Today is the Feast of the Dormition of God. Christian groups who do not worship liturgically, may not recognise the name, even Christians who worship liturgically may not know it either, as this feast is known as the Assumption of Mary in the West.
The story behind is that the Angel Gabriel visited Mary the Mother of Jesus, who was living in Jerusalem, being cared for by the Apostle John since the death and resurrection of her Son. The Angel told her that in three days she would die and go to Heaven. Mary asked for one thing before that time: that the Apostles, her Son’s closest friends should visit her. Miraculously this happened, with the exception of Thomas, who was apparently held up.
With all the Apostles there, Mary prepared herself and died. She was buried. Three days later Thomas finally arrived. Thomas wanted to pay his last respects, so it was decided to exhume her body. The grave was opened and to the shock of all the Apostles ( and no doubt anyone else there at the time) the grave was empty. There was no sign that the grave had been interfered with and the Apostles began to understand that not only had Jesus taken His Mother’s Spirit when she died but a short time after, He had taken her body to heaven to be with Him.
Interestingly the Dormition Feast (Dormition by the way means “falling asleep”, Assumption means “being taken into Heaven”) is at the end of the Church Year.
Why is that interesting, you ask?
Well, the Church Year begins with the Nativity of the Mother of God
To put it another way, the Church Year begins with the birth of Mary and ends with her death.
Well I will explain why, shortly.
Firstly let me point out something else that the Dormition Feast points to. Apparently, so I am told, people in Wales who have a strong Christian Faith are sometimes referred to as “Second Comers” because they have a strong belief that Jesus will return again. The fact is that anyone who attends a Liturgically minded Church bears witness to the belief of the Second Coming of Christ. The Nicene Creed, sometimes called the Symbol of Faith, or even just The Creed states very clearly about Christ, that “He will come again to judge the living and the dead and of His Kingdom there will be no end”. The Nicene Creed is said, in either of its two forms, on Sundays by about 95% of all Christians.
The reality is that it is not just fundamentalist Christians who are “Second Comers” but also those who worship in more main stream churches.
What has this to do with the Dormition of the Mother of God? Well, when Mary died, Jesus took her spirit to be with Him-take a look at the icon, that small person in swaddling clothes is Mary’s spirit being taken to Heaven. A few days later, Jesus came back and took her body to be with Him. The only event is prophetic, reminding us that not only will we die but that Christ will return and take our bodies to be with Him in Heaven (1 Cor…….). The Dormition Feast occurs at the end of the Church Year and Christ will return at the End of the Age.. The Feast of the Dormition is a Feast of Hope for all Christians.
Apart from this blessed hope what else is the significance of Mary’s Dormition being at the end of the Church Year and her nativity at the beginning?
Well, have you noticed how May is there all through the Gospels? Quietly, not saying much she is there is the background.
Let me show you…..
The Annunciation; Luke 1 v26ff. The Orthodox Church believes that it was at this point that the Holy Spirit came on Mary and she conceived Jesus. Icons of Annunciation sometimes have a small icon of Jesus where Mary’s womb is to indicate this.
The Birth of Jesus-Mary had carried Jesus in her womb for nine months and who is Jesus? Colossians 1 v 16,17 gives a vivid description, and this person restricted Himself to Mary’s womb for Nine Months! Those of you who have been pregnant, what was it like to carry your children? Awesome, yes? Imagine that Child in your womb is God?
His Dedication to God: Luke 2 v22ff nb vv33-35, Mary and Joseph were both there.
Bar Mitzvah-Luke 2 v 43 ff Mary brought Him up to worship God, she was with Him through out His Childhood v53, but look carefully v 50…..
The Start of His Ministry: Luke 4 v 16ff-Mary had brought Him up to worship God so it is reasonable assumption that Mary was there that day
His first miracle-John 2=notice Mary’s involvement, and what she says to the people and to her Son
At the foot of the Cross: Jn 19 v25ff-how do you think Mary felt? Those of you who have had children, how would you have felt if that had been you, seeing your only Son put to death like that? And then think of the promises that Mary had had from God? In the Orthodox Church we have a type of hymn called Stavrotheotikon. They are only sung at Vespers on Tuesday and Thursday evening. Why then? Because they are a meditation on Mary at the Foot of the Cross. Wednesdays and Fridays are Fast Days which commemorate, on Wednesday Judas’ Betrayal of Jesus and on Friday, Our Lord’s Crucifixion. The Liturgical day begins at Dusk on the evening before, so at the first services of the Wednesday and Friday (which is Vespers of Tuesday and Thursday respectfully), days of fasting we remember and think about how Mary felt at Lord’s Betrayal and Death
Day of Pentecost Acts 1 vv12-14
Thus we see that Mary walks with us through the Gospels, she does not say a lot-but she thinks deeply and when she does speak it is to intercede with her Son.
Next time you read the Gospels, remember that Mary is there by your side, interceding with Her son for you and says to you: “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
Mary in the Church
The Church picked up on this, that Mary walks through the Gospels with us, and brought it into the Church’s Day-to-day life. The Church Year beginning soon begins with the Nativity of Mary, the Mother of God. It ends with her Falling Asleep and being taken to Heaven. The Beginning and the End
Remember that as Mary walks with us through the Gospels and through the Church Year, she says to us: “Whatever He says to you, do it.”