On the Dormition and Angelic Powers

St. Gregory of Tours ca. 538-594

Finally, when blessed Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was about to be called from this world, all the Apostles, coming from their different regions, gathered together in her house. When they had heard that she was about to be taken up out of the world, they kept watch together with her.

And behold, the Lord Jesus came with His Angels and, taking her soul, handed it over to the Archangel Michael and withdrew. At dawn, the Apostles lifted up her body on a pallet, laid it in a tomb, and kept watch over it, awaiting the coming of the Lord. And behold, again the Lord presented Himself to them and ordered that her holy body be taken and carried up to heaven. There she is now, joined once more to her soul; she exults with the elect, rejoicing in the eternal blessings that will have no end. (Libri Miraculorum I, De Gloria Beatorum Martyrum 4; PL 71, 708. Excerpted from “Mary and the Fathers of the Church, The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought” by Luigi Gambero pg. 353)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

And behold, the glorious and wonderful  arrival of Christ her God and Son took place, and there were with Him innumerable hosts of angels and archangels and other hosts of seraphim and cherubim and thrones: they all stood with awe before the Lord, for wherever the King is, the host also accompany Him.

As she escaped the pains of childbirth in the ineffable Nativity, so the pains of death did not come upon her at the time of her Dormition, for both then and now the King and Lord of natures altered the course of nature. Then the host of angels invisibly applauded the send-off of her holy soul. The house and the surrounding area were filled by a waft of indescribable perfume, and unapproachable light (cf. 1 Tim. 6:16) spread forth over the holy body. And in this way the master and the disciples, and heaven and earth led forth the Holy Virgin: the gracious and glorious Lord and master led away the holy soul of His immacualte mother to heaven; the disciples took care of her immacualte body on earth, anointing it with myrrh and tending to the things that she had planned. And after a little while, her Son and God wished to translate the body to Paradise or somewhere. The Holy Apostles encircled the bed on which the Holy Theotokos’ body, wider than the heaven. They honored it with hymsn and praise; they embraced it with fear and trembling. They not only showed faith and devotion but were also gratified to receive grace and great benefit, and the work of faith had only just began.

Nevertheless, as soon as news of the holy queen’s Dormition had spread, all the sick and infirm assembled there. Then the eyes of the blind were opened, the ears of the deaf were unblocked, the lame stood up to walk (cf. Isa. 35:5-6), demons were expelled, and every suffering and sickness was cured. The sky and the heavens of heavens were sanctified by the ascension of the holy soul, and the earth likewise was made worthy of the honor of sanctity by the immaculate body. (The Life of the Virgin: 109, 110-111)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

Angels with Archangels bear thee up. Impure spirits trembled at thy departure. The air raises a hymn of praise at thy passage, and the atmosphere is purified. Heaven receives thy soul with joy. The heavenly powers greet thee with sacred canticles and with joyous praise, saying : “Who is this most pure creature ascending, shining as the dawn, beautiful as the moon, conspicuous as the sun? How sweet and lovely thou art, the lily of the field, the rose among thorns; therefore the young maidens loved thee. We are drawn after the odour of thy ointments. The King introduced thee into His chamber. There Powers protect thee, Principalities praise thee, Thrones proclaim thee, Cherubim are hushed in joy, and Seraphim magnify the true Mother by nature and by grace of their very Lord. Thou wert not taken into heaven as Elias was, nor didst thou penetrate to the third heaven with Paul, but thou didst reach the royal throne itself of thy Son, seeing it with thy own eyes, standing by it in joy and unspeakable familiarity. O gladness of angels and of all heavenly powers, sweetness of patriarchs and of the just, perpetual exultation of prophets, rejoicing the world and sanctifying all things, refreshment of the weary, comfort of the sorrowful, remission of sins, health of the sick, harbour of the storm-tossed, lasting strength of mourners, and perpetual succour of all who invoke thee…Thy pure and spotless body was not left in the earth, but the abode of the Queen, of God’s true Mother, was fixed in the heavenly kingdom alone.

O how did heaven receive her who is greater than heaven? How did she, who had received God, descend into the grave? This truly happened, and she was held by the tomb. It was not after bodily wise that she surpassed heaven. For how can a body measuring three cubits, and continually losing flesh, be compared with the dimensions of heaven ? It was rather by grace that she surpassed all height and depth, for that which is divine is incomparable. O sacred and wonderful, holy and worshipful body, ministered to now by angels, standing by in lowly reverence. Demons tremble: men approach with faith, honouring and worshipping her, greeting her with eyes and lips, and drawing down upon themselves abundant blessings. (Homily I, On the Dormition)

How can death claim as its prey this truly blessed one, who listened to God’s word in humility, and was filled with the Spirit, conceiving the Father’s gift through the archangel, bearing without concupiscence or the co-operation of man the Person of the Divine Word, who fills all things, bringing Him forth, without the pains of childbirth, being wholly united to God? How could Limbo open its gates to her ? How could corruption touch the life-giving body ? These are things quite foreign to the soul and body of God’s Mother. Death trembled before her. In approaching her Son, death had learnt experience from His sufferings, and had grown wiser. The gloomy descent to hell was not for her, but a joyous, easy, and sweet passage to heaven.

…What happens? Nature, I conjecture, is stirred to its depths, strange sounds and voices are heard, and the swelling hymns of angels who precede, accompany, and follow her. Some constitute the guard of honour to that undefiled and immaculate (panagia) soul on its way to heaven until the queen reaches the divine throne. Others surrounding the sacred and divine body proclaim God’s Mother in angelic harmony. What of those who watched by the most holy and immaculate (panagiw) body? In loving reverence and with tears of joy they gathered round the blessed and divine tabernacle, embracing every member, and were filled with holiness and thanksgiving. Then illnesses were cured, and demons were put to flight and banished to the regions of darkness. The air and atmosphere and heavens were sanctified by her passage through them, the earth by the burial of her body. (Homily II, On the Dormition)

St. John Maximovitch 1896-1966

[T]he Vir­gin Mary during Her eart­hly life avoi­ded the glory which belon­ged to Her as the Mot­her of the Lord. She pre­fer­red to live in quiet and pre­pare Her­self for the depar­ture into eter­nal life. To the last day of Her eart­hly life She took care to prove worthy of the King­dom of Her Son, and before death She prayed that He might deli­ver Her soul from the mali­cious spi­rits that meet human souls on the way to hea­ven and strive to seize them so as to take them away with them to hades. The Lord ful­fil­led the prayer of His Mot­her and in the hour of Her death Him­self came from hea­ven with a mul­ti­tude of angels to receive Her soul. (The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God)

[T]he so-called “toll-houses,” at each of which one or another form of sin is tested; after passing through one the soul comes upon the next one, and only after successfully passing through all of them can the soul continue its path without being immediately cast into gehenna. How terrible these demons and their toll-houses are may be seen in the fact that Mother of God herself, when informed by the Archangel Gabriel of her approaching death, answering her prayer, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared from heaven to receive the soul of His Most Pure Mother and conduct it to heaven. (A Homily on Life After Death)

Also see: http://classicalchristianity.com/2011/12/12/who-is-the-king-of-glory/

Speak Your Mind