Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dormition of Mary the Theotokos - An Introduction

We have just begun the Dormition Fast that precedes the celebration of the repose of Mary the Theotokos. I am going to start a series on the Dormition of Mary leading us to the celebration of the event on August 15th. As my main resource I am using primarily the book The Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos published by the Holy Apostles Convent in Buena Vista, CO. The book draws on Scripture, early Church documents, writings of the Church Fathers and the hymnology and iconography of the Church. It is well footnoted for those who seek the sources of the stories about Mary.

I will begin with the foretelling of her repose, then her preparation for death, her repose, the funeral procession, her translation into heaven, and her appearance to the Apostles.

As a brief introduction we know that Mary was a most holy person. God did not choose just anybody to bring His Son to earth, but a woman who is “most blessed among women.” She was born of devout and pious parents. At an early age she was taken to the temple where she was raised until she was of age, 12 to 13 years old. She declared that she wanted to remain a virgin so the temple selected a protector for her in an elaborate process in the temple. Joseph was selected who was an elder man.

The Archangel Gabriel was sent to her to announce the intention of God for her to bear His Son. She agreed and then bore and raised Jesus as a child. She was a quiet and contemplative woman. As a loving mother she was always there to support Jesus. After witnessing the brutal torture Christ endured, she stood at the Cross with John who became her protector after His Crucifixion.

After His death Jesus was taken down from the cross His body was paced in her arms. She cried and kissed His many wounds He unjustly received. With trembling hands she helped prepare His body for burial. After leaving the tomb the events played heavily on her mind and she was filled with grief as she retreated to the home of John.

Mary was overcome with Joy when the angel brought her the news of Jesus’ Resurrection. The Lord was with her and the Apostles for forty days before He ascended into heaven. After witnessing this event she along with His disciples went to a place where they prayed and fasted for ten days. Then the Holy Spirit descended on them, 120 of them, and all were empowered and went about to all nations to spread the word of his Resurrection and His teachings about the salvation of all of mankind.

Mary was an anchor for the newly developing Church and the Apostles They knew that as they went about spreading the word they too would likely be arrested and crucified. (all the Apostles were martyred except for John). She was there to provide them comfort and guidance. They received strength and consolation from her and paid her great reverence. So her death was a significant event for the emerging Church and its leaders.

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