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Homily for 8/25/12 - P12 - Forefeast of the Dormition

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  • Fr David Moser
    On Tuesday, we will celebrate the Great Feast of the Dormition (death) of the Virgin Mary. Although the Virgin lived a perfect life without sinning, because
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 26, 2012
      On Tuesday, we will celebrate the Great Feast of the Dormition (death)
      of the Virgin Mary. Although the Virgin lived a perfect life without
      sinning, because she was born into mortality, she, like all of us, would
      face death; so that, like all of us, she might also be resurrected to
      eternal life by Christ. Although we hear very little about her in the
      scripture, this does not mean that she faded into obscurity and
      unimportance after the Ascension of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The
      Virgin Mary, as we shall see, was beloved not only by the 12 Apostles,
      but by the whole Church and was considered to be the spiritual mother of
      the Church. By her very presence, holy sayings and loving words, she
      offered to the Apostles and indeed to all the believers strength and
      consolation filled with the grace of God.

      The Mother of God did not fear death, nor did she seek it, however, as
      the years passed her desire to depart this life and to again see her Son
      grew. This same desire we hear in the words of the Apostle Paul who
      exclaimed, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain … I am hard
      pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ …”
      (Phil 1:21). She begged her Son to reveal to her three days prior to her
      death so that she might prepare and so that all those whom she loved
      could be present. Our Lord, out of His great love and affection for His
      earthly mother granted her prayer. During her life, the Virgin Mary
      would often go to the Mount of Olives where she last saw her Son as He
      ascended into heaven in order to pray. It was there that she felt
      closest to Him. There are many holy places associated with the Mother of
      God preserved on the Mount of Olives. The stone where she stood as her
      Son ascended into Heaven is enshrined at the corner of the entry to the
      Church of the Ascension in the Ascension convent at the top of the Mount
      of Olives. Nearby is a garden refuge called “Little Galilee” which in
      the time of Christ served as a hostel for travelers from Galilee to
      Jerusalem for the Holy Days. Here the Mother of God would come to pray
      and there is a Church built over the place where she was met by the
      Archangel Gabriel who as sent by our Lord in answer to her prayer and to
      warn of her that in three days she would die and be translated into life
      eternal. He also gave to her a branch of palm from paradise which shone
      with the light of heavenly grace. This branch was given to her as a
      token that death had no power over her and that to be absent from the
      world was to be present with Christ.

      Today it is the third day before the death of the Virgin and so it was
      on this day that the archangel appeared to the virgin. Upon hearing the
      welcome news that the day of her departure from this life and the
      reunion with her Son was imminent, the Virgin Mary began to prepare for
      her death and burial. After receiving this message her first response
      was to pray giving thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ for His great
      benevolence and His answer to her prayer. She also desired to see the
      Apostles again, even though they were scattered throughout the whole
      world preaching the Gospel.

      Returning then to her home, the house of the Apostle John on Mt Zion,
      the Virgin revealed the message of the archangel to the Apostle John who
      had taken her into his home as his own mother. She also showed him the
      palm branch from paradise and instructed him to carry it before her bier
      in the funeral procession to the place of her burial. She also spoke to
      the rest of the household and to the virgins who were her companions
      (Mary Magdalene, Sepphora, Abigail and Jael). Her companions wept at the
      news, bewailing their orphanhood. The Virgin comforted them and then
      arranged her bed and room for her funeral. The Apostle John began to
      call all the believers to gather at the bed of the Virgin. St James, the
      brother of the Lord (the Virgin’s stepson), also began to gather the
      faithful. Seeing the assembled faithful, the Virgin told them of the
      words of the archangel and showed them the palm branch from Paradise
      which radiated heavenly glory. Seeing their grief, the Virgin asked them
      all not to mourn, but to rejoice, for she would be standing nearer to
      her Son and would be able to pray with greater boldness for them all.
      She promised that she would not leave them orphans, but that even after
      her death she would pray for the them and for the whole world
      interceding for all and helping all who would call upon her for assistance.

      While she spoke with those gathered, there was a noise like a clap of
      thunder and a cloud surrounded the house. By the command of God, angels
      had brought the apostles who were scattered throughout the world and
      miraculously transported them on clouds to Jerusalem: Peter from Rome,
      Mark from Alexandria, Matthew from a boat on which he had been traveling
      and all the others. Not only the twelve Apostles gathered to say
      farewell to the Virgin, but also the apostles of the seventy, the Holy
      Apostle Paul and many others of the godly hierarchs who cared for the
      Church assembled in the presence of the Virgin. All were struck with
      sorrow that they would be deprived of the presence of the Virgin Mary
      and saw themselves as orphans bereft not only of the Mother of the Lord,
      but also as if bereft of their own mother, for such she was to them and
      to the whole Church.

      Many words of sorrow were spoken by the assembled apostles and hierarchs
      and many words of consolation and comfort were offered by the Virgin.
      Finally, seeing that all were gathered she spoke to them in a parable,
      offering some parting instruction, saying: “My children, do you see this
      world? It is a festival. God is as a king, and you, His servants, are
      the merchants of my beloved Son. Now listen to this parable: There was a
      great and powerful king who had two servants. The king then heard that
      there was a great fair where there would be very many goods and products
      offered which would bring great gain. Therefore, the king summoned these
      two servants and said, ‘Make great haste to go into this country where
      the festival is being held and, for one month, do business. If any of
      you delay, he will lose his life!’ Straightway, the two servants took
      money and went to the fair. However, one of them was senseless and
      foolish; he purchased things that were useless to the king, such as
      houses, shops and fields. Of all these things the king had no need, nor
      would they bring him any gain. Moreover, the undiscerning servant
      delayed in returning because it took time to sow the fields and to
      refurbish and complete the shops and the houses, because they were in
      disarray. Thus it took him about three or four months to return to the
      king. Now the other servant was prudent and purchased precious stones
      and returned punctually to the king. The king honored and glorified this
      servant, for he found him trustworthy. As for the other servant, an
      order was issued that he be executed as one who was an enemy of the king.

      “The same situation is also before you, O Apostles of my Son. My beloved
      Son has sent you as merchants into the world of deceived mankind, to win
      those souls who will hearken to His name. Whichever of you, O my friends
      and children is a friend of Thy Teacher and my Son, He will honor in His
      Kingdom. Those that will not obey the commands of the Teacher, he knows
      what he will suffer. …

      “Always have love and peace among you, and rejoice and be glad for great
      will be your reward in the Kingdom of the heavens. And though, my
      friends, I go to the Kingdom of my Son and God, I am ever with you, and
      I will strengthen and comfort you in your afflictions.”

      The words of the Virgin remind us to follow closely the words of our
      Lord and to live within the tradition of the Church which gives us
      guidance to gain that which is most valuable and which brings to us the
      greatest measure of the grace of God. There are many good things in the
      world, but even so we must be discerning and desire not that which is
      simply good – but rather that which brings to us the riches of grace
      from our Lord and Master.

      Just as the Apostles and hierarchs of the whole Church gathered in the
      presence of the Virgin and heard her words, so also we are gathered
      today with them. We grieve with the Apostles at the loss of our mother
      but we are also comforted with them by her final words of encouragement
      and promise. Just as she departed this life and was received into the
      Kingdom of God and she now dwells with Him in Paradise, so also
      throughout the years, each in their own turn, the saints have departed
      this life to enter the Kingdom of God. And just as we are not orphaned
      by the death of the Virgin or abandoned by her departure, nor are we
      orphaned or abandoned by the saints. Just as she watches over us, so
      also all the saints, following her example and promise, also watch over
      us and like shepherds care for us and call to us with the voice of the
      Great Shepherd. Today the Virgin prepares to enter the Kingdom of Heaven
      – let us also prepare ourselves for that same journey for like her we
      too are mortal and must die so that we might be raised by her Son and
      our God to eternal life in His Kingdom.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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