The Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of our Lord is the crowning feast dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary. After her Birth to her holy parents Joachim and Anna, after her Entrance into the Temple, after the Annunciation of the Incarnation of the Savior, Orthodox Christians honor the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God and her bodily resurrection to heaven.
The Orthodox Church accords special honor to the Virgin Mary, even if it does not hold to the dogma of her sinless conception, as does the Roman Catholic Church. St. Luke the Evangelist calls her “full of grace”, and in the Church’s prayers she is referred to as “Most Holy”, “Queen and Lady”. There is an Old Testament image which suggests the mission of the Holy Virgin Mary—the ladder reaching from heaven to earth in the vision of the Patriarch Jacob (Gen. 28:12). In Jacob’s dream, the angels of God descended and ascended to heaven. The Mother of our Lord is seen to be such a ladder which unites heaven and earth, a ladder by which the Lord Himself descended. What then does the ascent of the angels back up into heaven represent? Doesn’t it represent the fact that the Lord descended as a man in order to lift man back up to heaven? If the Theotokos was the means of the descent of the Son of God, does she not also help those who desire to climb up, like the angels, to heaven? And what clearer proof would we want than this very Feast of her Dormition and her bodily ascent into heaven!
The Mother of our Lord is thus our mediator with God. She lifts up our prayers to heaven, she protects all those who are in danger and trouble, and she is the speedy help of all who run to her in the hour of their soul’s sadness. In the Akathist of the Protection of the Theotokos it says that her hands are kept raised in prayer out of her own love and mercy toward us. And just as Moses of old, lifting up her hands she defeats the enemies of Christians.
My challenge at this Feast is that we rediscover the example of the prayer of the Mother of God, and from it we also find the power to pray. In this complicated world, full of temptations, we need prayer. We need to feel the protection of the Holy Virgin. We need to pray for God’s mercy to drive away from us all seen and unseen enemies. If we have been fasting, let us not forget that the fulfillment of our fasting is precisely in more prayer, more fervent prayer to our Savior and His Mother.
At this glorious Feast, I wish much fulfillment with peace and joy for the families of those members of our parishes who are named after the Holy Virgin: Maria, Mary, Marian, or Marin. May the Theotokos guide us all and make us worthy to be called children of the Heavenly Father.