Concerning the earthly life of the Theotokos
After the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, our most holy Lady continued to live on earth several years. One Christian historian says — ten years, and another — twenty-two years. According to the instructions of our Lord, while He hung upon the Cross, Saint John, the Apostle and Theologian took our Lady into his home and cared for her like a son until the end of her life. According to the teaching and Tradition of the Church the Most-holy Mother of God became a mother to all twelve of the apostles in general. We can only marvel at the sweet prayer and counsel from her instructive conversations about the Saviour. When the Christian faith had spread to other lands, many Christians came from distant countries to see and listen to Her voice.
One day, when the Most-holy Mary was praying on the Mount of Olives, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Her with a branch from a date palm in Paradise and told Her the joyful news that in three days She would finish Her earthly life, and the Lord would take Her to Himself. The Most-holy Mother of God silently rejoiced over this news. She told Her adopted son, John, and began to prepare for Her end. At that time, the other apostles were not in Jerusalem, as they had dispersed to other countries to preach about the Saviour. The Mother of God wanted to bid farewell to them, and so the Lord in a miraculous manner gathered all the apostles to Her, except Thomas, transporting them by His omnipotent power.
Grief befell them over losing the Mother of the Lord and their own spiritual Mother when they learned why God had gathered them. But the Mother of God comforted them promising not to leave them and all Christians after Her death and promising also to pray for them. Then, She blessed them all. Editor’s note: from the earliest days of the Church Christians have held the Theotokos in a very high regard, fleeing under her protection.
At the hour of Her death, an extraordinary light shone in the room where the Mother of God lay. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, surrounded by angels, appeared and received Her pure soul. Editor’s note: so that we might know and believe of the great mercy and power of God, similar events have been reported at the repose of many Saints. In this manner the Lord has demonstrated clearly concerning the sanctity of these holy personages.
The apostles buried the pure body of the Mother of God according to Her wishes in the Garden of Gethsemane where the body of Her parents and the righteous Joseph were buried. At the funeral, many miracles were performed. By touching the deathbed of the Mother of God, the blind regained their sight, demons were driven away, and all sorts of illnesses were cured. Crowds of people followed Her most pure body. Jewish priests and leaders tried to break up this holy procession, but the Lord invisibly protected it. One of the Jewish priests, by the name of Athonius, ran up, seized and tried to overturn the bier on which the body of the Mother of God was laid. But an invisible angel chopped off both his hands. Athonius, struck by such a wondrous miracle, repented and the Apostle Peter healed him. Editor’s note: this event is depicted in many icons of the feast.
Three days after the burial of the Mother of God, the absent Apostle Thomas arrived in Jerusalem. He was greatly saddened that he had not been able to say farewell to the Mother of God; and with all his heart, he desired to venerate Her most pure remains. The apostles felt so sorry for him that they decided to go and roll away the stone from the tomb to give him the possibility to venerate for the last time the body of the Mother of God. But when they opened the tomb, Her most holy body was not found, but only one piece of burial shroud was there. The amazed apostles returned to the house together and prayed to God to reveal to them what had become of the body of the Mother of God. In the evening, at the end of dinner during prayer, they heard angelic singing. Looking up, the apostles saw in the air the Mother of God surrounded by angels and in the radiance of heavenly glory. The Mother of God said to the apostles, “Rejoice! I am with you always and will pray for you before God.” Editor’s note: It is for this cause the Church lauds her translation unto life, since she is the Mother of Life.
The apostles exclaimed to Her in joy, “Most-holy Mother of God, help us!”
Thus the Lord Jesus Christ glorified His Most-holy Mother. He resurrected Her and took Her most holy body to Himself and set Her higher than all His angels.
Note: A full description of the Dormition of the Mother of God is found in Church Tradition and preserved by the Holy Orthodox Church. For the faithful, there can be no better source than the services of the Church of Christ.
The Dormition of our Most-holy Lady Mother of God is celebrated by the Holy Orthodox Church as one of its major feasts on the 15th of August (28th of August NS). Preceding this feast, there is a two-week fast beginning from the 1st of August. This feast is called the Dormition (“falling asleep”) because the Mother of God died quietly as if She was falling asleep and, more importantly, because of the short sojourn of Her body in the grave. After three days, She was resurrected by the Lord and ascended into Heaven.
Troparion of the Feast.
In giving birth Thou didst preserve Thy virginity; in Thy dormition Thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos. Thou wast translated unto life, since Thou art the Mother of Life; and by Thine intercessions dost Thou deliver our souls from death.
Adapted from The Law of God, by Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy