When she learned the news of her falling asleep, Virgin Mary ‘began praying, thanking God for her earthly life, for all benefactions received from Him’, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel said Wednesday marking the Solemnity of the Dormition of the Theotokos.
The Patriarch of Romania presided over the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest having as concelebrant His Grace Bishop Timotei of Prahova, Assistant Bishop to the Archdiocese of Bucharest.
In his homily, the Patriarch recalled how the moment of the Blessed Virgin’s Dormition took place according to the Tradition of the Church.
His Beatitude noted that the Archangel Gabriel announced the approaching Dormition of the Mother of God.
Virgin Mary’s repose happened in a natural way. ‘She lay down on the bed and her soul was taken to Heaven, while her body fell asleep in the Lord.’
All the apostles were present at her funeral, except for Thomas, who came later.
‘He went to the tomb accompanied by close persons of the Theotokos, and when he opened the tomb he saw only her garments inside, but her body was not there anymore.’
‘She was translated to Heaven by her Son,’ the Patriarch said. ‘Because the body the Son of the eternal God was conceived in and born from as a Man could not remain in decay,’ His Beatitude added.
Patriarch Daniel also referred to the icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos, depicting the Saviour Jesus Christ carrying the soul of the Mother of God as a child, ‘expressing the esteem and honour the Son offers to His Mother from whom He was born.’
Falling asleep or death?
‘To fall asleep means the believers’ passing away to the eternal things,’ His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel pointed out.
‘Those who reposed in the Lord, i.e. in the faith in Christ and the resurrection, will remain temporarily with their bodies in the tomb, waiting for the Universal Resurrection as we profess in the Creed.’
Referring to the spiritual meaning of death, the Patriarch of Romania explained the difference between the term necropolis and cemetery.
Necropolis comes from pagan antiquity and means the city of the dead, while the second term, cemetery, was used by Christians and it means dormitory in Greek.
‘That is why we call this feast the Dormition of the Mother of God, not her death, for it means only the rest of the body, but also a life in communion with God,’ the Patriarch noted.
‘From a spiritual perspective, death refers to man’s separation from God,’ Patriarch Daniel cautioned the faithful attending the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal Cathedral.
Translation of the Mother of God
The Patriarch insisted that the feast was also called ‘the translation’ of the Mother of God to eternal life.
Patriarch Daniel noted that this term means ‘a translation from the limited, transient, earthly life to the unending, eternal life.’
‘With a great wisdom, the Church called this mystery of assuming or raising the body to heaven translation and not resurrection, nor ascension to heaven,’ His Beatitude said Aug 15.
‘Because Christ’s resurrection and ascension occurred by His own divine power. But the Mother of God did not raise from the dead, nor did she ascend into heaven by her own powers, but with the divine power of her Son,’ the Patriarch of Romania explained.
‘This solemnity shows us that the Mother of God passes through death as all people do, but she does not remain in death because Christ the Lord, manifesting esteem and special honour to her, takes her up to heaven,’ the Patriarch added.
Romania – the Garden of the Mother of God
Romania was called the Garden of the Mother of God as early as the 15th century. This was reminded by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Romania in May 1999.
“In the fifteenth century at the Bisericani Monastery in Neamt County, some monks wanted to go to Mount Athos in Greece. The Mother of God appeared to them in an oak whose roots are now in a new church at Bisericani which we blessed when we were a Metropolitan in Iasi,” His Beatitude recalled.
‘There, from that oak, where believers often hanged the icon of the Mother of God, she spoke to the monastics: Do not go to Mount Athos, because here is also my garden.’
Ever since, Romania was called the Garden of the Mother of God.
Place everything under the protection of the Theotokos!
The Patriarch ended his August 15 homily by urging believers to place everything under the protection of the Mother of God, ‘the protector of all families.’
‘As a grieving and compassionate mother, she understands all sufferings parents go through raising their children. She understands and feels the needs of a family, the cries for help of the helpless.’
But she is not only the protrectress of “parents and children”, but also “the protrectress of the virgins, of young people, of monks and nuns, church ministers, hierarchs, priests, deacons, because Her Son is the Eternal High Priest; the protectress of widows, orphans, the poor, and the humble love of those whom no one loves.”
Photos: Mihnea Păduraru / ZL