Prologue from Ochrid - August 15 [August 28]
1. The Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God.
The Lord who, on Sinai, gave the Fifth Commandment: 'Honour thy father and thy mother', showed by His own example how one must reverence one's parents. Hanging in agony on the Cross, He remembered His mother, and, indicating the Apostle John, said to her: 'Woman, behold thy son!', and to John: 'Behold thy mother!' And, with this concern for His mother, He breathed His last. John had a home on Sion in Jerusalem, where he settled the Mother of God and left her to pass her remaining days on earth. By her prayers, her kindly advice, her meekness and patience, she was of immense help to her Son's apostles. She spent virtually the rest of her life in Jerusalem, often going round the places that reminded her of the great events and the great works associated with and performed by her Son. She especially visited Golgotha, Bethlehem and the Mount of Olives. Of her journeys farther afield, her visit to St Ignatius the God-Bearer is recorded, as are those to St Lazarus the Four-days-dead, Bishop of Cyprus, to the Holy Mountain, to which she gave her blessing, and her stay in Ephesus with John during a fierce persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. In old age, she often prayed to her Lord and God on the Mount of Olives, on the spot from which He ascended, to take her from this world. One day, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and revealed that she would enter into rest in three days' time, and the angel gave her a palm-branch to be carried in her funeral procession. She returned home with great joy, with the heartfelt hope that she would see Christ's apostles once more in this life. The Lord fulfilled her desire and all the apostles, brought by angels and clouds, gathered together at John's house on Sion. It was with great joy that she saw the holy apostles, and she encouraged, advised and upheld them, then peacefully gave her soul into God's hands without the slightest physical pain or struggle. The apostles took the coffin containing her body, from which an aromatic fragrance arose, and, accompanied by many Christians, took it to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the grave of Ss Joachim and Anna. By God's providence, they were hidden from the wicked Jews by a cloud. A Jewish priest, Antony, touched the coffin with his hand, intending to overturn it, but at that moment an angel of God cut off both his hands. He cried out with the pain, begging the apostles' help, and was healed in confessing his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was left to the Apostle Thomas, who was delayed, again by God's providence, to reveal a new and glorious mystery about the holy Mother of God. He arrived on the third day, and desired to embrace the body of the holy and most pure. When the apostles opened her grave, he found only the winding-sheet - the body was not in the grave. That evening, she appeared to the apostles, surrounded by a multitude of angels, and said to them: 'Rejoice; I will be with you always!' It is not known exactly how old the Mother of God was at the time of her falling-asleep, but the prevailing belief is that she had reached the age of sixty.
Each one of the faithful can learn much, indeed very much, from the life of the Virgin Theotokos. However, I would like to mention here only two things. First, she had the habit to frequently on Golgotha, on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane, to go to Bethlehem and to other places famous because of her Son. At all of these places, especially Golgotha, she prayed on bended knees. By this, she gave the first example and incentive to the faithful to visit the holy places out of love toward Him Who, by His presence and by His passion and glory, made these places holy and significant. Second, we learn how she, in her prayer, prayed for a quick departure from this life that her soul, at the time of her separation from the body, not see the prince of darkness and his horrors, and hidden from the dark regions not encounter the power of Satan. Do you see how terrible it is for the soul to pass through the toll-gates [mitarstva]! When she, who gave birth to the Destroyer of Hades and, who herself has frightening power over demons prayed thusly, what then is left for us? Out of very great 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 for mercy at the time of the departure of the soul from the body.
To contemplate the wondrous proof by which Samuel confirmed his words before the people (1 Samuel 12 - 1 Kings 12):
- How Samuel told the people it is evil before the Lord that they seek a king for themselves beside the Lord, the King;
- How for the confirmation of his words, he called upon God to permit thunders and rain;
- How the thunders and rain descended and how the people were frightened of God and of Samuel.
About the most glorious Child
"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
Upon whom of mortal man, in human history could all of these titles, all of this authority, all of this glory apply? There is no one. That is why St. Chrysostom says: "It is impossible to understand this in regard to any other man but only in reference to Christ." The prophet here clearly expresses two natures in the Savior of the world: the Human and the Divine. "A Child is born," this signifies a purely human nature. "Unto us a Son is given," this unites the two natures in one person: the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin in the person of the Incarnate Lord. However, the remaining titles signify the divine nature of the Lord Jesus. His government is "upon His shoulder," i.e., the government is His. His own government and is not borrowed. "Mighty Counseller," is this not the Holy Trinity? The angel or messenger and herald of this Triune Counsel is the Son of God, the Pre-eternal Word. "Wonderful Counseller," for all that is wonderful, all that is an amazement, all that is new which came to mankind is from Him and through Him.
"The Mighty God," what would Arius and his modern adherents, who deny the divinity of the Lord Jesus, say to this? "The Prince of Peace," for from Him is lasting peace; outside Him is war, without and within. "The Everlasting Father," [the Father of future times] as He is the Lord of the past, so also is He the Lord of the future. Furthermore, He is also the Father of the Church, the Creator of the new world, the Founder of the Kingdom of God.
Isaiah himself, the son of Amos, saw this wonderful and true vision some seven hundred years before it was revealed to the entire universe.
O Lord Jesus, You are to the prophets the most glorious prophecy and to the faithful, the most glorious revelation. Unlock our mind that the wonderful glory of Your majesty can enter into it and unlock our heart so that it would be filled by Your life-creating love.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK