Malankara World Journal Shunoyo - Assumption of St. Mary - Special Edition
Volume 3 No. 157 August 13, 2013
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Hymn: Dhanye - Mathave 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. Find it here:
Malankara World Shunoyo Supplement to learn more about St. Mary -
nativity, life, death etc. You can find prayers of intercession, homilies, articles etc. too. Find it here:
Shunoyo (Dormition) of the Theotokos is an important feast of our church. The word 'Dormition' means 'falling asleep'. It is an idiom for a believer's death. The feast is celebrated on August 15. This feast is called the Assumption in the western churches. The feast commemorates the death, and glorification of the Virgin Mary, Christ's mother.
In some Eastern Orthodox Churches, Shunoyo represent the end of the church Calendar year. In that case, the church calendar year begins with the Nativity of St. Mary on September 8. In Syrian Orthodox Tradition, the church Calendar year starts on Koodosh Eetho (Sanctification of the Church) in November. (This year it falls on November 3.)
Catholic Church has extended the dogma regarding St. Mary by making her sinless with immaculate conception and her assumption into heaven bodily (without physical death). Our church does not subscribe to the immaculate conception dogma; we believe that the only sinless person was Jesus Christ. When St. Mary said "yes" to the annunciation message of the angel, God cleansed her womb so that the word can enter and assume flesh without tainted by sin. In case of assumption, our church, as our Holy Father Patriarchese Bava stated in the Featured Article in this journal, teaches that her soul and body separated at her death. But the body was taken to heaven soon after burial. St. Thomas, returning from India, saw the procession and received St. Mary's belt. The Eastern Orthodox view of Dormition of Theotokos is also given in an article in this issue.
In spite of this disagreement on the dogmas, both Orthodox and Catholic churches give St. Mary the highest honor meted out to anyone (except for the Trinity). In fact, we regard St. Mary so highly that on the annunciation feast day (on March 25), there has to be a mandatory Qurbana (Eucharist) - even if it happens to fall on Good Friday as it happened a few years ago.
Why does St. Mary occupies such a high place in our church (as well as in Catholic Church)?
An Orthodox Hymn of the Dormition proclaims:
In giving birth You kept Your virginity.
An excerpt from a Catholic publication expands this further:
Pope John Paul II, acknowledged to be the most passionate follower of St. Mary in recent times, explained it thus:
Hymns such as the following (as well as those included in this Journal below) extols the virtues of St. Mary:
Mary the Dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;
[Source: Mary the Dawn; Medieval English text; Gregorian Tone 4,
Intercessional prayers to St. Mary are abundant:
In many of our churches, there is a special intercession to St. Mary offered after the first Kukilion (Prayer with Incense).
Visit Manarcad St. Mary's Church, the Global Marian Pilgrimage center, between September 1-8, and you can learn first-hand the respect given to St. Mary in our church (as well as by those of other religions too!) It is simply awe-inspiring!
Oh ... Morth Mariam Yoldath Aloho (Mother of God) Pray for us.
Dr. Jacob Mathew
Shunoyo (Assumption of St. Mary)
Shunoyo/The Assumption of St. Mary (August 15)
Saint Gregory of Tour provided a rationale for the tradition, which is related to her having been preserved from original sin. He said that it is inconceivable to think Mary's sinless body, likened to the Ark of the Covenant which was made of incorruptible wood, should decay in the grave. The text, 'Rise thou and the ark of thy strength' (Ps 132/1:8) was understood to mean that it was God's will that, as Christ had ascended, so too Mary would be received into heaven.
There is an important difference, of course, between the ascension of Jesus into Heaven after His Resurrection, and the assumption of Mary. To ascend is to rise up under one's own power; while to be assumed means something that is done to one. Jesus, being the Second Person of the Trinity, had no need of assistance; whereas Mary did not have this power. (A pastor once demonstrated this difference in an unusual way. He asked two children to come to the front of the church. He told one child to walk from one side of the sanctuary to the other; and the other child he carried across.)
According to one tradition, Mary was warned of her approaching end by Saint Michael the Archangel, who conducts souls to Heaven, and was surrounded on her death-bed by the apostles, who were miraculously transported to her bedside from their various mission-fields. It was said that Jesus appeared, bore away her soul, and returned three days after her burial, when angels carried her body to Paradise where it was reunited with her soul under the Tree of Life.
The Holy Virgin Mary in the Syrian Orthodox Church
by His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
The Virgin's Assumption
The virgin longed to ascend to heaven to join her son Jesus. Her dormition was
in peace. The date of her death and how old she was have always been a
controversial issue among historians. Most probably that was in AD 56 when she
was seventy. Her Assumption in the flesh and soul was not instituted by the
Syrian Church as a doctrine. The Virgin's Assumption is a confessional patristic
tradition based on the Syriac narrative of Apostle Thomas. In this narrative we
read about the gathering of the Apostles in spirit in Jerusalem for the
Dormition of the Virgin Mary, and about the late arrival of Tom, his encounter
with the Virgin up in the sky on the way up to heaven, and his acquisition of
her girdle, which he brought to the Apostles and his request to them to reopen
her grave. When the Apostles did that they did not find her holy body. Thomas
declared to them the truth of her ascension to heaven in her glorified flesh and
that he witnessed her procession and received the girdle from her in testimony
whereof. The Apostles believed him. Syriac tradition reports that Thomas took
the girdle with him to India where he was martyred at the hands of pagan
priests. When Thomas' relics were taken to Edessa in the fourth century the
girdle was brought with them. Finally the girdle reached the Church of the
Virgin in Homs, which has been called the Church of the Virgin's Girdle ever
since. The girdle was discovered in 1852 during the time of Archbishop Mar
Julius Peter (Later Patriarch Mar Ignatius Peter 4th.). The girdle was placed in
the altar. Late Patriarch Ephrem I Barsoum, of blessed memory, rediscovered the
girdle in 1953. The shrine of the girdle in the church in Homs has become a
source of blessing for the faithful.
The Possibility of the Virgin's Ascension to Heaven
According to tradition, the virgin ascended to heaven. The question posed is:
was paradise the abode of her soul just like all the righteous and pious? Or
did she ascend to heaven soul and body? Her ascension to heaven in her glorified
flesh is not something irrelevant to the Spirit of the Holy Book nor to the
tolerant Christian confessional truths. If "Enoch walked with God and he was
not, for God took him" (Gen. 5:24) and Elijah, the prophet ascended to heaven in
a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11) wouldn't the Virgin Mary, who bore the Lord
nine months in her womb, gave birth to him and suckled him, rather be considered
as worthy to have her body kept without corruption and to have it transformed
into a spiritual one; and to ascend to heaven in soul and flesh to enjoy being
with her beloved son Lord Jesus Christ? St. Jacob of Serugh, the doctor (521+)
said in his Memoire in Syriac on the death of the Virgin Mary, "When the virgin was
on her death bed, Angels, the righteous, prophets and fathers descended on her
from high upon the order of God. The twelve Apostles and Evangelists came…they
buried her in a rocky cave. Glory prevailed in heaven and on earth when the
angels beheld her soul ascending and flying towards abodes of lights". The book
ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagyte, the bishop of Athens (+95) relates that "
upon the dormition of Mary, all the Apostles gathered together so quickly coming
from the Four Corners of Earth, where they were preaching the word. They arrived
in Jerusalem, the Residence City of blessed Mary, and then Jesus came with His
angels. Jesus received her soul and handed it to Michael, the Archangel.
On the next day the Apostles laid the body in a grave and guarded the grave
waiting for the appearance of the Lord. Jesus appeared once more and transferred
her holy body to heaven on a cloud. Up there, her body was united to her soul to
enjoy her everlasting joy."
The virgin longed to ascend to heaven to join her son Jesus. Her dormition was in peace. The date of her death and how old she was have always been a controversial issue among historians. Most probably that was in AD 56 when she was seventy. Her Assumption in the flesh and soul was not instituted by the Syrian Church as a doctrine. The Virgin's Assumption is a confessional patristic tradition based on the Syriac narrative of Apostle Thomas. In this narrative we read about the gathering of the Apostles in spirit in Jerusalem for the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, and about the late arrival of Tom, his encounter with the Virgin up in the sky on the way up to heaven, and his acquisition of her girdle, which he brought to the Apostles and his request to them to reopen her grave. When the Apostles did that they did not find her holy body. Thomas declared to them the truth of her ascension to heaven in her glorified flesh and that he witnessed her procession and received the girdle from her in testimony whereof. The Apostles believed him. Syriac tradition reports that Thomas took the girdle with him to India where he was martyred at the hands of pagan priests. When Thomas' relics were taken to Edessa in the fourth century the girdle was brought with them. Finally the girdle reached the Church of the Virgin in Homs, which has been called the Church of the Virgin's Girdle ever since. The girdle was discovered in 1852 during the time of Archbishop Mar Julius Peter (Later Patriarch Mar Ignatius Peter 4th.). The girdle was placed in the altar. Late Patriarch Ephrem I Barsoum, of blessed memory, rediscovered the girdle in 1953. The shrine of the girdle in the church in Homs has become a source of blessing for the faithful.
The Possibility of the Virgin's Ascension to Heaven
According to tradition, the virgin ascended to heaven. The question posed is: was paradise the abode of her soul just like all the righteous and pious? Or did she ascend to heaven soul and body? Her ascension to heaven in her glorified flesh is not something irrelevant to the Spirit of the Holy Book nor to the tolerant Christian confessional truths. If "Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him" (Gen. 5:24) and Elijah, the prophet ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11) wouldn't the Virgin Mary, who bore the Lord nine months in her womb, gave birth to him and suckled him, rather be considered as worthy to have her body kept without corruption and to have it transformed into a spiritual one; and to ascend to heaven in soul and flesh to enjoy being with her beloved son Lord Jesus Christ? St. Jacob of Serugh, the doctor (521+) said in his Memoire in Syriac on the death of the Virgin Mary, "When the virgin was on her death bed, Angels, the righteous, prophets and fathers descended on her from high upon the order of God. The twelve Apostles and Evangelists came…they buried her in a rocky cave. Glory prevailed in heaven and on earth when the angels beheld her soul ascending and flying towards abodes of lights". The book ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagyte, the bishop of Athens (+95) relates that " upon the dormition of Mary, all the Apostles gathered together so quickly coming from the Four Corners of Earth, where they were preaching the word. They arrived in Jerusalem, the Residence City of blessed Mary, and then Jesus came with His angels. Jesus received her soul and handed it to Michael, the Archangel.
On the next day the Apostles laid the body in a grave and guarded the grave waiting for the appearance of the Lord. Jesus appeared once more and transferred her holy body to heaven on a cloud. Up there, her body was united to her soul to enjoy her everlasting joy."
Excerpted from: 'The Holy Virgin Mary in the Syrian Orthodox Church' by His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas.
You can read the entire book in
In that time before the Lord came to His passion, and among many words which the mother asked of the Son, she began to ask Him about her own departure, addressing Him as follows:
Then He received the prayer of His beloved mother, and said to her:
Then she joyed and gloried, and kissed the knees of her Son, and blessed the Creator of heaven and earth, who gave her such a gift through Jesus Christ her Son.
In the second year, therefore, after the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, the most blessed Virgin Mary continued always in prayer day and night. And on the third day before she passed away, an angel of the Lord came to her, and saluted her, saying: "Hail, Mary, full of grace! the Lord be with thee."
And she answered, saying: "Thanks to God."
Again he said to her: "Receive this palm which the Lord promised to thee."
And she, giving thanks to God, with great joy received from the hand of the angel the palm sent to her.
The angel of the Lord said to her: "Thy assumption will be after three days."
And she answered: "Thanks to God."
Then she called Joseph of the city of Arimathea, and the other disciples of the Lord; and when they, both relations and acquaintances, were assembled, she announced her departure to all standing there. Then the blessed Mary washed herself, and dressed herself like a queen, and waited the advent of her Son, as He had promised to her. And she asked all her relations to keep beside her, and give her comfort. And she had along with her three virgins, Sepphora, Abigea, and Zael; but the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ had been already dispersed throughout the whole world to preach to the people of God.
Then at the third hour there were great thunders, and rains, and lightning, and tribulation, and an earthquake, while queen Mary was standing in her chamber. John, the evangelist and apostle, was suddenly brought from Ephesus, and entered the chamber of the blessed Mary, and saluted her, and said to her: "Hail, Mary, full of grace! the Lord be with thee." And she answered: "Thanks to God." And raising herself up, she kissed Saint John. And the blessed Mary said to him: "O my dearest son, why hast thou left me at such a time, and hast not paid heed to the commands of thy Master, to take care of me, as He commanded thee while He was hanging on the cross?" And he asked pardon with bended knee. Then the blessed Mary gave him her benediction, and again kissed him.
And when she meant to ask him whence he came, and for what reason he had come to Jerusalem, behold, all the disciples of the Lord, except Thomas who is called Didymus, were brought by a cloud to the door of the chamber of the blessed Mary. They stood and went in, and saluted the queen with the following words, and adored her: "Hail, Mary, full of grace! the Lord be with thee." And she eagerly rose quickly, and bowed herself, and kissed them, and gave thanks to God.
These are the names of the disciples of the Lord who were brought thither in the cloud: John the evangelist and James his brother, Peter and Paul, Andrew, Philip, Luke, Barnabas, Bartholomew and Matthew, Matthias who is called Justus, Simon the Chananaean, Judas and his brother, Nicodemus and Maximianus, and many others who cannot be numbered.
Then the blessed Mary said to her brethren: "What is this, that you have all come to Jerusalem?"
Peter, answering, said to her: "We had need to ask this of thee, and dost thou question us? Certainly, as I think, none of us knows why we have come here to-day with such rapidity. I was at Antioch, and now I am here."
All declared plainly the place where they had been that day. And they all wondered that they were there when they heard these things.
The blessed Mary said to them: "I asked my Son, before He endured the passion, that He and you should be at my death; and He granted me this gift. Whence you may know that my departure will be tomorrow. Watch and pray with me, that when the Lord comes to receive my soul, He may find you watching."
Then all promised that they would watch. And they watched and prayed the whole night, with psalms and chants, with great illuminations.
And when the Lord's day came, at the third hour, just as the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in a cloud, so Christ descended with a multitude of angels, and received the soul of His beloved mother. For there was such splendor and perfume of sweetness, and angels singing the songs of songs, where the Lord says, 'As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters,' that all who were there present fell on their faces, as the apostles fell when Christ transfigured Himself before them on Mount Tabor, and for a whole hour and a half no one was able to rise.
But when the light went away, and at the same time with the light itself, the soul of the blessed virgin Mary was taken up into heaven with psalms, and hymns, and songs of songs. And as the cloud went up the whole earth shook, and in one moment all the inhabitants of Jerusalem openly saw the departure of St. Mary.
And that same hour Satan entered into them, and they began to consider what they were to do with her body. And they took up weapons, that they might burn her body and kill the apostles, because from her had gone forth the dispersions of Israel, on account of their sins and the gathering together of the Gentiles. But they were struck with blindness, striking their heads against the walls, and striking each other.
Then the apostles, alarmed by so much brightness, arose, and with psalms carried the holy body down from Mount Zion to the valley of Jehoshaphat. But as they were going in the middle of the road, behold, a certain Jew, Reuben by name, wishing to throw to the ground the holy bier with the body of the blessed Mary. But his hands dried up, even to the elbow; whether he would or not, he went down even to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, weeping and lamenting because his hands were raised to the bier, and he was not able to draw back his hands to himself. And he began to ask the apostles that by their prayer he might be saved and made a Christian. Then the apostles, bending their knees, asked the Lord to let him loose. And he, being healed that same hour, giving thanks to God and kissing the feet of the queen of all the saints and apostles, was baptized in that same place, and began to preach the name of our God Jesus Christ.
Then the apostles with great honor laid the body in the tomb, weeping and singing through exceeding love and sweetness. And suddenly there shone round them a light from heaven, and they fell to the ground, and the holy body was taken up by angels into heaven.
Then the most blessed Thomas was suddenly brought to the Mount of Olivet, and saw the most blessed body going up to heaven, and began to cry out and say: "O holy mother, blessed mother, spotless mother, if I have now found grace because I see thee, make thy servant joyful through thy compassion, because thou art going to heaven." Then the girdle with which the apostles had encircled the most holy body was thrown down from heaven to the blessed Thomas. And taking it, and kissing it, and giving thanks to God, he came again into the Valley of Jehoshaphat. He found all the apostles and another great crowd there beating their breasts on account of the brightness which they had seen.
And seeing and kissing each other, the blessed Peter said to him: "Truly thou hast always been obdurate and unbelieving, because for thine unbelief it was not pleasing to God that thou shouldst be along with us at the burial of the mother of the Saviour." And he, beating his breast, said: "I know and firmly believe that I have always been a bad and an unbelieving man; therefore I ask pardon of all of you for my obduracy and unbelief." And they all prayed for him.
Then the blessed Thomas said: "Where have you laid her body?" And they pointed out the sepulcher with their finger. And he said: "The body which is called most holy is not there." Then the blessed Peter said to him: "Already on another occasion thou wouldst not believe the resurrection of our Master and Lord at our word, unless thou went to touch Him with thy fingers, and see Him; how wilt thou believe us that the holy body is here?"
Still he persists saying: "It is not here." Then, as it were in a rage, they went to the sepulcher, which was a new one hollowed out in the rock, and took up the stone; but they did not find the body, not knowing what to say, because they had been convicted by the words of Thomas. Then the blessed Thomas told them how he was singing mass in India --he still had on his sacerdotal robes. He, not knowing the word of God, had been brought to the Mount of Olivet, and saw the most holy body of the blessed Mary going up into heaven, and prayed her to give him a blessing. She heard his prayer, and threw him her girdle which she had about her. And the apostles seeing the belt which they had put about her, glorifying God, all asked pardon of the blessed Thomas, on account of the benediction which the blessed Mary had given him, and because he had seen the most holy body going up into heaven. And the blessed Thomas gave them his benediction, and said: "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
And the same cloud by which they had been brought carried them back each to his own place, just like Philip when he baptized the eunuch, as is read in the Acts of the Apostles; and as Habakkuk the prophet carried food to Daniel, who was in the lions' den, and quickly returned to Judaea. And so also the apostles quickly returned to where they had at first been, to preach to the people of God. Nor is it to be wondered at that He should do such things, who went into the virgin and came out of her though her womb was closed; who, though the gates were shut, went in to His disciples; who made the deaf to hear, raised the dead, cleansed the lepers, gave sight to the blind, and did many other wonderful things. To believe this is no doubtful matter.
I am Joseph who laid the Lord's body in my sepulcher, and saw Him rising again; and who, before the ascension and after the ascension of the Lord, always kept his most sacred temple the blessed ever-virgin Mary, and who have kept in writing and in my breast the things which came forth from the mouth of God, and how the things mentioned above were done by the judgment of God. And I have made known to all, Jews and Gentiles, those things which I saw with my eyes, and heard with my ears; and as long as I live I shall not cease to declare them.
And her, whose assumption is at this day venerated and worshipped throughout the whole world, let us assiduously entreat that she be mindful of us in the presence of her most pious Son in heaven, to whom is praise and glory through endless ages of ages! Amen
Source: Thomas Samuel
By Deacon Keith Fournier
On August 15 in the Western Church we celebrate the great Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Most of our Eastern Christian brethren acknowledge the same great event on this Feast, calling it the "Dormition of the Mother of God." Some join us in the celebration today and others, following another Calendar, commemorate in just a few days.
This event is the natural progression in the life of the Blessed Virgin of Nazareth. Her "Yes", her "Fiat" of surrendered love, brought heaven to earth and opened earth to the heaven which received her. She is thus the sign of the Church's future and provides the pattern of the Christian vocation. All who say "Yes" to her beloved Son - and live their lives in that surrendered love – bear Christ for the world and will join with her in the fullness of that communion of love.
"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." In those few words, all of human history was forever changed. As we make them our own, our histories begin to change as well. The Angel proclaimed that Mary was "full of grace", filled with the very life and presence of God. She walked in a deep, abiding and intimate relationship with God. He was with her before she even responded to His invitation. God chose Mary even before Mary chose God. This order is vitally important.
Mary's Prayer, her "Fiat" (Medieval Latin, let it be done) was a response to the visitation from the messenger of heaven, the angel. It provides a pattern of prayer for every Christian. It unfolds into a life of praise, her "Magnificat." This canticle begins with the words in Latin "Magnificat anima mea Dominum" ("My soul doth magnify the Lord") and is the Gospel text for the Liturgy during the day on this Feast. (Luke 1:46-55).
The "Fiat" is more than a prayer and the "Magnificat" more than a hymn of praise. Together they constitute a lesson book, a guide, for our own lives. This lesson book is desperately needed by Christians, indeed all people of good will, in an age characterized by pride and arrogance.
The pattern of the life of Mary, the first disciple of the Lord, reveals a trajectory of surrendered love. If we embrace the mystery of Mary, we will find the meaning of our own lives. We were created out of Love, in Love and for Love. As the beloved disciple John, who stood with her at the Tree of the Cross, reminds us in his first letter, "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." (1 Jn 4:16)
Mary said "Yes" to the invitation to participate in the communion of God's love. She confronted her own fears and entered into a new way of living; so must we. Christians use the word "mystery" in a manner quite different than the contemporary west perceives the word. Christian "mysteries" are not puzzles to be solved, but gifts to be received, in faith.
The Greek word "mysterion" (later translated "sacramentum" in Latin) is the word used for the Sacraments in the Eastern Church. They are "mysteries" of our faith. It is in that light that Mary is viewed as a "mystery"; she reveals the very heart of that faith. She also teaches us the meaning of our own lives. Like her, we are invited into communion with the Trinitarian God, in and through Jesus Christ.She shows us the way.
Mary lived a life of receiving and giving and giving and receiving. She has been called from the early centuries the "God-bearer" or "Mother of God" (which in Greek is Theo-tokos). She brought forth the Word of God. Her "Fiat", her humble surrender, led to her "Magnificat." Thus she becomes a prototype, showing us the vocation of every human person.
Her response reveals the meaning of life itself. We were made to give ourselves away to the Lord who has given Himself to us in a Holy exchange. He comes and abides within us. Through Baptism we enter into a new way of living in His Body, the Church. Living in that Church we are called to continue His redemptive mission by giving ourselves in Him for the world. An early father of the undivided Christian Church, Gregory of Nyssa, once wrote:
"What came about in bodily form in Mary, the fullness of the godhead shining through Christ in the Blessed Virgin, takes place in a similar way in every soul that has been made pure. The Lord does not come in bodily form, for ‘we no longer know Christ according to the flesh', but He dwells in us spiritually and the father takes up His abode with Him, the Gospel tells us. In this way the child Jesus is born in each of us"
When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, she bore within her the Incarnate Word of God as a living tabernacle of love. (Luke 1:38-45) Jesus, the Redeemer in the womb, was already saving the world and Mary, his chosen mother, was already His first disciple. This little Virgin from Nazareth not only experienced the great miracle but became herself a vehicle of grace for others.
Is it any wonder that the early Christians painted her image in the catacombs during their moments of fear, persecution and doubt? They found great inspiration from this little woman of great faith. In her "yes" they came to understand that ordinary people can change human history. They were inspired to add their own "yes", their own "fiat" to hers.
Justin Martyr and many other early Christian apologists found in her "fiat", her obedient "yes" to the angel, the undoing of the "no - I will not serve" given by the first woman Eve. They called Mary "The Second Eve", the mother of a new creation. In her womb was carried the One whom the biblical authors would call the "New Adam". He was born from her as the first born of a new race of men and women who would find a new birth and a new of living and dying through His Incarnation, Nativity, Life, Death and Resurrection.
That same Redeemer now resides within - and lives through - all those who respond to the invitation of Love like she did. Mary's choice, her response to the invitation of a God who always respects human freedom, is a singularly extraordinary event in all of human history because it changed history forever. However, it is more.
It is an invitation to each one of us to explore our own personal histories and to write them anew in Jesus Christ. Mary is a mirror, a reflection, of "Some- One", Jesus Christ, her Beloved Son, the Eternal Word from the Father who became the Incarnate Word within her. The Savior whom she was privileged to bear for the sake of the world filled her with His grace.
Each of us, now baptized into Him, are also called to become full of grace. The Lord desires to take up residence within us and be borne into a world that hungers for His love. Mary shows us the way. She heard the promise, believed, was filled with grace, and conceived the Lord who is Love incarnate. We can do likewise if we learn to pray, to listen, to hear, and to respond with our own "Yes", living our lives in surrendered love.
Source: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Assumption Feast Homily 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI
In the heart of the month of August the Church in the East and the West celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary Most Holy into heaven. In the Catholic Church, the dogma of the Assumption – as we know – was proclaimed during the Holy Year of 1950. The celebration of this mystery of Mary, however, has roots in the faith and worship of the Church's first centuries, in that deep devotion to the Mother of God that progressively developed in the Christian community.
Already at the end of the fourth century and the beginning of the fifth, we have the witness of various authors who affirm that Mary is in God's glory with her entire being, soul and body, but it is in the fourth century that in Jerusalem the Feast of the Mother of God, the Theotokos, consolidated with the Council of Ephesus in 431, was transformed into the feast of the dormition, the passage, the transit, the assumption of Mary; it became the celebration of the moment in which Mary left the scene of this world, glorified in soul and body in heaven, in God.
To understand the Assumption we must look to Easter, the great mystery of our salvation, which marks the passage of Jesus to the glory of the Father through the passion, death, and resurrection. Mary, who gave birth to the Son of God in the flesh, is the creature who is most deeply inserted in this mystery, redeemed from the first moment of her life, and associated in a special way with the passion and glory of her Son. Thus, Mary's Assumption into heaven is the mystery of the Passover (Pasqua) of Christ fully realized in her. She is intimately united to her risen Son, victor over sin and death, fully conformed to him. But the Assumption is a reality that touches us too because it points to our destiny in a luminous way, the destiny of humanity in history. In Mary, in fact, that reality of glory to which each of us and the whole Church is called.
The passage of the Gospel of St. Luke that we read in the liturgy of this solemnity shows us the journey that the Virgin of Nazareth took to be in the glory of God. It is the account of Mary's visit to Elizabeth (cf. Luke 1:39-56), in which Our Lady is proclaimed blessed among all women and blessed because she believed in the fulfillment of the words of the Lord that were spoken to her. And in the song of the "Magnificat," which elevates her to God in joy, the depth of her faith shines through. She places herself among the "poor" and the "lowly," who do not trust in their own strength, but give themselves over to God, who make room for His action, which is capable of doing great things precisely in weakness. If the Assumption opens us up to the bright future that awaits us, it also powerfully invites us to entrust ourselves to God, to follow His Word, to seek and do His will every day: this is the path that makes us "blessed" on our earthly pilgrimage and opens the gates of heaven to us.
But why is Mary glorified by the Assumption into heaven? St. Luke, as we have heard, sees the root of Mary's exaltation and praise in Elizabeth's words: "Blessed is she who believed" (Luke 1:45). And the "Magnificat," this song to the living God who acts in history is a hymn of faith and love that flows from the heart of the Virgin. She lived with exemplary fidelity and treasured in the depths of her heart God's words to His people, the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, making them the content of her prayer: in the "Magnificat" God's Word becomes Mary's word, the light of her path, making her open even to receiving the Word of God made flesh in her womb. Today's Gospel passage recalls this presence of God in history and in the very unfolding of events; in particular it is a reference to the second Book of Samuel, chapter 6 (6:1-5), in which David transports the Ark of the Holy Covenant. The parallel that the evangelist makes is clear: Mary awaiting the birth of the Son, Jesus, is the Holy Ark. Mary is God's 'visit' that brings joy. Zachariah, in his song of praise, will say this explicitly: "Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people" (Luke 1:68). Zachariah's house had experienced God's visit with the birth of John the Baptist, but above all with the presence of Mary, who bears the Son of God in her womb.
But we now ask ourselves: what does Mary's Assumption do for our journey, our life? The first answer is: in the Assumption we see that in God there is space for man, God himself is the mansion with many rooms of which Jesus speaks (cf. John 14:2); God is the house of man; in God there is the space of God. And Mary, uniting herself, and united to God, does not distance herself from us, she does not enter an unknown galaxy, but those who go to God come near to us because God is near to us, and Mary, united to God, participates in God's presence, very near to us, to each one of us. There is a beautiful line that St. Gregory the Great says of St. Benedict but that we can also apply to Mary: St. Gregory the Great says that the heart of St. Benedict became so large that whole of creation was able to enter into this heart. This is even more true of Mary: Mary, completely united to God, has a heart that is so immense that the whole of creation can enter into this heart, and the ex-votos that are in every part of the world show this. Mary is near, she can hear, she can help, she is near to all of us. There is space for man in God, and God is near, and Mary, united to God, is very near, she has a heart that is great like the heart of God.
But there is another aspect: not only is there space for man in God; in man there is space for God. We also see this in Mary, the Holy Ark that bears the presence of God. In us there is space for God and this presence of God in us – so important for bringing light to the world's sadness, its problems – this presence is realized in faith: in faith wehttp://www.MalankaraWorld.comtp://www.MalankaraWorld.comtp://www.MalankaraWorld.compen the gates of our being so that God may enter into us, so that God can be the power that gives a light and a path to our being. There is space in us, let us open ourselves up as Mary did, saying: "Thy will be done, I am the Lord's servant." Opening up to God, we lose nothing. On the contrary: our life becomes rich and great.
And thus, faith and hope and love combine. Today there are many things said about a better world in the future: it would be our hope. Whether and when this better world will come, we do not know, I do not know. It is certain that a world that distances itself from God does not become better, but worse. Only the presence of God can guarantee a good world too. But let us take this aside. One thing, one hope is certain: God awaits us, He attends to us, we are not headed for a void, we are expected. God awaits us and passing to the other world we will find the Mother's goodness, we will find our loved ones, we will find Eternal Love. God awaits us: this is our great joy and our great hope that is born precisely from this feast. Mary visits us, and she is the joy of our life and joy is hope.
So, what, then, should be said? Great heart, presence of God in the world, space of God in us and space of God for us, hope, being awaited: this is the symphony of this feast, the instruction that we are given by meditating on this solemnity. Mary is the dawn and splendor of the Church triumphant; she is the consolation and hope of the people still on pilgrimage, says today's preface. Let us entrust ourselves to her maternal intercession, so that she obtain from the Lord the strengthening of our faith in eternal life; may she help us to live well and with hope the time offered to us by God. A Christian hope, that is not only a nostalgia for heaven, but a living and active desire of God here in the world, desire of God that makes us pilgrims who are unwearied, nourishing in courage in us and the power of faith, which at the same time is the courage and power of love. Amen.
May the example and prayers of Mary, Queen of Heaven, inspire and sustain us on our pilgrimage of faith, that we may rejoice with her in the glory of the resurrection and the fulfillment of her Son's promises. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord's abundant blessings!
[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]
Source: Adapted from Pope Benedict XVI's homily on the feast of the Assumption at the parish church of St. Thomas of Villanova in Castel Gandolfo and from Pope Benedict XVI's Angelus Address on Feast of the Assumption, 2012.
by Father Mark
Assumpta Est Maria
Assumpta est Maria in caelum, gaudent angeli, laudantes benedicunt Dominum! 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 splendour 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
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
by Fr. John A. Peck
Dormition is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Christian faith.
1. Preach the Gospel
Don't forget to preach the Gospel. The only reason we are celebrating Dormition at all is because of the incarnation, suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the feast of the Dormition is, indeed, a feast of resurrection! Be sure to make this connection to every listener with clarity.
2. About the Feast Itself
The word 'Dormition' simply means 'falling asleep' – the biblical idiom for a believer's death.
The Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, celebrated on August 15. This feast is called the Assumption in the western churches, and commemorates the death, resurrection and glorification of the Virgin Mary, 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.
The Tradition of the Church is that Mary 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 Orthodox Church teaches that Mary is without personal sins. In the Gospel of the feast, however, in the liturgical services and in the Dormition icon, the Church proclaims as well that Mary truly needed to be saved by Christ as all human persons are saved from the trials, sufferings and death of this world; and that having truly died, she was raised up by her Son as the Mother of Life and participates already in the eternal life of paradise which is prepared and promised to all who "hear the word of God and keep it." (Luke 11:27-28)
The services of the feast repeat the main theme, that the Mother of Life has "passed over into the heavenly joy, into the divine gladness and unending delight" of the Kingdom of her Son. (Vesper verse)
The Old Testament readings, as well as the gospel readings for the Vigil and the Divine Liturgy, are exactly the same as those for the feast of the Virgin's nativity and her entrance into the Temple. Thus, at the Vigil we again hear Mary say:
At the Divine Liturgy we hear the letter to the Philippians where St. Paul speaks of the self-emptying of Christ who condescends to human servitude and ignoble death in order to be "highly exalted" by God his Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
And once again we hear in the Gospel that Mary's blessedness belongs to all who "hear the word of God and keep it." (Luke 11:27-28)
Thus, the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is the celebration of the fact that all men are "highly exalted" in the blessedness of the victorious Christ, and that this high exaltation has already been accomplished in Mary the Theotokos. The feast of the Dormition is the sign, the guarantee, and the celebration that Mary's fate is, the destiny of all those of "low estate" whose souls magnify the Lord, whose spirits rejoice in God the Saviour, whose lives are totally dedicated to hearing and keeping the Word of God which is given to men in Mary's child, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world.
Finally it must be stressed that, in all of the feasts of the Virgin Mother of God in the Church, the Orthodox Christians celebrate facts of their own lives in Christ and the Holy Spirit.
What happens to Mary happens to all who imitate her holy life of humility, obedience, and love.
With her all people will be "blessed" to be "more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim" if they follow her example. All will have Christ born in them by the Holy Spirit. All will become temples of the living God. All will share in the eternal life of His Kingdom who live the life that Mary lived.
In this sense everything that is praised and glorified in Mary is a sign of what is offered to all persons in the life of the Church. It is for this reason that Mary, with the divine child Jesus within her, is call in the Orthodox Tradition the Image of the Church. For the assembly of the saved is those in whom Christ dwells.
3. About The Dormition Fast
For the first fourteen days of August during each year, the Holy Orthodox Church enters into a strict fast period in honor of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary.
Every Orthodox Christian is aware and generally knows the reason behind the fasts for Pascha and Christmas. But while they may know of the Dormition Fast, few follow it, and more than a few question why it is there, neither knowing its purpose.
First, given the pervasive misunderstanding of the purpose of fasting itself, a refresher on its purpose is always a good idea. There is a perception that we should fast when we want something, as though the act of fasting somehow appeases God, and seeing us "suffer" gets Him to grant our request. Nothing can be further from the truth. It is not our fasting that pleases God, it is the fruits of our fast (provided we fast in the proper mind set, and do not merely diet) that please Him.
We fast, not to get what we want, but to prepare ourselves to receive what God wants to give us. The purpose of fasting is to bring us more in line with another Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and away from their sister Martha, who in the famous passage was "anxious and troubled about many things."
Fasting is intended to bring us to the realization of "the one thing needful."
It is to help us put God first and our own desires second, if not last. As such it serves to prepare us to be instruments of God's will, as with Moses in his flight from Egypt and on Mt. Sinai, as well as our Lord's fast in the wilderness. Fasting turns us away from ourselves and toward God. In essence it helps us become like the Theotokos, an obedient servant of God, who heard His word and kept it better than anyone else has or could.
So why do we fast before Dormition?
In a close-knit family, word that its matriarch is on her death-bed brings normal life to a halt. Otherwise important things (parties, TV, luxuries, personal desires) become unimportant; life comes to revolve around the dying matriarch. It is the same with the Orthodox family; word that our matriarch is on her deathbed, could not (or at least should not) have any different effect than the one just mentioned.
The Church, through the Paraklesis Service, gives us the opportunity to come to that deathbed and eulogize and entreat the woman who bore God, the vessel of our salvation and our chief advocate at His divine throne. And as, in the earthly family, daily routines and the indulgence in personal wants should come to a halt. Fasting, in its full sense (abstaining from food and desires) accomplishes this. Less time in leisure or other pursuits leaves more time for prayer and reflection on she who gave us Christ, and became the first and greatest Christian.
In reflecting on her and her incomparable life, we see a model Christian life, embodying Christ's retort to the woman who stated that Mary was blessed because she bore Him: blessed rather are those who hear His word and keep it. Mary did this better than anyone. She heard the word of God and kept it so well, that she of all women in history was chosen not only to hear His Word but give birth to it (Him). So while we fast in contemplation of her life, we are simultaneously preparing ourselves to live a life in imitation of her.
That is the purpose of the Dormition Fast. (source)
4. Why Is Dormition So Important?
The eminent Orthodox theologian, Fr. Sergei Bulgakov, beautifully expresses the high regard which the Orthodox Christians have for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, for her special role in the salvation of mankind, when he affirms,
"The warm veneration of the Theotokos is the soul of Orthodox Piety."
St. John of Damascus, one of the great Orthodox fathers, pointed out that when the Blessed Virgin Mary became the Mother of God and gave birth to Christ, the Redeemer of Mankind, she became the mother of mankind. We call the Virgin Mary "Theotokos", from the Greek, which means "The Birth-Giver or the Bearer of God."
Why not refer to her simply as the Blessed Virgin Mary? Because, there are many holy Marys who were virgins, but there is only one Theotokos.
This is the highest title that can be bestowed upon any member of the human race.
The Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, was
"blessed amongst women,"
We, therefore, as Orthodox Christians, consider her to be the Queen of all the saints and the angels.
Knowing that she holds such a high place in the Kingdom of Heaven and that she is eternally present at the throne of God interceding for mankind, we, as good Orthodox Christians, must pray for her love, guidance, and protection. We must never forget to ask for her intercessions in times of sickness and danger, and we must constantly thank her for her care and her prayers in our behalf.
The word "paraclesis" has two different meanings: the first is "consolation," from which the Holy Spirit is called the "Paraclete," or "Consoler"; the second is "supplication" or "petition". The Service of the Paraclesis to the Theotokos consists of hymns of supplication to obtain consolation and courage. It should be recited in times of temptation, discouragement or sickness. It is used more particularly during the two weeks before the Dormition, or Assumption, of the Theotokos, from August 1 to August 14.
The theme of these Paraclesis Services centers around the petition… "Most Holy Theotokos, save us."
Since these Paraclesis Services to the Theotokos are primarily petition for the welfare of the living, let the whole Church pray for you during the first fifteen days of August and especially on the Great Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos on August 15th.
© 2011, Preachers Institute. All rights reserved.
Mary crowned with living light,
Mystery of sinless life
Virgin, mother of our God,
Father, Son and Spirit blest,
Source: "Mary, crowned with living light"; Music: Gossner’s Choralbuch, Leipzig, 1832; Text: Stanbrook Abbey
The ark which God has sanctified,
More glorious than the seraphim,
God-bearing Mother, Virgin chaste,
To Father, Son and Spirit blest
Source:Stanbrook Abbey Hymnal
O blessed Mother! - by His love for you
Your prayers are alone - our refuge always.
Fire in the bush, God - who did dwell in you
Source: Liturgy of Syriac Orthodox Church
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