Mother of God is assumed body and soul into the splendor of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Escorted by myriads of angels in jubilation, the Queen of Heaven advances toward her Son, who sits enthroned amid the stars.

Even Within the Veil

In a sense, the Assumption of the Mother of God is the liturgy of her Great Entrance; the feast of her oblation in the heavenly sanctuary, "the tabernacle, which the Lord hath pitched, and not man" (Heb 8:2). She is the Mother of Holy Hope. She is given to us to be our strongest comfort, to be the anchor of our souls, "sure and firm, and which entereth in even within the veil" (Heb 6:18-19).

Our Lady's Pascha

Today heaven and earth keep the summer festival of Marymas, Ladyday-in-the-Harvest, the Pascha of the all-holy Mother of God. She has passed into the great summer that, stretching from the springtime of the Resurrection until the return of the Lord in glory, presages the shining harvest of all the saints. The song of the angels soars, stretching, swelling, and cresting from choir to choir. The soul of the Virgin magnifies the Lord and her God-bearing flesh rejoices. (Lk 1:46)

The Temple and the Ark

"And the temple of God was opened in heaven: and the ark of His testament was seen in His temple" (Apoc 11:19). In the First Book of Chronicles, we see the Ark of the Covenant solemnly transported to the tent made ready by David to receive it. David is the figure of Christ of whom he sings in the psalm, "He hath set his tabernacle in the sun" (Ps 18:6).

That Where I Am, You Also May Be

The Virgin Mary is the Ark of the Covenant, carried aloft by heavenly Levites into the tent prepared for her by the King of Kings, the glorious Son of David, our Lord Jesus Christ. As she advances, angels raise sounds of joy on harps and lyres and cymbals and, in accord with the command of David, the appointed singers sing (1 Chr 15:16). Behold the wondrous fulfillment of what the Lord had promised:

"In my Father's house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be."
(Jn 14:2-3)

Arise, Make Haste

But listen! "The voice of my beloved, behold he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills" (Ct 2:8). In speaking to His Mother, Christ speaks to His Bride, the Church, and in speaking to His Bride the Church, He speaks to every soul washed in Baptism, sealed in Chrismation with the kiss of the Holy Ghost, and nourished at the banquet of His Body and Blood. "Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come" (Ct 2:10); for lo, the winter of our separation is past, the rain of so many tears is over and gone.

When I Appear Before His Sight

"I slept," says the Virgin of the Dormition, "I slept, but my heart kept watch." Ct 5:2). The heart of the Virgin is quickened and her flesh is suffused with fire. "Oh, how I rejoiced when I heard my Son say to me, 'Let us go up to the house of the Lord'" (cf. Ps 121:1). "One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after; that I may dwell in His Father's house all the days of my life, that I may see the delight of the Lord" (Ps 26:4), and "when I appear before His sight, I shall be satisfied with the appearing of His glory" (Ps 16:15).

Thy Voice is Sweet and Thy Face Comely

Listen to the words of the Son. "Arise my love, my fair one, and come away (Ct 2:13) for I desire that thou, my mother, first among those whom the Father hath given me, shouldst be with me where I am, to behold my glory, the glory given me by my Father in his love for me before the foundation of the world (cf. Jn 17:24). All of heaven longeth to see thy face, Mother, and the angels yearneth to hear thy voice, "for thy voice is sweet, and thy face is comely" (Ct 2:14).

The Woman Clothed with the Sun

We see the Queen of Heaven "coming up from the wilderness, like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense" (Ct 3:6). The prophet Isaiah sees her coming from afar, recognizes the Virgin of the Sign (Is 7:14), the Mother of Emmanuel, and stands to greet her. "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you . . . The Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you" (Is 60:1-2). She is the woman "clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Apoc 12:1).

Hidden with Christ in God

The Mother of God has put on the imperishable; she is clothed in immortality (1 Cor 15:54). The Apostle lifts his voice in praise of the God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:57). Mary, first of all, knows the fullness of Christ's glorious triumph in her flesh. Mary is the first-fruits of the harvest sown by Jesus in his blessed Passion and Death. Mary is the first to follow Him into the glory of his Resurrection and Ascension. Her life now is hidden with the life of Christ in God (Col 3:3), and when He who is our life appears, then she also will appear with him in glory (Col 3:4). Mary waits for her children to join her, the small and the great, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and his Bride has made herself ready (Apoc 19:7).

Mary Hath Chosen the Better Part

And so, led by kings and levites, by angels, prophets and apostles, we make our way to the Gospel of the Assumption so cherished by the ancient liturgical traditions of both East and West for the Dormition of the Virgin, for "Mary hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Lk 10:42).

The Virgin of Nazareth who surrendered her heart, her soul, and her flesh to the Word and the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost;
the Virgin of Bethlehem, joyful in her poverty;
the Virgin of Egypt, trusting in her exile;
the Virgin of Jerusalem, anguished and amazed by her child;
the Virgin of Cana, strong in her intercession;
the Virgin of Calvary, faithful in her compassion;
the Virgin of Holy Saturday, silent and indomitable in her hope;
the Virgin of the Cenacle, persevering in prayer;
the Virgin of the Mount of Olives, ardent in her desire,
has, at last, come to rest at the feet of her Son.

The One Thing Necessary

"And she had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to His teaching" (Lk 10:39). Behold our sister, Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, seated at the feet of our Lord! Behold our Mother, Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, in repose at the feet of her Son! She is seated at His feet in glory, higher than the seraphim and cherubim, exalted above all the angelic choirs, for to her is given the One Thing Necessary (Lk 10:42) in heaven and on earth. "Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee" (Ps 73:25).

A Mother Close to Her Children

Think not for a moment that the Assumption places a distance between us and the all-holy Mother of God. Quite the contrary. Her exaltation has made her closer to us than we can dream or imagine. The all-holy Virgin is mother, completely mother, and the desire of every mother is to be close to her children.

From her place of glory in heaven, she stoops down to us, attentive to our sufferings. Her compassion illumines this valley of tears. Her Assumption has not separated her from us. The Assumption is not a mystery of distance and separation but a mystery of nearness and of communion. Now set free from the limitations of space and of time, the holy Mother of God is capable of being present to all her children, to the little ones especially, to the broken-hearted, the weak, and the poor.

Mother of Mercy

Glorious in her Assumption, the Virgin Mother has but one desire: to do for each one of us what a loving mother would do for her child. Her weakness is for the poorest among us. Her predilection goes to those who stumble and fall rather than to those who walk straight and tall, to those who, bearing within themselves deep and secret wounds, are most in need of her attentions and care.

Let us lift up our eyes to the All-Holy Mother of God and Blessed Virgin Mary, praising and confessing the wonderful mystery of her Assumption. Today, dear brothers, she will hear all your requests, answering them according to the wisdom and love of her Immaculate Heart.

The Joys of Heaven

Today, she pierces all our darknesses with a ray of heavenly light. Her desire is to share with us the joys of heaven, the very joys that flood her body and her soul in the glory of her Son.

And for all of that, we need not wait. Already, here and now, we are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Apoc 19:9). Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory (Apoc 19:7) who with the Father lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Ghost, and who will come again, as he promised, to take us to Himself (Jn 14:3). "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Apoc 22:20).

Source: Vultus Christi

Hymn: Mary Crowned With Living Light

Mary crowned with living light,
temple of the Lord,
place of peace and holiness,
shelter of the Word.

Mystery of sinless life
in our fallen race,
free from shadow you reflect
plenitude of grace.

Virgin, mother of our God,
lift us when we fall,
who were named upon the cross
mother of us all.

Father, Son and Spirit blest,
heaven sings your praise;
Mary magnifes your name
through eternal days.

"Mary, crowned with living light"; Music: Gossner's Choralbuch, Leipzig, 1832; Text: Stanbrook Abbey; Sung by The Cistercian Nuns of St. Mary's Abbey Glencairn

Hymn: The Ark Which God Has Sanctified
The ark which God has sanctified,
Which He has filled with grace,
Within the temple of the Lord
Has found a resting-place.

More glorious than the seraphim,
This ark of love divine,
Corruption could not blemish her
Whom death could not confine.

God-bearing Mother, Virgin chaste,
Who shines in heaven's sight;
She wears a royal crown of stars
Who is the door of Light.

To Father, Son and Spirit blest
may we give endless praise
With Mary, who is Queen of heaven,
Through everlasting days.

(from Stanbrook Abbey Hymnal)

IV. Malankara World Shunoyo Supplement

Please visit Malankara World Shunoyo Supplement to learn more about St. Mary - nativity, life, death etc. You can find prayers of intercession, homilies, articles etc. too. You will find it here:

From Malankara World Journal Archives (Theme: Shunoyo Feast)

Malankara World Journal Issue 299 (August 14, 2015)

Malankara World Journal Issue 232 (August 15, 2014)

Malankara World Journal Issue 157 (August 13, 2013)

Malankara World Journal Issue 90 (August 14, 2012)

Malankara World Journal Issue 18 (August 12, 2011)


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