On 15 August we commemorate the Dormition and the metastasis of the Most Holy Theotokos. When our Lord Jesus Christ wanted to take His Mother, who still lived on earth, to be with Him, He sent the Archangel Gabriel who had also proclaimed to her the Nativity of Christ, to tell her that in three days her Son would receive her spirit. When the Virgin heard the Archangel’s message, she was overjoyed because she burned with desire to go to Him. She eagerly ran to the Mount of Olives to pray, as she usually did. To this day, there on the Mount of Olives, stands the chapel on the grounds of which are the Cypress trees which leaned towards the All Holy Virgin as she climbed to get to where she usually prayed, giving honour and respect to the Lady and Mistress of the world. When the All Pure One had prayed for a long while, she returned to her home, lit all her lamps, invited all her family and neighbours, prepared and cleaned the room for the big event, prepared her death bed and every necessary for her burial. To the women who had begun to arrive following her invitation, she showed the palm branch, that joyful and victorious sign which the Angel had given her when he brought the message of her departure; with the message of the Annunciation he had brought her a lily. Hearing what was for them a sad message, the women mourned and with abundant tears pleaded with the Virgin not leave them orphaned. With compassion and love she assured them that now that she was going to her Son, she would leave neither them, nor any others in the world, orphaned. The only two robes that she had she gave to two widows whom she herself had undertaken to care for and feed. Suddenly, loud thunder was heard and thick clouds began to gather in the sky, bringing all the Apostles from the ends of the earth and together with them came St Dionysios the Areopagite, St Ierotheos, St Timothy and other hierarchs.

When they learnt why the Lord had transported them on the clouds to the home of the Most Holy Virgin, they too began to mourn and cry, telling her that as long as she lived among them they had her as a comfort, because they felt that in her, they saw her Son. Knowing that she too was about to go to Heaven, they were saddened. Again, with great compassion, our All Holy Virgin answered them saying: “Oh friends and disciples of my Son and God, do not turn my joy into mourning and sorrow, but bury my body as I have prepared it on my death bed”. When she had finished speaking the Apostle Paul , the chosen instrument, arrived and, falling at her feet he praised her with great heavenly praise, while telling her that thought he had not ever seen her Son in the flesh on earth, as he looked her he felt that he was facing her Son Himself. The All Holy Virgin bade them all farewell then, lay on her death bed and began to pray continuously with supplications to her Son for the peace of the world, the blessing of the Apostles and Hierarchs and through them to all the world – and so she placed her illumined and Most Holy soul into the hands of her Son and God.

Peter, the most senior of the Apostles, was first to read aloud the funeral lamentations for the Theotokos as the rest of the Apostles lifted the death bed – others were carrying candles and singing hymns, yet others simply following – and walked to the grave which was to receive the God-accepting body of the Mother of God. Even the Angels in Heaven could be heard singing hymns and the voices of all the bodiless hosts united in hymns to the Theotokos filled the air. The invidious rulers of the Jews who could not tolerate listening to those hymns, exhorted some of the people to throw to the ground the death bed on which the body of the Theotokos was being carried. As the profane hands reached out to perform that sacrilegious deed, divine justice blinded them and cut off the hands of him who first reached out to throw the body of the Theotokos to the ground. His hands remained hanging on the All Holy Virgin’s bed. Then, he who was formerly profane and unbelieving, seeing his hands hanging there, believed with his whole heart and was immediately healed. He became the reason for all the others to repent and be healed because, by taking a piece of the All Holy Virgin’s robe and placing it on the eyes of those who had been blinded, they were all healed not only from the blindness of their eyes, but also from the passion of their faithlessness. When the Apostles and the entire entourage arrived in Gethsemane, they buried the most pure body of the Theotokos and remained there for three days, listening to the hymns and melodies sung by the Angels. After three days, and exactly as her Son had done, our Lady Theotokos rose to Heaven and her illumined soul was reunited with her God-accepting body. It would have been impossible anyway for her holy body, which had accepted the uncontainable God, to undergo decay and change. This was confirmed by divine oikonomia (regulation), because although all the Apostles had been transported to the All Holy Virgin’s house on the clouds just prior to her death, the Apostle Thomas was only taken there three days later. When he arrived, three days after the Dormition of the All Holy Virgin and saw her rising to Heaven, he asked her: “My Lady, where are you going?” She removed her cincture (sash) which she always wore and threw it into his hands; so, the Holy Cincture of the All Holy Virgin remains to this day as a comfort and a holy relic. The Apostle Thomas arrived at the grave and was saddened because he was not deemed worthy to witness the Dormition and burial of our Virgin Theotokos. All the Apostles together then took the decision to open the grave where the Mother of God had been placed, so that Thomas could be comforted and have the opportunity of venerating her. They were as amazed then as when they entered Christ’s tomb and saw the fine linen cloths only, for now they saw again only an empty tomb in which there was only a sheet which remained as a comfort and a consolation in the Apostles’ sorrow and a witness and undeniable proof that the All Holy Virgin had risen and gone to her Son from the tomb which three days prior to this her all pure body had been buried. To this day, the tomb remains empty to the glory and honour of the Most Blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.

Of course, in the Church we will see that only the metastasis of the All Holy Theotokos will be mentioned and not her resurrection and ascension and this is because it is not witnessed to in the Holy Scriptures, but only in the works of the Fathers, being a mystical dogma as St Basil the Great says. Essentially, the metastasis is more complete, as it comprises the resurrection and the ascension, because that which is resurrected changes places and that is why the metastasis of the Theotokos includes both her resurrection and ascension.

Our Theotokos, then, rose and went to her Son and her souls was united with her pure body which is alive in heaven, because as we have said, this body which carried Life could not suffer the decay which all other people which have passed or will pass through this life will suffer. The All Holy Theotokos is One and Only, the chosen vessel of God, who thanks to her humility became the vessel in which the uncontainable God could be contained and thanks to her we could find salvation and Paradise.

This is the feast which we celebrate on 15th August and this feast certainly bears no relation eating, drinking and drunkenness and worldly celebrations. The feast should be celebrated according to God’s will and the will of His All Holy Mother. We must go to Church on the morning of the feast so that we may honour the Dormition of the All Holy Virgin. We must eat only fish if that day falls on a Wednesday or Friday. We must offer supplications and prayers to the Mother of God and Mother of us all; praises and hymns for her who is our comfort, mediatrix, shelter and protection of us all. We love her, honour her, praise her and have recourse to her grace. It is she who united heaven and earth, God with man and opened for us the way to salvation and sanctity.

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