The Lord Who, on Mount Sinai, gave the Fifth Commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother , showed by His own example how one should respect one's parents. Hanging on the Cross in agony, He remembered His Mother, and indicating the Apostle John He said to her: Woman, behold thy son . After that, He said to John: Behold thy mother . And so, providing for His Mother, He breathed His last. John had a home on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, in which the Theotokos then lived. She dwelt there to the end of her days on earth. By her prayers, kind guidance, meekness and patience, she greatly assisted her Son's apostles. She spent most of her remaining time on earth in Jerusalem, often visiting those places that reminded her of the great events and of the great works of her Son. She especially visited Golgotha, Bethlehem, and the Mount of Olives. Of her few distant journeys, her visit to St. Ignatius the God-bearer in Antioch is recorded; as is her visit to Lazarus (whom our Lord resurrected on the fourth day), the Bishop of Cyprus. She also visited Mount Athos, which she blessed; and she stayed in Ephesus with St. John the Evangelist during the time of the great persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. In her old age, she often prayed to her Lord and God on the Mount of Olives, the site of His Ascension, that He take her from this world as soon as possible. On one of these occasions, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and revealed to her that she would find repose within three days. The angel gave her a palm-branch, which was to be carried in her funeral procession. She returned home with great joy, hoping in her heart to see her Son's apostles just once more in this life. The Lord fulfilled her wish, and the apostles, borne by angels in the clouds, gathered together at the house on Mount Zion. With great rejoicing she saw them, encouraged them, counseled them, and comforted them. Then she peacefully gave her soul to God without pain or physical illness. The apostles took up her coffin, from which a heavenly fragrance arose—and, in the company of many Christians, bore it to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the sepulcher of her parents, Saints Joachim and Anna. By God's providence, the procession was concealed by a cloud from the evil Jews. Even so, Aphthonius, a Jewish priest, grabbed the coffin with the intention of overturning it, but an angel of God severed both his hands. He then cried out to the apostles for help, and was healed upon declaring his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Thomas was absent—again, according to God's providence—in order that a new and all-glorious mystery of the Holy Theotokos would be revealed. Thomas arrived on the third day and desired to venerate the body of the Holy Most-pure One. But when the apostles opened the sepulcher, they found only the winding sheet: the body was not in the tomb! That evening, the Theotokos, surrounded by a host of angels, appeared to the apostles and said to them: “Rejoice, I will be with you always.” The Theotokos' age at the time of her Dormition is not known exactly, but the overwhelming opinion is that she was over sixty years of age.
HYMN OF PRAISE
The Most-holy TheotokosThus spoke the Lord Most-high :“From thy heart, pure Virgin,Living water will flow,
That those who thirst will drink Christ.” Life-bearing source,We all boast of thee!
Those who thirst will drink Christ. By Him, the bitter is sweetened; By Him, the scales are washed from blind eyes;
And by Him, the grief of those in sorrow is healed. Life-bearing source, We all boast of thee!
Sweet drink sprung from eternity, The brook filling our arid age: Once more raised toward heaven,
Our exhausted world becomes refreshed. Life-bearing source, We all boast of thee!
Glory to thee, O Most-pure One! Glory to thee, O Mother of God! Thou didst bear for us the Living Christ,
The living water of grace! Life-bearing source, We all boast of thee!
Each one of the faithful can learn much—indeed, very much—from the life of the Virgin Theotokos. I would like to mention just two things. First, she frequently went to Golgotha, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, Bethlehem, and other places which were redolent of her Son. She prayed on bended knees at all of these places—especially at Golgotha. Thus she gave the first example and impetus to the faithful of visiting holy places out of love toward Him Who by His presence, His passion and His glory made these places holy and significant. Also, we learn how she prayed for a quick departure from this life, so that, when separated from her body, her soul would not encounter the prince of darkness and his horrors, and hidden from the dark regions would not see the punishment of those darkened by sin. Do you see how terrible it is for the soul to pass through the toll-houses? When she—who gave birth to the Destroyer of hades, and who herself has tremendous power over demons—prayed thus, what then is left for us? Out of extreme humility, she commended herself to God, and did not trust in her own deeds. So much less should we trust in our deeds, and even more we should commend ourselves into the hands of God, crying out for His mercy, especially at the time of the departure of the soul from the body.