The Dormition of the Mother of God
Dormition of the Theotokos, 2017
A Call to Spiritual Vigilance
"Let us strive to bring to God the fruits of repentance and good deeds.
Let us crucify the flesh with its passions and lusts, as corrupt and passing transient values,
and let us pay heed to the immortal soul, strengthening it and improving it in all good deeds."
— St. John of Kronstadt †1908
"The arrival of the two-week Dormition Fast on August 1, is always the “perfect” antidote to that spiritual summer drought that we could be experiencing right about this time of the year.
"A fast implies vigilance – and not simply about what we eat or drink. To be spiritually vigilant is to rediscover our commitment to the Gospel command to love both God and neighbor with all our soul, mind, body, and strength.
"This fast, then, could revive our drooping spirits if that is what we may be suffering from at the moment. If that is not a current concern, then the fast can simply sustain our relationship with God and neighbor as it leads us up the beautiful Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Either way, or any way, we should prepare ourselves for the spiritual effort – primarily based on prayer, fasting and almsgiving - that a fasting season implies, embracing it with thanksgiving and heartfelt commitment."
— Fr. Steven
Read one of Fr. Steven's meditations on the Feast here.
Scroll down for articles, icons and suggested books on the Theotokos and her Falling Asleep and Translation to Heaven, with new patristic resources.
Be sure to also visit our special resource pages on the Transfiguration of the Lord (Aug 6) and on St Herman of Alaska (Aug 9).
The Dormition of the Theotokos: Resources for the Feast and the Mother of God
The Falling Asleep (Dormition) of the Most Holy Theotokos
Troparion - Tone 1
In giving birth you preserved your virginity,
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.
Kontakion - Tone 2
Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos,
Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions.
For being the Mother of Life,
She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb.
Book List for the Dormition Fast:
Links provided for quick selection and ordering.
FIRST TIME IN ENGLISH
St Maximus the Confessor's
The LIFE of the VIRGIN
Long overlooked by scholars, this seventh-century Life of the Virgin, attributed to Maximus the Confessor, is the earliest complete Marian biography. Originally written in Greek and now surviving only in Old Georgian, it is now translated for the first time into English. It is a work that holds profound significance for understanding the history of late ancient and medieval Christianity, providing a rich source for understanding the history of Christian piety.
The Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos
By Holy Apostles Convent
The most complete text on the life of the Mother of God from her Conception to her Dormition and bodily translation, including her role in the Church, treated within the framework of Sacred Scriptures, Holy Tradition, Patristics and other ancient writings, together with the Liturgical and Iconographic Traditions of the Holy Orthodox Church.
- The Conception by Righteous Anna of the Virgin Mary
Greatest of the Feasts of the Theotokos
Fr. Thomas Hopko on the Theotokos
NEW for 2016!
Fr. Thomas Hopko has delivered numerous lectures and podcasts on the Mother of God, many of which are thankfully featured on Ancient Faith Radio.
Below are direct links to his series "Who is the Theotokos," recorded at a three-part lecture delivered at the Northern California Antiochian Diocesan Women's Retreat, November 9-11 2007 at the San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, CA.
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Why is the Death of the Theotokos a Feast Day?
It is possible to love Christ the way a loyalist, although he lives very far away, loves his king. He hasn’t seen the king’s face or looked into his eyes, but he loves him in his heart. He cuts out pictures from newspapers and hangs them on his wall. He refrains from work on royal holidays.
But to love the king’s mother is possible only once one has entered into the royal chambers and drawn near to what is hidden from extraneous eyes: the life not only of the king himself, but of the royal family. It is necessary to be one of the king’s own in order to love his mother and his other relatives.
We say these words in order to approach the theme of the veneration of the Mother of God from afar, to approach this truth by analogy, as if by a thread.
The veneration of the Theotokos is a familial deposit, a familial memory, a family tradition. He who honors the woman clothed in the sun, her who served for the mysterious incarnation of God, no longer worships the Lord from afar, but has drawn close to Him. We are not slaves, crying out praises from afar off. We are children of God’s family when we honor His mother.
Her feasts are hidden. One can whisper about them into the ear. This is especially true of the Dormition. This is probably why monastics love this feast so much.
Approaching the luminous mysteries is like approaching a purifying fire. It reminds one of Moses, who hid his face as he drew near to the burning bush. (Exodus 3:6) Thus the Canon of the feast says: “Guard my thoughts, my Christ, for I undertake to hymn the bulwark of the world, Thy pure Mother. Strengthen me upon the pillar of speech, and help me in difficult thoughts.”
Help me in difficult thoughts … This is clearer to monastics than to others...
Patristic Resources and More for the Dormition
MYSTAGOGY Blog, an amazing example of new media piety by John Sanidopolous now has an extremely rich selection of resources for the Dormition of the Mother of God. Below is a small sampling. You can explore at length the dozens of other links here.
Let the whole of Creation jump for joy!
Long ago, death took charge of the world through our ancestor Eve; but now it has engaged in combat with her blessed daughter and been beaten away, conquered by the very source from whom it had received its power. Let the race of women rejoice, then, for it has received glory in place of shame! Let Eve be glad, for she is under a curse no more, having produced in Mary a child of blessing. Let the whole of creation jump for joy, drinking the mystical flood of incorruption from that virgin spring and putting an end to its mortal thirst. These are the things we celebrate today, this is the subject of our solemn song: Mary provides it for us — the root of Jesse who bore the flower Christ; the rod of Aaron with its sacred bud; the spiritual Paradise containing the tree of life; the meadow alive with the fragrance of virginity; the blooming vine, cultivated by God, which became the ripe grape flowing the life; the high, exalted cherubim-throne of the universal king; the home full of the glory of the Lord; the sacred veil of Christ; the bright land of sunrise. She has fallen asleep in peace and righteousness — fallen asleep, I say, but she is not dead! She has passed on from us, yet she does not cease to protect her people.
~Saint Theodore the Studite
Courtesy of The Handmaid Blog
Explanation of the Icon of the Dormition
See below for detailed enlargements from the icon, corresponding to notes in the text.
The Icon of the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos shows her on her deathbed surrounded by the Apostles. Christ is standing in the center (1) looking at His mother. He is holding a small child clothed in white representing the soul of the Virgin Mary. With His golden garments, the angels above His head, and the mandorla surrounding Him, Christ is depicted in His divine glory.
The posture of the Apostles direct attention toward the Theotokos. On the right Saint Peter (2) censes the body of the Theotokos. On the left Saint Paul (3) bows low in honor of her.
Together with the Apostles are several bishops (4) and women. The bishops traditionally represented are James, the brother of the Lord, Timothy, Heirotheus, and Dionysius the Areopagite. They are shown wearing episcopal vestments. The women are members of the church in Jerusalem.
In front of the bed of the Theotokos is a candle that helps to form a central axis in the icon. Above the candle is the body of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. Standing over His mother is Christ holding her most pure soul. Above Christ the gates of heaven stand open, ready to receive the Mother of God.
This great Feast of the Church and the icon celebrates a fundamental teaching of our faith—the Resurrection of the body. In the case of the Theotokos, this has been accomplished by the divine will of God. Thus, this Feast is a feast of hope, hope in Resurrection and life eternal. Like those who gathered around the body of the Virgin Mary, we gather around our departed loved ones and commend their souls into the hands of Christ. As we remember those who have reposed in the faith before us and have passed on into the communion of the Saints, we prepare ourselves to one day be received into the new life of the age to come.
We also affirm through this Feast as we journey toward our heavenly abode that the Mother of God intercedes for us. Through Christ she has become the mother of all of the children of God, embracing us with divine love.
Theotokos Icon Slideshow for the Dormition
Icons of the Theotokos for the Feast of the Dormition
A holy and edifying selection of icons of the Most Pure Mother of God, including several of the Dormition from a variety of Orthodox traditions. You can learn more about many of these icons on the OCA website.
Homily on the Dormition by St Gregory Palamas
If “the death of the righteous man is honorable” (cf. Ps. 115:6) and the “memory of the just man is celebrated with songs of praise” (Prov. 10:7). How much more ought we to honor with great praises the memory of the holiest of the saints, she by whom all holiness is afforded to the saints, I mean the Ever-Virgin Mother of God! Even so we celebrate today her holy dormition or translation to another life, whereby, while being “a little lower than angels” (Ps. 8:6), by her proximity to the God of all, and in the wondrous deeds which from the beginning of time were written down and accomplished with respect to her, she has ascended incomparably higher than the angels and the archangels and all the super-celestial hosts that are found beyond them. For her sake the God-possessed prophets pronounce prophecies, miracles are wrought to foreshow that future Marvel of the whole world, the Ever-Virgin Mother of God.
Read this lofty homily in its entirety...
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