Posted by: oldbelieving | March 6, 2012

On the Panagia

make sure to read the footnotes!!

TEACHINGS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH ON THE PANAGIA

 

Jesse Dominick

Anthropology/Christology

11/15/2011

 

The theology of the Holy Orthodox Church is a seamless garment that is firmly grounded in the reality of the famous Patristic dictum “For He was made man that we might be made God.”[1] There has been but one true revolution in the history of the world and that is precisely the Incarnation in the flesh of the eternal Logos in the person of the God-man Jesus Christ, whereby the power of sin, corruption, death and the authority of Satan are shattered and the chasm between the uncreated God and His creation is bridged. If the Incarnation is the foundational mystery of the faith then the person of Mary the Theotokos from whom Christ received His flesh and was born also stands at the center of the faith. Thus Fr. Sergius Bulgakov states that “love and veneration of the Virgin is the soul of Orthodox piety, its heart, that which warms and animates its entire body,” and “A faith in Christ which does not include … the veneration of [H]is mother is another faith, another Christianity from that of the Orthodox Church.”[2] Her icons abundantly adorn and her praises are fervently sung in every Orthodox temple and home. Our bishops who bear the heavy Cross of archpastorship also bear the icon of the Panagia who bore her own Cross to a height “more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim.” She is an image of the Church both as the Mother of God and as our supreme example of human purity and thus she holds such a prominent position in the Church.

Panagia[3] is our helper and protector and the Joy of All Who Sorrow. To contemplate Christ it is necessary to contemplate the person of His most pure Mother.  However, we do well to heed the words of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus which warn of problems generally seen in Catholic and Protestant faiths: “There is an equal harm in both these heresies, both when men demean the Virgin and when, on the contrary, they glorify her beyond what is proper.”[4] From an Orthodox perspective, Catholicism often lapses into excess devotion and dogmatics concerning the Theotokos, but the Protestants unfortunately generally ignore her, seeing her as a mere vessel whose role is over once Christ is born. In Orthodoxy, she is always integrally connected to her Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. In icons she is always depicted with Christ except in scenes from her life, which are understood to be preparing her for Christ, and when she is depicted praying to Christ. She never seeks for nor accepts glory of her own but always points us to her Son.

 

The Ark of the New Covenant

The Old Testament contains many prophecies, allegories, and typologies concerning the Theotokos, beginning in the book of Genesis. Eve, the virgin who said “no” is seen as a foreshadowing of Mary, the virgin who said “yes,” and Genesis 3:15 prophesies the woman whose seed would crush Satan. There are many others including Jacob’s ladder, Gideon’s dewy fleece, the queen of Psalm 45, and of course the virgin prophesied in Isaiah 7:14, which could all be treated extensively on their own. One important connection expounded by the Church Fathers is that of the Ark of the Covenant and the Mother of God[5]. Although it is not explicitly stated in Scripture, a careful study reveals that it is the undeniable teaching of the Scriptures, and especially of the Gospel of the Evangelist Luke who personally knew the Theotokos, that she is the Ark of the New Covenant.

According to the commandment of God, the Ark of the Covenant was made of the rare shittim wood[6] and overlaid with pure gold (Ex. 25:10-11) and in it was contained the word of God on stone – the tablets of the Mosaic Law, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s budded rod which signifies the Jewish priesthood (Heb. 9:4). The spirit and glory of the Lord filled the tent wherein was kept the Ark and overshadowed it (Ex. 40:34-35), and God spoke to the people of Israel from the mercy seat of the Ark (Ex. 25:22). The Theotokos is a woman rare in her obedience to God who was “overlaid” with the pure gold of the Son of God, bearing in her womb the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the Word of God in flesh and the fulfillment of the Law, the bread of life, and the one High Priest Who budded forth from the grave (Matt. 5:17, John 6:35, Heb. 3:1). At the Annunciation she was overshadowed by the power and Spirit of God (Lk. 1:35), and the Word of God comes to us from her.

During the reign of Saul the Ark was captured by the Philistines but was returned after seven months. King David retrieved the Ark but fearing the wrath of God he asked, “How shall the ark of the LORD come to me?” and he took it to the hill country of Judah to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite where it stayed for three months and blessed his house. Later David shouted for joy and danced wearing a priestly ephod in the presence of the Ark as it was being returned to Jerusalem where its glory would be revealed in the newly built Temple (2 Sam. 6). While pregnant with the Lord, the Theotokos traveled to the hill country of Judah (Judea) to the home of her cousin Elizabeth who greeted her with the words: “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” She stayed there for three months and is thrice described as “blessed” by Elizabeth. At the sight of the Theotokos Elizabeth exclaimed with joy, “Blessed art thou among women,” and the babe, St. John the Forerunner, of priestly lineage leapt in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. After returning home, Mary traveled to Jerusalem to present Christ, the Son of God, in the Temple. (Luke 1:39-56, 2:21-22).

Finally, in the book of Revelation, St. John beheld a vision of the temple of God containing the Ark of the Covenant and immediately begins to describe a woman in the heavens who bore a child against whom the red dragon fought[7], and who would rule all nations and was caught up to God (11:19-12:5).  If read literally this can only apply to the Theotokos for she alone gave birth to a Child Who would rule all nations. Archbishop Averky of Syracuse writes that the woman in Revelation 12 represents rather the Church, because the Theotokos did not experience birth pains as did the woman in St. John’s vision[8]. However, it is a common Patristic teaching that Christ’s entrusting of His mother to the beloved disciple from the Cross indicates that she is the mother of all Christians and thus of the Church, [9] and that the sword of St. Symeon’s prophecy pierced her soul as she stood at the foot of the Cross.[10] The Church also proclaims this in Her hymnography: “’A sword hath gone through my heart, O Son,’ said the Virgin in her grief, as she beheld Christ her Son and Master hanging on the Tree.”[11] As it is Christ’s passion, and Resurrection, which gives birth to the Church then the “birth pains” of Revelation 12:2 can refer to her pain of soul at the Cross which births her spiritual children. And although many Church Fathers do identify the woman in Revelation as the Church,[12] it is also common to see in the Theotokos a figure of the Church. St. Ephraim of Syria writes, “The Virgin Mary is a symbol of the Church, when she receives the first announcement of the gospel … We call the Church by the name of Mary, for she deserves a double name.”[13] Furthermore, according to the Painter’s Manual or Hermeneia of Dionysius of Fourna, the twelfth chapter of Revelation is to be illustrated with the Theotokos as the woman of St. John’s vision, and the Akathist for the Dormition, as celebrated on the Holy Mountain, identifies the vision as a type of the glory of the Mother of God: “The heavenly sign was a type of thy glory, O Mother, which I beheld in the Revelation; for thou didst then appear unto me as a woman clad with the intellectual Sun …”[14]

Mary as the Theotokos

The Biblical typology of Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant illustrates well the Orthodox approach to the Theotokos, of venerating her as she connects to and leads us to her Son. The original Ark contained prefigurements of Christ, and the Virgin contained Christ Himself, Who is God. Thus the Church proclaims her to be the “Theotokos,” meaning the “God-bearer,” a title officially bestowed upon her at the Third Ecumenical Council in 431, although it was already in use long before. The earliest usage of the term is found in Origen’s Commentary on Romans and in St. Dionysius of Alexandria’s epistle to Paul of Samosata, and Blessed Theodoret of Cyrrhus even wrote that the term is of Apostolic origin,[15] but through St. Gregory the Theologian it became the standard of orthodoxy: “If anyone does not believe that Saint Mary is the Mother of God (θεοτόκος), he is severed from the Godhead.”[16] Of course the belief that Mary gave birth to God was already enshrined in the Nicene Creed and had even been taught as early as St. Ignatius of Antioch: “For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointmentof God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost.”[17] But lest it be thought that St. Gregory would condemn on the basis of Mary alone, he firmly grounds “Theotokos” in the economy of salvation: “If any introduces the notion of two Sons, one of God the Father, the other of the mother, and discredits the unity and identity, may he lose his part in the adoption promised to those who believe aright … For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved.”[18] The Church proclaims Mary as the Theotokos to safeguard the essential teaching that Christ is both fully man and fully God, united in one hypostasis that dwelt in the womb of Mary.

However, the heresiarch Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople (428-431), taught precisely what his predecessor, St. Gregory, had condemned. Building on the Christology of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia, Nestorius refused to apply to the Virgin Mary the term “Theotokos,” preferring rather “Christotokos.” He wrote, “If any one says that the man who was formed of the Virgin is the Only-begotten … and does not rather confess that he has obtained the designation of Only-begotten on account of his connection with him who in nature is the Only-begotten of the Father … let him be anathema,” and at the Third Ecumenical Council he proclaimed that he could never confess that a child of three months was God.[19] Several Fathers rose up against this “two-Son” Christology, most notably St. Cyril of Alexandria. In his Second Letter to Nestorius he wrote, “Confessing the Word to be made one with the flesh according to substance, we adore one Son and Lord Jesus Christ: we do not divide the God from the man, nor separate him into parts, as though the two natures were mutually united in him only through a sharing of dignity and authority,” and as regards the place of the Theotokos: “Since the holy Virgin brought forth corporally God made one with flesh according to nature, for this reason we also call her Mother of God (Theotokos), not as if the nature of the Word had the beginning of its existence from the flesh.”[20] Under the leadership of St. Cyril the Third Ecumenical Council deposed and excommunicated Nestorius, and the Formula of Reunion of 433 declared Mary to be “Theotokos,” thus preserving Orthodox soteriology. Christ united full Divinity to full humanity, perfecting it, and it was truly God Who died and rose again, defeating the power of death. St. Ephraim of Syria says that “those who deny that the Holy Virgin is actually Theotokos are no longer believers, but disciples of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”[21]

Her Ever-Virginity

The Ark of the Covenant was the holiest artifact of the Mosaic religion as the seat of God’s presence and glory and accordingly, no man could touch it, at penalty of death (2 Sam. 6:6-7). Correspondingly, the Church professes the Theotokos to be “Ever-Virgin” – “untouched” by any man. Concerning the “brothers and sisters” of Christ, the Church follows the Protoevangelium of James which teaches that they are children of Joseph’s previous marriage, as he was considerably older than the Theotokos (chapter 9).[22] Furthermore, several Fathers teach that if the Theotokos had other children then she would have lived with them following Christ’s Crucifixion rather than with the beloved disciple to whom Christ entrusted His mother.[23] Of course Christ’s virgin birth is an essential point of orthodoxy, but St. Gregory of Nyssa finds in the Virgin’s wonderment at St. Gabriel’s Annunciation even a vow of lifelong virginity. He writes:

The angel brings the glad tidings of childbearing, but she is concerned with virginity and holds that her integrity should come before the angelic message. She does not refuse to believe the angel; neither does she move away from her convictions. She says: I have given up any contact with man. “How will this happen to me, since I do not know man?” (Lk. 1:34) … if Joseph had taken her to be his wife, for the purpose of having children, why would she have wondered at the announcement of maternity, since she herself would have accepted becoming a mother  according to the law of nature?[24]

The perpetual virginity of the Theotokos is the teaching of nearly every Church Father, beginning with Clement and Origen of Alexandria[25], and is affirmed by the Fifth Ecumenical Council in its second and sixth anathemas. Moreover, the term “Ever-Virgin” is used in every Orthodox service and the Church appoints to be read at many feasts of the Theotokos the Ezekiel passage of the eastern gate through which the Messiah passes and which remains closed (43:27-44:4) in which the Church sees a foretelling of the Virgin’s womb remaining closed. Moreover, every icon of the Theotokos depicts her with a star on her head and one on each shoulder which represents her virginity before, during, and after giving birth to Christ.

Of course there are those in Christian history and today who deny this impregnable teaching of the Church. Tertullian believed that the “brothers and sisters” of Christ were full-blood relations and that Mary could not have remained a virgin while giving birth to Christ. For him, Christ’s birth necessarily opened her womb.[26] Her virginity during her childbearing will be further addressed.  St. Jerome wrote feverishly against the heretic Helvidius who taught the equality of the virginal and married life, both exemplified by the Theotokos. Regarding Matthew 1:18: “before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit,” St. Jerome explains that although “before” often indicates a consequence it can merely show what was being planned beforehand[27]. Regarding the term “firstborn” as applied to Christ, he responds that to be a first child does not necessitate that others follow after[28]. Numbers 18:15 commands that the firstborn child, the child who opens the womb, be commended to God. Of course a mother did not have to wait for other children before considering her first to be her firstborn. He also refutes Helvidius’ exegesis of Matthew 1:25: “and he did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son,” that “till” demanded that Joseph sexually knew Mary following the birth of Christ[29]. St. John Chrysostom addresses the same verse.[30]

Regarding the question of the necessity of this doctrine, it can be shown that the Fathers do find much importance in the teaching. Sts. Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Gregory the Theologian among many others see in the Theotokos a sublime example for those celibates who would come after her[31], and Sts. John Chrysostom and Jerome state that it would have been unbecoming of the righteous Joseph to have carnal relations with the woman who is the temple of God and brought forth in a new and miraculous manner of childbearing.[32] Again, the teaching of Panagia as “Ever-Virgin” preserves her identity as the Ark of the New Covenant which preserves the divinity of her Son and our Lord Jesus Christ. However, it should be noted that this teaching applies not only to her bodily virginity, but even moreso to her spiritual virginity. Archimandrite Vassilios Bakoyannis writes, “It is easier to keep the body purer than the soul. What is required for the latter is life-long, vigilant, humble struggle … the peculiar characteristic of the Virgin, then, isn’t that she remained a virgin in the body, but that for all of her life she was a virgin in the depths of her soul. We denigrate the comeliness of the Virgin if we restrict it to the body.”[33] Thus in all aspects of Christian spiritual warfare the Theotokos stands as our supreme example after Christ. In a certain sense, she alone lived the life of Paradise for she alone is both Virgin and Mother.

Virgin During Birth

When discussing the ever-virginity of Panagia it is important to emphasize that she was truly a virgin during the birthing of Christ. This means, and the Church professes, that her childbearing was painless and did not open her womb, as Ezekiel 43:27-44:4 prophesies. The Church also sees a prophecy of her painless childbearing in Isaiah 66:7: “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.” In Christian times the teaching is initially found in the apocryphal works of The Ascension of Isaiah (11:8-14; c. 150-200), the Odes of Solomon (19:6-10; c. 100-200), and the Protoevangelium of James (chapter 19-20; c. 145), but is also continually asserted by the Church Fathers[34] and is taught by Canon 79 of the Council of Trullo which states, “Confessing the divine childbirth to have resulted from the Virgin without confinement (i.e., childbed), as well as without its being induced by seed …” St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite says that childbed “consists in giving birth to an infant with the accompanying pangs of childbirth and is followed by a flux of blood, according to Zonaras.”[35]

Whereas the sin of Eve caused women to bring forth in travail (Gen. 3:15), the Archangel Gabriel cries to the Theotokos “rejoice!” indicating that the curse is to be overturned by the birth of Christ. Following this, several Fathers taught that her childbearing was painless because it was caused without the pleasure of intimacy. Commenting on the prophecy of Isaiah, St. Gregory of Nyssa writes:

You have already been told of the unmarried Mother, the fatherless flesh, and the painless childbirth, which was unlike the usual birth with its birthpangs. You should understand that the reason for such pain is quite natural, since any pleasure is linked with pain, and thus it is necessary to take into consideration the connection between the two. It must be understood that if the first does not exist then neither can the second. Whatever is not preceded by pleasure cannot be followed by pain. After all, this is the prophecy of the Prophet.[36]

Similarly, St. Hesychios states that the Theotokos did not experience the travails of childbirth because “the virginal vineyard was not tilled.”[37] St. John of Damascus also writes that Christ’s birth was both according to the laws of parturition and above the laws of generation “for, as pleasure did not precede it, pain did not follow it.”[38] This teaching is perhaps most forcefully and extensively treated by St. Maximus the Confessor for whom the Fall was a perversion of man’s capacity for spiritual pleasure into a hedonistic search for sensible pleasures, which introduces pain into the life of man and the cosmos. He sees the introduction of sexual passions and especially the rule of sexual procreation as a foremost sign of this law of pleasure and pain. Sexual intercourse is a result of sensible pleasure, and gives rise to birth through pain. Therefore, Christ broke the law of pleasure by being born without pleasure, and He broke the law of pain by His painless birth:

After the transgression pleasure naturally preconditioned the births of all human beings, and no one at all was by nature free from birth subject to the passion associated with this pleasure; rather everyone was requited with sufferings, and subsequent death, as the natural punishment. The way to freedom was hard for all who were tyrannized by unrighteous pleasure and naturally subject to just suffering and to the thoroughly just death accompanying them. In order for unrighteous pleasure, and the thoroughly just death which is its consequence, to be abolished (seeing as suffering humanity has been so pitiably torn asunder by them, with human beings deriving the beginning of their existence from the corruption associated with pleasure, and coming to the end of their life in the corruption of death), and in order for suffering human nature to be set right, it was necessary for an unjust and likewise uncaused suffering and death to be conceived – a death “unjust” in the sense that it by no means followed a life given to passions, and “uncaused” in the sense that it was in no way preceded by pleasure.[39]

This truth is also represented in icons of the Nativity which do not depict the Mother of God lying fatigued in childbed, but rather kneeling in worship of her Son. Furthermore, because the Theotokos gave birth as a virgin and without pain and afterbirth, the Church prays to Christ, “By Thy nativity, Thou didst sanctify the Virgin’s womb” in the Kontakion for the feast of the Meeting of the Lord. Not only was she preserved inviolate, but she was even sanctified. The Church upholds and proclaims her painless childbearing as witness to her virginity and the Divinity of her Son, and the freeing of the world from the dialectic of pleasure and pain.

Dormition and Assumption

There are many feasts of the Mother of God, commemorating the events of her life, her intercessions for us after her death, and her innumerable miraculous icons. Her most significant and solemn feast is certainly her Dormition which includes her bodily Assumption, commemorated on August 15th and preceded by two weeks of fasting. The feast is often known as the “summer Pascha,” and is celebrated with great pomp throughout the Orthodox world. For instance, in Jerusalem on August 12th a Liturgy is served at Little Gethsemane, followed by a Molieben and a procession with her burial shroud to her sepulcher in Gethsemane proper, in which all the members of the Russian Spiritual Mission participate. On the morning of August 14th the clergy, monastics, and faithful embark upon a two-hour procession from the Jerusalem Patriarchate which culminates in the service of Lamentations[40] at the Gethsemane Skete, where is placed the burial shroud of the Mother of God amidst fragrant flowers and myrtle and adorned with precious coverings. On the Apodosis of the feast (August 23rd) the burial shroud is returned in another solemn procession.[41] This is but one of the celebrations throughout the Orthodox world that could be described that demonstrate the great love for the Theotokos that resides in the hearts of the Orthodox faithful.

Following the resolution of the Nestorian controversy in 433, public veneration of the Theotokos in liturgical and artistic settings took on greater importance and spread rapidly. Several churches and monasteries were built in her honor in the fifth century, and she was celebrated throughout the whole empire on a day before or after the Nativity since the late fourth century. The ancient Armenian lectionary from Jerusalem compiled between 412 and 439 lists the commemoration of the Mother of God on August 15th in the Church of the Kathisma,[42] and the feast was made obligatory in the East as a celebration of her Dormition by Emperor Maurice (582-602).[43]

Interest in the death of Mary existed in Palestine by the late fourth century, possibly connected with the tradition surrounding her tomb in the Kedron Valley. An early witness to this interest is St. Epiphanius of Salamis, and his words are surprising. He writes, “nor do I say that she remained immortal; but I also will not say definitively that she died. For the Scripture goes far beyond the human mind, and has left this point undecided because of the surpassing dignity of that vessel [of God] …” and “If the holy Virgin died and was buried, her falling-asleep was honorable and her end holy; her crown consisted in her virginity … Or else she remained alive; for it is not impossible for God to do whatever [H]e wills. In fact, no one knows her end.”[44] This ambiguity is compatible with the Roman Catholic dogma of the Assumption of Mary which was proclaimed on November 1, 1950 by Pope Pius XII and states: “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (emphasis added). Following this intentional ambiguity, Roman Catholics are free to believe that she died, or not, but it is clear that by the time of Emperor Maurice’s decree the feast was universally understood to include both her death and Assumption, and this is the unquestionable understanding of the Orthodox Church.[45]

There is a long and complicated development of the traditions surrounding the Dormition and Assumption of the Theotokos. For most scholars the earliest extant witness to the story is found in a group of Syriac fragments dated to the late fifth century which describes the death of Mary, the reception of her soul by Christ, and the placing of her body in Paradise underneath the tree of life. There are also two Greek accounts from the late fifth or early sixth century, one attributed to St. John the Theologian, which expand on the Syriac account and include many of the details officially adopted by the Church and presented in the hymnography for the feast of the Dormition and in the Synaxarion.[46] There is also a passage in On the Divine Names by St. Dionysius the Areopagite that speaks of the Apostles gathering to gaze at the body that was the vessel of God. Scholars consider this a pseudepigraphal work from late-fifth-century Syria, but notable Orthodox voices such as Fr. John Romanides and Fr. Dumitru Stăniloaeupheld the authenticity of the writings, meaning there could actually be a first-century reference to the Dormition of the Theotokos.[47] Following these fragments and disputed works, the oldest extant Greek homily for the feast is that of John of Thessalonica who served as metropolitan between 610 and 649, and the roughly contemporary sermon of the Palestinian bishop Theoteknos of Livias.[48] There are several other well-known early homilies on the Dormition by St. Modestus of Jerusalem, St. Andrew of Crete, St. Germanus of Constantinople, St. John of Damascus, and St. Theodore the Studite, among others.

Through the hymns for the feast of the Dormition and the Synaxarion the Church depicts the story of Mary’s passing from this life and her translation into Heaven. Having asked to be given notice of her coming repose, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Mother of God three days prior, announcing her coming sleep and handing her a palm branch from Paradise which indicated that in death she would overcome corruption. Rejoicing at the news she went to pray on the Mount of Olives, where even the trees bowed in reverence to her. She then returned home and prepared herself for her burial. Her friends lamented that they were losing her but she assured them that she would continue to pray for them and the whole world. Suddenly there was a noise like thunder and her house was filled with the Apostles who had been miraculously gathered from around the world to bid farewell to the Theotokos – all except for the Apostle Thomas. Having taken leave of all present she prayed to Christ for peace throughout the world and gave up her holy soul to her Son and God Who had appeared with the Archangel Michael and a host of angels. According to some texts, Christ personally received her soul because she had prayed that He would protect her from the aerial toll houses.[49] As was her childbearing, her death was painless.

As the Apostles carried her bier in procession and sang with the angels the Jews became enraged and the priest Jephoniah attempted to overturn her bier but his hands were cut off by the sword of divine wrath. The sight of his severed arms brought him to repentance and he was healed by St. Peter. The Apostles buried her most pure body in the Garden of Gethsemane, remaining in prayer and hymning for three days. On the third day, a Sunday, the Apostle Thomas arrived, lamenting the fact that he had not been blessed to bid farewell to the Mother of God, and so the Apostles decided to open her tomb to allow him to venerate her body. However, they were astonished to find that her body was no longer in the tomb, and they realized that she had been assumed bodily into Heaven to be reunited with her Son as our advocate before God.[50] As Christ appeared to His disciples, proving His Resurrection, so too did the Mother of God appear to the disciples as they ate, saying, “Rejoice. I am always with you.”[51] Following the Lord’s Ascension whenever the Apostles ate they would remove a portion of bread for the Lord and lifting it up proclaim “Great is the name of the Holy Trinity! O Lord Jesus Christ, help us,” and each would partake of the Lord’s portion. However, this time they proclaimed instead “All-holy Mother of God, save us!” and ever since a piece of Panagia bread has been set aside in her honor. This custom is traditionally followed still today in Orthodox monasteries. The Apostles were then miraculously taken back to their respective mission fields.

It should be noted that although the Orthodox Church has not formally proclaimed the Assumption of Mary as has the Catholic Church, it is no less an unwavering teaching of the Orthodox Church, as seen in its hymnographic, hagiographic, and Patristic literature. Thus the oft-made assertion that it is not dogmatic is problematic because it gives the false impression that the faithful Orthodox Christian can justifiably deny the Assumption of Panagia and fails to recognize the many avenues through which the Church proclaims the glory of Her truths. Her tomb in Jerusalem is indeed empty.

Flowery language and theological reflections characterize the Patristic homilies on the Dormition and Assumption of the Theotokos. Two major points of emphasis are the Virgin’s incorrupt death and Assumption as a confirmation of the work of Christ that will culminate in the general resurrection of all mankind and her continuing and heightened role as intercessor for all mankind. Her death is a mystery, as St. Andrew of Crete says[52], and the final mystery bestowed upon her, rooted in the Mystery of Christ’s triumph over death. For St. Maximus, as Christ and His Mother have overturned the law of pleasure and pain through His pleasureless and painless birth, and as Christ has defeated death by His death and Resurrection, transforming it from a condemnation of human nature into a condemnation of sin, the same becomes true of the Saints, first of all and especially the Theotokos.[53] The same is true for St. John of Damascus who says that she overcame nature by her unique childbearing and therefore “It was fitting that she, who preserved her virginity undamaged by childbirth, should have her body preserved from corruption in death,”[54] and thus her passing is referred to as a “deathless Dormition.”[55] Although she was above nature, she submitted to the corruption of death as had her Son: “Imitating your Creator and Son, above nature you submit to the laws of nature.”[56] She was a little lower than the angels through mortality, but “by her proximity to the God of all … she has ascended higher than the angels and the archangels and all the hosts that are found beyond them.”[57] According to St. Andrew of Crete because she was so intimately tied into the economy of salvation her life cannot simply end in death.[58]

Commenting on St. Gregory Palamas’ statement that “she, like her Son, yielded for a short time to nature”[59]  (emphasis added), Dr. Christopher Veniamin writes that, according to St. Maximus, we can even go so far as to say her death was by economy and therefore voluntary, and that the same is true of all the righteous in Christ.[60] Elsewhere Dr. Veniamin writes:

Following the regeneration of our nature through baptism and the seal of the Holy Spirit (i.e. chrismation), our mortal and passable bodies are such only by divine economy, see St. Maximus the Confessor, Letters to Thalassius LXI (PG 90:625-645), inasmuch as the saints voluntarily lay down their lives (as did Christ), even though they are blameless and innocent. Their innocence means that sin, and therefore death too, has no hold over them. Thus, their innocent and unjust death is like that of Christ, and signifies their triumph (through Christ) over the devil and death.[61]

This follows from St. Gregory’s statement that although the Lord has regenerated us through baptism and chrismation for the day of redemption “He has allowed us still to have a body which is mortal and passable.”[62] This is a great mystery. Through Christ all corruption and death can be defeated within us, as it is in the Theotokos, and thus in some way our death becomes voluntary although it is according to the mortal nature we inherit at birth. But the death of the Theotokos, which is the culmination of the Biblical story of redemption[63] has ushered in the experience that all men have been called to since the creation of Adam and Eve. Had they not sinned, Adam and Eve and all their descendants would have acquired immortality, and so she who is All-Holy, the Panagia, could not be held by the tomb. And we do not say that Christ simply chose to raise her body, but rather that death itself could not hold her. St. John of Damascus asks, “How could death swallow [the Virgin]? These things are alien and forever foreign to her God-bearing soul and body.”[64] Noting its embarrassment at the hands of Christ, St. John also states that death approached the Theotokos with trepidation: “It learned from its mistake.”[65] Her painless death and Assumption into glory are a confirmation of the saving work of Jesus Christ, and her passage is the first of that of which all of redeemed humanity will partake.

The Theotokos is the greatest advocate of men before God. It is to her that we flee after God Himself and her petitions fill our services and prayers. She is truly the mother of the Church and her abundant love overflows on us all. At the wedding at Cana she interceded before her Son, her last act on earth was to pray for peace, and she continues in this role in an inestimably greater capacity now that she is body and soul in heaven with Christ. This is a continual theme in Patristic Dormition homilies. It is treated by St. John of Thessalonica, who teaches that Christ has mercy on those who praise His mother, Theoteknos of Livias, St. Theodore the Studite, St. John Maximovitch, etc. [66] She is especially praised in this capacity by St. Germanus of Constantinople: “In times of tribulation you are near, and we find safety in seeking your help; and when it is time to rejoice, you are joy’s sponsor. Whenever we find ourselves completely under your maternal care, we cannot help believing that you live among us … every faith-filled heart runs towards you … every right-believing Christian bears you on his lips.”[67] He even conceives of her as the central channel of grace: “no one is saved but through you, Mother of God; no one is free of danger but through you, Mother of God; no one is redeemed but through you, Mother of God …”[68] St. John of Damascus writes that through her entry into Heaven she has won for us all good things, and St. Gregory Palamas writes that she forevermore bestows her blessings upon all of creation, as she promised just before her repose.[69]

Because she is closest to God she is able to intercede more powerfully than all, including the angels.[70] It is because her prayers benefit much before the Lord that we call on her constantly in life and it is even to her that we turn for protection at the moment of, and after our death. St. Ephraim of Syria supplicates: “O my Lady, do not leave me in the terrible hour of death, but hasten to my aid and deliver me from the bitter torments of the demons. For if thou choosest, thou has the power to accomplish this, for thou art truly the Mother of God, who reignest over all,”[71] and the same is asked every evening at the service of Small Compline. Prior to her soul’s entrance into Heaven she was shown the horrors of Hades by the Archangel Gabriel that she might have greater compassion on those who suffer. This is referred to in the hymnography of the Church.[72] According to Archimandrite Vassilios Bakoyannis she entreated Christ to have mercy on the souls that suffer there and so they are given respite between Pascha and Pentecost each year, and for this reason the Royal Doors remain open, the Saturday of Pentecost is dedicated to the departed, and the third kneeling prayer of Pentecost is a supplication for the departed.[73] In this way she continues to bring consolation to even those in physical and spiritual death. She is the Ark in the heavens residing with her Son. She is quick to hear, and the joy of all who sorrow because she fervently entreats the Lord on our behalves. This is enshrined in the Kontakion of the feast of the Dormition: “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.”

Her Sinlessness

All the honors showered upon her are due not solely to the fact that the Theotokos bore God in the flesh, but, as Christ said, that she heard the word of God and kept it in her heart. She alone among men has preserved in full the grace that she received. Christ’s humanity was fully deified by virtue of its hypostatic union to His divinity from the moment of His conception, but the Theotokos was born with the same fallen nature of which all men partake. Orthodoxy absolutely does not confess the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception which exempts the Mother of God from the stain of Original Sin.[74] Furthermore, the Catholics wrongly understand the ancestral inheritance to include the guilt of Adam’s sin. Orthodoxy proclaims that no one is born guilty, and thus Panagia was in no need of a special dispensation. Instead the Church professes as St. John Maximovitch writes: “The righteousness and sanctity of the Virgin Mary were manifested in the fact that She, being ‘human with passions like us,’ so loved God and gave Herself over to Him, that by Her purity She was exalted high above the rest of the human race.”[75]

It is true that there has been some disagreement on this issue. St. John Chrysostom sees ambition in her at the wedding at Cana, and vanity when she comes to see Him as He preached, and both Origen and St. Basil interpret St. Symeon’s sword as doubt piercing her heart at the foot of the Cross.[76] However, St. Basil immediately asserts that she conquered such thoughts through heroic struggle. The economy of salvation is a mystery as is the role of the Theotokos, as we have seen. The Church had to internalize and ponder this great mystery, and having done so undoubtedly proclaims to us her complete purity. The majority of Saints boldly proclaim her purity.[77] For example, St. Cyril of Alexandria says that “it is unseemly to impute any sin or transgression to the Virgin.”[78] Furthermore, the rule of prayer is the rule of faith, and in the services we continually hear and proclaim Mary as our “most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady,” and at the Vigil for her Entrance into the Temple we hear her described as “The glorious gate, impenetrable to evil thoughts.”[79] These are but two of the innumerable examples that could be brought forth.

Archimandrite Vassilios Bakoyannis writes that the Patristic corpus sees two major temptations of the Virgin: when Christ was lost at age twelve, and when she beheld Christ crucified. Regarding the seeming “carelessness” with her Son, Elder Sophrony writes: “’During her life on earth,’ writes St. Silouan the Athonite, ‘she did not yet have totality of knowledge. So she suffered certain sinless mistakes of imperfection.’”[80] Thus, regarding the loss of Christ at age twelve, Archimandrite Vassilios states that “It would have been natural for her mind to be assailed by temptations at such an exceptionally difficult time. But this does not mean that she gave room for sinful thoughts. On the contrary, as a champion of spiritual struggles, she fought and won them.”[81] Regarding the Crucifixion, Fr. Vassilios follows St. Basil in allowing that the Theotokos may have momentarily questioned the divinity of her Son, but he also states that just as Christ did not sin in this moment “so His mother remained invulnerable to sin.”[82] He then considers sins of thought, word, and deed and affirms each time that the Theotokos remained pure. He asks that since she had no insidious thoughts or words at her most dreadful hours why would we believe she had them while at peace? Regarding deeds he affirms that as she experienced no sinful thoughts then she could not have experienced sinful deeds, as thoughts necessarily precede deeds.[83] So writes St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite: “The Mother of God was pure not only in body but in soul and thought. So her most pure and passionless intellect was never challenged by malicious thoughts. This merit was never given to any other person.”[84]

This can be a hard teaching to understand, especially for converts from Protestantism. The Scriptures teach time and again that none are without sin but Christ. Thus it must again be emphasized that only Christ is wholly without sin including the fallen sinful nature, whereas the Theotokos suffered from the same fallen nature and inclinations as does all mankind. But as the Scriptures teach, God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13), and she bore all temptations with patience and grace. Even so, this is a hard saying. Even one as great as St. Silouan questioned her complete sinlessness. Elder Sophrony relates the words of St. Silouan:

I was in church and heard the prophecy of Isaiah (1:16), ‘you shall be washed and made clean,’ I thought:  ‘maybe Our Most Holy Lady sinned once even in thought.’ And then, what a miracle, in my heart a voice united with the prayer declared explicitly: ‘The Mother of God never sinned, even in thought.’ And he clarifies it by saying: ‘In this way, the Holy Spirit bore witness in my heart to her sanctity.’[85]

St. Gregory Palamas explains that God chose Mary “not simply from among ordinary folk, but from all the elect of every age” who were pious and well-pleasing to God, and he traces her lineage from Adam to Seth to Enos through David and through the righteous Sts. Joachim and Anna.[86] Joachim and Anna dedicated her to the Lord and took her to the Temple where the high priest recognized her unrivaled degree of grace and so led her into the Holy of Holies where she was fed heavenly food by the hand of an angel, and “in this way … she was chosen from the elect of all ages, who was declared the Holy of Holies, whose body was purer and more divine than spirits cleansed by virtue, to such an extent that she was able to receive … the person of the only-begotten Word of the Father.”[87] Her experience in the Holy of Holies cannot be overstated, for there she

chose to live in solitude out of the sight of all, inside the sanctuary. There, having loosed every bond with material things, shaken off every tie and even risen above sympathy towards her own body, she united her mind with its inclination to turn within itself, with attention and unceasing holy prayer. Having become her own mistress by this means, and being established above the jumble of thoughts in all their different guises, and above absolutely every form of being, she constructed a new, indescribable way to heaven, which could be called silence of mind. Intent upon this silence, she flew high above all created things, saw God’s glory more clearly than Moses (cf. Exod. 33:18-23), and beheld divine grace. Such experiences are completely beyond the scope of men’s senses, but they are a gracious and holy sight for spotless souls and minds.[88]

According to this testimony of St. Gregory, the Theotokos can be said to be the first hesychast. As we have seen, she again received immeasurable grace at her Annunciation which raised her to a new level of sanctification[89], and her painless child-birthing also sanctified her womb. She again received great grace at the foot of the Cross in order to bear the piercing of her soul by the pain of witnessing her Son’s unjust Crucifixion. She was the recipient of an abundant outpouring of grace from God, and she alone preserved herself blameless by preserving this grace. After Christ she is our example for the spiritual life, for she alone represents the fullness of redeemed humanity.

The importance and centrality of the Theotokos in the Orthodox Church cannot be overstated, and she cannot be praised enough. She is our greatest example after Christ and she is the mother of the Church, ever interceding on our behalves before the Lord. Through His Incarnation the Lord Jesus Christ has deified human nature, and by extension it is by her obedience to the word of the Lord from the Archangel Gabriel that fallen human nature has been healed. Her womb became more spacious than the heavens for in it she bore He who is uncontainable. She is the Ark of the New Covenant and truly Theotokos. She alone has given God something He did not already have – His humanity. And she gave her entire life over to God and received inestimable grace, and she alone has preserved in full the grace she received, and this devotion is expressed through her Ever-Virginity of both body and soul. Her virginal childbearing was painless and thus destroyed the cyclical attack of pleasure and pain on mankind. Her complete purity in thought, word, and deed found its fulfillment in her painless Dormition, for death and the grave could not hold her who was above nature. Christ Himself took her soul into the safe recesses of Paradise, and her body was also assumed three days later. She is the confirmation of the saving work of Jesus Christ and the coming resurrection. As the Church confesses, she resides in the heavenly mansions and prays for all the world. The Mother of God stands at the very heart of our faith, and the entire Church venerates her above any Saint or angel. As Fr. Bulgakov wrote, it is the love and veneration of the Theotokos that warms our hearts and the entire Body of Christ. She seeks no glory or honor for herself but points us only to Christ Who is the Savior of our souls.

It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos,
ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God.
More honorable than the cherubim,
and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim.
Without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

 


[1] The statement is most commonly associated with St. Athanasius the Great (On the Incarnation 54.3), although the idea was previously put forth by St. Irenaeus and has been repeated down through the centuries.

[2] Bulgakov, Fr. Sergius. Eastern Orthodox Theology: a Contemporary Reader. Ed. Daniel B. Clendenin. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003, p. 66

[3] “Panagia” is an affectionate Greek term applied to the Theotokos  meaning “All-Holy.”

[4] Panarion, Against the Collyridians, quoted in Maximovitch, St. John. The Orthodox Veneration of Mary, the Birthgiver of God. Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2004, p. 53

[5] St. Hesychios: “The ark of Thy sanctification is the Virgin Theotokos surely. If Thou art the Pearl, then she must be the ark” (De S. Maria Deip., in PG 93, 1469). See also St. Romanos, Hymns, in Sources Chretiennes (Lyons), 110, 122-3; St. Andrew of Crete, Homilies in PG 97, 869C; and St. John of Damascus, Homilies in PG 96, 725; all referenced in Holy Apostles Convent. The Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos. Buena Vista, CO: Holy Apostles Convent, 1989, p. 468.

[6] The exact identification of shittim wood is debated, but it is typically identified with acacia wood. In any case it is certainly a rare wood.

[7] Thus referring to the enmity between the serpent and the woman and her seed in Genesis 3:15

[8] Taushev, Abp. Averky. The Apocalypse in the Teaching of Ancient Christianity: an Orthodox Commentary. Trans. Fr. Seraphim Rose. Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1995, p. 178. The issue of her painless childbearing will be further addressed in this work.

[9] For example: St. George of Nicomedia, Homily 8, PG 100, 1477B; St. Epiphanios, Panarion 78; St. Nilos the Abbot, PG 79, 179D; St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 37 on the August Dormition of Our Most Immaculate Lady Theotokos, PG 151, 465A; St. John of Kronstadt. My Life in Christ, Or, Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-amendment, and of Peace in God: Extracts from the Diary. Trans. Ernest Evgenʹevich. Gulia︡ev. Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1984, p. 305

[10] See Origen, On Luke Homily 18, PG 13, 1845; St. Basil, Letter 250, PG 32, 965; St. Cyril of Alexandria, On John 19.25, PG 74, 661-664; St. Hesychios, Sermon on the Presentation, PG 93, 1478; St. Romanos the Melodist, On the Presentation 13; The Venerable Bede, Hom. in Purif. 18, in Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, Turnhout (1953), 122, 132; St. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4.14; St. Theodore the Studite, 2nd Canon of Matins on Monday in the Third Week of Lent, Stavrotheotokion of Ode 8

[11] Tuesday Vepers, 1st Tone, Theotokion

[12] St. Hippolytus, Christ and Antichrist; St. Methodios, The Symposium: A Treatise on Chastity

[13] Sermo ad noct. Resurr., ed. Lamy, 1:534, quoted in Gambero, Luigi. Mary and the Fathers of the Church: the Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought. Trans. Thomas Buffer. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999, p. 115. See also St. Ambrose, Exposito in Lucam 2.7, PL 15, 1635-36; St. Isidore of Seville, Quaestiones in Genesim 2.18, PL 83, 216 and Allegoriae 139, PL 83, 117. Virginity represents faithfulness on behalf of the people of God in the Old Testament, and conversely unfaithfulness is presented as impurity (see Jeremiah 18:13-15 and Ezekiel 23). This imagery is continued in the New Testament era. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians that it is his duty to preserve the “virginity” of the Church (2 Cor. 11:2-3), and in the Shepherd of Hermas the Church is presented as a virgin (4th Vision, chapter 2).

[14] Charitos, Minas. The Repose of Our Most Holy and Glorious Lady the Theotokos And Ever-virgin Mary and Her Translation to Heaven. Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1963, p. 10, quoted in The Life of the Virgin Mary, The Theotokos, p. 501.

[15] Origen’s use is cited in Socrates’ Ecclesiastical History 7.32, although the genuineness of the cited text is debated. Nevertheless, Origen certainly accepts the idea if not the term. In his De Principiis 2.6.2 he writes “But of all the marvellous and mighty acts related of Him, this altogether surpasses human admiration, and is beyond the power of mortal frailness to understand or feel, how that … the Wisdom of God can have entered the womb of a woman, and have been born an infant, and have uttered wailings like the cries of little children!” St. Dionysius’ use of the term is referenced but not cited in Madeleine Cosman, Madeleine Pelner., and Linda Gale. Jones. Handbook to Life in the Medieval World. Vol. 3. New York: Facts On File, 2008, p. 331, as well as on several websites including his Orthodox Wikipedia entry: “Dionysius of Alexandria.” Orthodox Wiki. 4 Sept. 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2011. <http://orthodoxwiki.org/Dionysius_of_Alexandria&gt;.. New World Encyclopedia indicates that Bl. Theodoret wrote in 436 of the Apostolic origin of the term: “Theotokos.” New World Encyclopedia. 29 Aug. 2008. Web. 8 Nov. 2011. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Theotokos&gt;.

[16] Epistle 101, quoted in Quasten, Johannes. Patrology. Vol. 3. Allen, TX: Christian Classics, 198., p. 253.

[17] Epistle to the Ephesians 18.

[18] Epistle 101. St. Gregory made this assertion against the Apollinarian heresy that said that the Logos took the place of a rational human soul in Jesus. However, St. Gregory’s teaching also stands as a condemnation of Nestorianism.

[19] 7th Anathema Against St. Cyril, NPNF 2 vol. 14, p. 213-214; p. 207

[20] Schaff, Philip, ed. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Vol. 14. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994. Ser. 2, pp. 202, 205

[21] To John the Monk, quoted in St. John Maxivotich, Orthodox Veneration p. 63

[22] According to Archimandrite Vassilios Bakoyannis Joseph had been married to Salome, the niece of the High Priest Zacharias, with whom he had four sons: James, Joses, Judas and Simon, and daughters including Salome, the mother of St. John the Evangelist and his brother James. Thus James and Judas are known as brothers of God. Bakoyannis, Vasilios. The Mother of Christ: the Mother of God. Athens: Orthodox Book Centre, 2005, p. 31-32 n. 2.

[23] St. Athanasius, De Virginitate in Le Museon 42:243-44; St. John Chrysostom, The Changing of Names 2.3, PG 51, 129; St. Hilary, Commentary on Matthew 1:4; St. Jerome, The Perpetual Virginity of Mary: Against Helvidius, 14, 15

[24] On the Birth of Christ, PG 46, 1140C – 1141A, quoted in Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, p. 157. The same is taught by St. Augustine in Sermo 225.2, PL 38, 1096-97

[25] Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7.16; Origen, Commentary on John 1.4, PG 14, 32

[26] Adversus Marcionem 4.19.11, PL 2, 435; De Carne Christi 23:1-5 passim, PL 2, 835-36

[27] The Perpetual Virginity of Mary 4

[28] In Evangelium Matthaei 1.1.25, PL 26, 26

[29] The Perpetual Virginity of Mary 7

[30] Homily on Matthew 5.3

[31] St. Athanasius, De Virginitate, in Le Museon 42:244; St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catacheses 12.34; St. Gregory the Theologian, Moral Poems 1.189-208, PG 37, 537A – 538A

[32] St. John Chrysostom, Homily on Matthew 5.3; St. Jerome, The Perpetual Virginity of Mary 7. St. John of Damascus comments that the chaste mind of the Theotokos could not consider receiving the embrace of a man following such a miracle as the Virgin Birth, Exact Exposition 4.14

[33] The Mother of Christ: The Mother of God, p. 121, 122

[34] Besides those who will be addressed, see also Venantius Fortunatus, Carmina miscellanea 8.6, PL 88, 268; St. Leo the Great, Sermo 22.2, PL 54, 195-196; St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 117.3, PL 52, 521; Theodotus of Ancyra, Homily 5.1, PG 77, 1413A –B; St. Proclus of Constantinople, Homily 4.1, PG 65, 708C – 709B; St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Birth of Christ, PG 46, 1133D – 1136B; St. Andrew of Crete, Sermon on the Annunciation, PG 97, 897; John Geometris, An Address on the Annunciation 12, PG 106, 821; Pseudo-Chrysostom, Sermon on the Theotokos 3, PG 69, 713.

[35] Pedalion, p. 384

[36] Sermon on Easter, PG 46, 601-604, quoted in Callinicos, Constantine. Our Lady the Theotokos. Trans. Fr. George Dimopoulos. Christian Orthodox Editions, 1987, p. 49.

[37] Sermon on the Presentation, PG 93, 1469 as quoted in Ibid., p. 50

[38] Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4.14

[39] Ad Thalassium 61, in St. Maximus the Confessor, Paul M. Blowers, and Robert Louis Wilken. On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: Selected Writings from St. Maximus the Confessor. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 2003, p. 131.

[40] It seems this service is of late origin and there is some controversy surrounding the extravagance of its poetic glorifications of the Theotokos. Fr. Serge R. Keleher, a Uniate priest, examines the service in Keleher, Fr. Serge R. “The Funeral of the Mother of God.” Looking East 12 (1977): 16-34, found at http://basilcrow.com/tmp/dormition-burial-rite.html. According to The Praises or the Sacred Order of the Holy Burial of our Most-Holy Sovereign Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary printed by St. Tikhon’s Monastery in 1983 the Lamentation service is celebrated on August 17th at the Gethsemane Skete (as opposed to the 14th), and is celebrated on the 15th in the Lavra, presumably of the Kiev Caves.

[41] The account of these celebrations is found on the website of the Orthodox Church in America at http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102302.

[42] Daley, Brian J. Introduction. On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1998, p. 4. The Church of the Kathisma was built at the traditional spot where Mary sat down to rest on the way to giving birth to the Savior, as told in the Protoevangelium of James.

Hieromonk Makarios, ed. The Synaxarion: the Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church. Trans. Mother Maria Rule and Mother Joanna Burton Burton. Vol. 6. Ormylia, Chalkidike, Greece: Holy Convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady, 1998, p. 482 n. 1. The footnote states that the feast was initially celebrated in January in Jerusalem.

[44] Panarion 78.11, Daley, On the Dormition of Mary, introduction pp. 5, 6

[45] Ibid., introduction p. 10

[46] Ibid., p. 7, 8

[47] For the work of Fr. Dumitru and reference to Fr. John see the Oct. 13, 2009 entry on the weblog Mystatogy: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2009/10/apostolic-authorship-of-corpus.html. The same blog also provides two articles by a Fr. John Parker: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2009/10/genuiness-of-writings-of-dionysius.html.

[48] Daley, On the Dormition of Mary, introduction p. 12, 13.

[49] St. Dimitri of Rosotv. The Assumption of Our Most Holy Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-virgin Mary. Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1990, p. 6; St. John Maximovitch, The Orthodox Veneration of Mary, the Birthgiver of God, p. 23; St. Nikolai Velimirovich. The Prologue from Ochrid: Lives of the Saints and Homilies for Every Day of the Year, Part 3: July, August, September. Trans. Mother Maria. Birmingham: Lazarica, 1986, p. 198; Holy Apostles Convent, The Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, p. 448; Bp. Nathanael of Vienna and Austria. “The Holy Righteous Abraham, Moses and Elias as Preparers of Man’s Salvation.” Orthodox Life 28.6 (Nov- Dec. 1978), p. 45; and the Lamentation service states: “At your Ascension into Heaven all the aerial spirits were overcome with awe and fear, O pure one, and trembled before your power, 2nd Stasis, number 28, p. 18. All these sources thus far are of Slavic origin, but this tradition is also mentioned by Archimandrite Vassilios Bakoyannis, who even says that the Theotokos prayed for two weeks before her repose to be protected from the toll houses, The Mother of Christ: the Mother of God, p. 95. The Mother of God would have asked for protection from the toll houses because she is supremely holy, and thus supremely humble, not trusting in her own works. This tradition should not be considered to in any way detract from her All-holiness. Furthermore, Bp. Nathanael also says, “It is natural for chastity and modesty to seek to avoid all contact and even proximity with those who bear filth, impudence and shamelessness,” The Holy Righteous Abraham, Moses and Elias, p. 45.

[50] Hieromonk Makarios, Synaxarion vol. 6, pp. 482-487

[51] Bakoyannis, The Mother of Christ: the Mother of God, p. 108.

[52] Homilies on Dormition 1.1, 2.2, 3.5

[53] Ad Thalassium 61

[54]Homily on the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God 1.10, direct quote from Homily on the Holy and Glorious Dormition and Transformation of Our Lady Mary, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin 2.14

[55] St. Dimitri of Rostov, The Assumption p. 31

[56] Matins, Aug. 15, Ode 1, Canon 1 by St. Kosmas Aitolos

[57] PG 151, 461AB

[58] Homily on the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady, the Mother of God 3.8

[59] St. Gregory Palamas. The Homilies. Ed. Christopher Veniamin. Waymart, PA: Mount Thabor Pub., 2009, p. 290

[60] Ibid., p. 600, n. 570

[61] Ibid., p. 562, n. 224

[62] Ibid., Homily 16: On Holy and Great Saturday, p. 129

[63] St. Andrew of Crete, Homily on Dormition 3:6-8, 11-13; cf. St. Theodore the Studite, Encomium on the Dormition of Our Holy Lady, the Mother of God 2 where he argues that her Assumption is the final undoing of the transgression of Eve.

[64] PG vol. 96 p. 728, in Bakoyannis, Mother of Christ: Mother of God p. 110

[65] On the Dormition Homily C3, in Mother of Christ: Mother of God p. 113

[66] St. John of Thessalonica, Homily on the Dormition of Our Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, in Patristic Homilies p. 67; Theoteknos of Livia, An Encomium on the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God  7, 9f.; St. Theodore the Studite, Encomium on the Dormition 6; St. John Maximovitch, Orthodox Veneration of Mary, p. 53

[67] Homily On the Most Venerable Dormition of the Holy Mother of God 1 1.10, Patristic Homilies p. 163-164

[68] Homily on the Most Venerable Dormition 1.1.10, Patristic Homilies p. 160

[69] St. John of Damascus, The Assumption, Holy Trinity Monastery p. 32, quoted in Holy Apostles Convent, The Life of the Virgin Mary p. 474; St. Gregory Palamas, quoted in Holy Apostles Convent, Life of Virgin Mary p. 491

[70] St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 37.13 On the Most Venerable Dormition of Our Exceedingly Pure Lady, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, Veniamin, Homilies p. 294

[71] Spiritual Psalter, in Life of the Virgin Mary p. 479

[72] St. John of Damascus, Matins Canon Ode 4, Aug. 15th: “A strange wonder it was to see the living heaven of the Ruler of all descended into the hollows of the earth.”; Akathist to the Theotokos on Her Dormition, Ikoi 10, 12: “Rejoice, O thou who didst trample upon the all-destructive Hades. Rejoice, thou who didst open the gates of Paradise to the Christian race who ever blesseth thee.” both quoted in Holy Apostles Convent, The Life of the Virgin Mary p. 479

[73] Bakoyannis, Mother of Christ: Mother of God p. 111-112

[74] The dogma, proclaimed in 1854 by Pope Pius IX in his Ineffabilis Deus states: “that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin”.

[75] St. John Maximovitch, Orthodox Veneration p. 59

[76] Origen, Homilies on Luke 17; St. Basil, Epistle 259; St. John Chrysostom, Homily 21 on John, Homily 44 on Matthew; all but the Homily on John are referenced on the New Advent article on the Immaculate Conception at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07674d.htm.

[77] Theodotus of Ancyra, Homily 6.11 in PO 19, 329; St. Ambrose, De Virginibus 2.6-16, PL 16, 220-22, quoted in Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church pp. 199-202; St. Augustine, De Natura et Gratia 36.42, PL 44, 267; St. Germanus of Constantinople, Homily 1 on the Dormition, PG 98, 345A; St. Andrew of Crete, Canon on the Nativity; St. John of Damascus, Homily on the Nativity 2, PG 96, 664B; St. Ephraim the Syrian: “Most holy Lady, Mother of God, alone most pure in soul and body, alone exceeding all perfection of purity …., alone made in thy entirety the home of all the graces of the Most Holy Spirit, and hence exceeding beyond all compare even the angelic virtues in purity and sanctity of soul and body . . . . my Lady most holy, all-pure, all-immaculate, all-stainless, all-undefiled, all-incorrupt, all-inviolate spotless robe of Him Who clothes Himself with light as with a garment . . . flower unfading, purple woven by God, alone most immaculate” (“Precationes ad Deiparam” in Opp. Graec. Lat., III, 524-37), quoted at New Advent http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07674d.htm.

[78] Bakoyannis, Mother of Christ: Mother of God p. 133

[79] Ode 1, Canon 1, Nov. 21st

[80] Archimandrite Sophrony. Saint Silouan, the Athonite. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1999,quoted in Bakoyannis, Mother of Christ: Mother of God, p. 126

[81] Bakoyannis, Mother of Christ: Mother of God p. 125

[82] Ibid., p. 128

[83] Ibid., pp. 130, 132

[84] Interpretation of Ode 1, Canon 1 of the Ascension, quoted in Ibid., p. 133.

[85] Archimandrite Sophrony, Saint Silouan, quoted in Mother of  Christ: Mother of God p. 133

[86] Homilies p. 407-408, 410-411

[87] Homilies p. 412

[88] St. Gregory Palamas. Mary the Mother of God: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas. Ed. Christopher Veniamin. South Canaan, PA: Mount Thabor Pub., 2005, p. 47, quoted on the website of St. Tikhon’s Monastery: http://sttikhonsmonastery.org/sinlessness.html.

[89] Homilies p. 105-106

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The Ascension of Isaiah

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(1953)


Responses

  1. Another beautiful paper that brilliantly expounds the saving truths of the faith. Great work, Jesse!

    • thank God I was able to have so many great books at my disposal!

  2. […] FROM Warfare Prayer source https://oldbelieving.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/on-the-panagia/ #family movie -THE LAMP- one family's loss shows them how to turn to Faith instead of magic […]

  3. […] Mother of God prayed to avoid toll houses before her Dormition? [49] St. Dimitri of Rosotv. The Assumption of Our Most Holy Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-virgin […]

  4. […] of James (chapter 19-20; c. 145), but is also continually asserted by the Church Fathers[34] and is taught by Canon 79 of the Council of Trullo which states, “Confessing the divine […]


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