In the middle of the second century, just a few decades after the falling asleep of the Disciples…before we had the written collection of the Bible…before you could go to a kiosk like we have downstairs and purchase a book or some type of spiritual reading, it was a wonderful and beautiful tradition to ask men and women of holiness…or a “Word”.
"Father or Mother…give me a “word”. Tell us something of holiness…or something of edifying value, so that we may better understand and live our lives for Christ."
With the burial shroud of our Most Blessed Mother still sitting out in the center of the Church today, I want to continue that beautiful tradition this week, and in lieu of a homily from me, we can all be edified by a “word” from St. Theodore the Studite. These words about the Dormition or Falling Asleep of the Mother of God, are well over 1200 years old…and are filled with amazing images of the feast day that we celebrated this past week.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…One God Amen.
“To do justice to the holy celebrations proclaimed for today, my friends, our words call for the sound of the trumpet…for the voice of the horn sounding out more loudly and echoing to the ends of the earth…yet I fear they must be borne by the weak instrument of our own voices.
Still, the queen and mistress of the world cares little for honor, and she may well accept our short, poor discourse, offered here in her service, just as graciously as the long and splendid works of great orators.
But come, gather around me, everyone under heaven—all you hierarchs and priests, monks and people of the world, kings and rulers, men and women, young men and maidens, of all nations and tongues, of every race and every people—change your clothes for the robes of virtue. Wrap yourselves in them as in “bright garments fringed with gold” [Psalm 44.13 LXX], and come with hearts rejoicing to celebrate the festival of the burial and the passing into glory of Mary, the Mother of the Lord. For she has gone away from here and draws near the eternal mountains…she who is the true Mount Zion, where God was pleased to dwell.
Today she who was heaven on earth is wrapped in a cloak of incorruptibility. She has moved to a better, more blessed dwelling-place. Today the spiritual moon, shining with the light of God, has come into heavenly conjunction with the “Sun of righteousness,” eclipsing her temporary home in this present life. Rising anew in His home, she is radiant with the dignity of immortality.
Today that ark of holiness, wrought with gold and divinely furnished, has been lifted up from her tabernacle on earth and is borne towards the Jerusalem above, to unending rest. Now the Mother of God shuts her material eyes, and opens her spiritual eyes towards us like great shining stars that will never set…to watch over us and to intercede before the face of God for the world’s protection.
Now those lips, moved by God’s grace to articulate sounds, grow silent, but she opens her [spiritual] mouth to intercede eternally for all of her race. Now she lowers those bodily hands that once bore God, only to raise them, in incorruptible form, in prayer to the Lord on behalf of all creation. At this moment her natural form, radiant as the sun, is hidden…yet her light shines through her painted image, and she offers it to the people for the life-giving kiss of relative veneration…even if the heretics are unwilling.
The holy dove has flown to her home above, yet she does not cease to protect those below. Departing from her body, she is with us in spirit. Gathered up to heaven, she banishes demons by her intercession with the Lord. 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 with 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! Though she has passed on from us, yet she does not cease to protect her people.