Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Falling Asleep of the Mother of God

Today we commemorate the Dormition ("Falling Asleep") of the Most Blessed Theotokos. Here is a reading from a sermon by St. John of Damascus (+760 AD):

What is this great mystery about you, O holy mother and virgin?

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

Blessed are you for generations of generations; you alone are worthy to be called blessed. Behold, all generations do call you blessed, as you have said. The daughters of Jerusalem – that is, the church’s daughters – saw you, and the royal princesses – the souls of the just – proclaimed you blessed and will praise you for all ages.

The Prophets, then, proclaim you. The Angels serve you, the Apostles revere you, the virginal mouthpiece of God takes care of the ever-virgin who was Mother of God. Today the Angels minister to you as you go home to your Son, joined by the souls of the just, of Patriarchs and Prophets. The Apostles are your escort, with a countless throng of inspired Fathers gathered from the ends of the earth as in a cloud, by your Son’s divine command, in this holy and sacred city, Jerusalem. In their godly enthusiasm, they sing holy hymns to you, the source of the Lord’s body that is for us a stream of life.

Oh, see how the source of life is carried over into life, through the midst of death! See how the one who overcame the defining limits of nature in her childbearing now gives way to those same limits, and submits her unsullied body to death! It was only right for that body to "lay aside what is mortal and put on immortality" (I Cor. 15.53), since the Lord of nature Himself did not refuse the test of death. He died in the flesh, and by that death destroyed death, bestowed incorruptibility upon corrupt nature, and made death the source of resurrection. See how the Maker of all things receives into his own hands her holy soul, now separated from that tabernacle that received God. He rightly honors her who was by nature His handmaid but whom by His saving plan He made to be his mother, in the unfathomable ocean of His love for humanity.