Monday, August 3, 2009

Angel Foretells Death of Theotokos

Death of Mary the Theotokos Foretold by an Angel.

Mary was living with St. John in Jerusalem as she approached an advanced age. She longed to be with her beloved Son and was not afraid of death. She prayed day and night. With her ascetic way of life she is to this day an example for all who enter into monastic life.

She would often go the place on Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended into heaven. On one such visit the angel Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Your Son says: ‘The days are approaching when I will take My Mother unto Me.”… Your Son sent me to tell you that He calls you to Him, to His Kingdom, to His ineffable glory, so you can sit a the right hand of His throne. He is is waiting for you. Therefore do not be troubled over these words, but receive them with delight, for you will be translated to life eternal.”

(from the Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church , 5th edition, vol VIII)

Saint John of Damacus (c.676-c.750) writes,

“If her Fruit, Whom none may comprehend, on Whose account she was called a heaven, submitted of His own will to burial as a mortal, how should she, who gave Him birth without knowing a man, refuse it?” (Matins Canon, Ode Four)

The angel gave her a palm branch from a date palm in Paradise. It had the appearance of being lighted with a heavenly light. It signifies that her bodily death would have no power over her. That she would fall asleep for a short time and then wake shaking off death like awaking from a sleep and when she awoke she would see the light of the Lord’s face. The angel instructed her to have this branch from Paradise carried before her bier in her funeral procession so bodily death would have no power over her.

She was joyous as she had received from the angel a pledge that she would be received into heaven.

She then prayed: “I would not have been worthy to receive You, O Lord, into my womb, unless You had mercy on me, Your slave. I kept the treasure entrusted to me and therefore, I have the boldness to ask You, O King of glory, to protect me from the power of Gehenna. If heaven and the angels tremble before You, how much more man, made of the dust, who has nothing good of his own except what he has been given by Your goodness. You, O Lord, are God, blessed forever.”

It is said in the Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church that at the time of this prayer the olive trees growing on the Mount of Olives bowed with the Theotokos as though they were alive. When she bent down they bent down; when she arose, the trees straightened.

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