Mary: Christ's First and Greatest Disciple

August 15th

Dormition of Mary, the Mother of GodRecalling that our Byzantine Church year begins on September 1st (not January 1st like the civil year), the last feast we celebrate is fittingly the 'Dormition' of the Mother of God  In our calendar, the first of the great feasts is the Birth of the Virgin (September 8th).  The we re-live all the events she lived through: the Annunciation, the Birth of Christ-God at Christmas, the Holy Baptism in the Jordan, the public ministry of Christ, the Passion, the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection, the Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Now finally, as if to close the frame, we come to the end of the Virgin's life on earth.

We have no reliable historical documents about how Mary's life came to end. Some say she died in Ephesus where she lived with St. John the Apostle. Our Liturgical texts say she died in Jerusalem. But that is not proven anywhere - it is only popular belief. It is our 'Tradition' and not an article of faith that is equal to the Incarnation or Resurrection of Christ. It just exists in the living memory of the Church, a memory which is especially strong in the Eastern Church. Our emphasis on the 'Dormition' of the Virgin, that is, her passing from life to death to eternal life in Christ parallels our approach to the Resurrection of Christ. Mary is Christ's first and greatest disciple, and as any good disciple, she imitates the Lord and teacher. She knew her own passion ("a sword shall pierce your heart") and, now, death and resurrection. God could not allow the body of the Mother of God, the flesh which had given Christ flesh, to know corruption, so the angels came to bring Mary to heaven with her body. There were witnesses to Christ's Ascension, and it is told in Scripture. There is no proof of Mary's ascent, which we call her Assumption. However, the Church Fathers have always held that this honor was given to Mary, and that now, she is glorified in heaven, in the body.

Mary is unique and wonderful. There are many saints in heaven, but these must await the final day of judgment for their bodies to be raised, and for them to be 'whole' again, body and spirit. Their bodies remain in their tombs. We venerate them as relics; nearness to these sacred bodily remains of the saints is a great blessing to us. They are 'matter', stuff of the earth, which will be glorified on the great day of the Lord's coming. How this will happen, what it might be like, we might wonder. Whatever that great process will be, it has already happened to the Mother of God! Her relics are not among us. Her tomb in Jerusalem lies empty, yet still gives off a wonderful fragrance, because for three days she lay there as the apostles and the Church mourned. Today, the Church rejoices. Yet again, in his Mother, God has provided a sign of the Resurrection, a promise of the future glory we all hope to enjoy on day. Mary is the faithful disciple, who carried out the will of God with a generous spirit. She accepted Christ, and bore our Savior within herself in love. Now Christ accepts her, and bears her to the throne she occupies in heaven. She is the sign of hope, the proof of Christ's merciful love, the first among the redeemed, the highest among our race. Indeed, she is more honorable than the cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, for they are only spirits, she in the flesh, glorifies God in the flesh. On the great feast of her Dormition, her 'falling asleep', we magnify her and stand among the generations which call her blessed.

O Mother of God, in giving birth you still preserved virginity;
and in falling asleep your did not forsake the world.
You are the Mother of Life and have been transferred to life,
and through your prayers have delivered our souls from death.
Troparion of the Feast

Written by a monk of the Byzantine Church.

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Teachings of Christ

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9 ESV)

Scripture

December 10, 2017
Twenty-Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
- Matins: Luke 24:12-35 (Gospel 5)
- Liturgy: Ephesians 6:10-17, Luke 17:12-19 (Slavs), Luke 13:10-17 (Greeks)

Twenty-Eighth Week After Pentecost
- Monday: 2 Timothy 2:20-26, Mark 8:11-21
- Tuesday: 2 Timothy 3:16-4:4, Mark 8:22-26
- Wednesday: 2 Timothy 4:9-22, Mark 8:30-34
- Thursday: Titus 1:5-2:1, Mark 9:10-16
- Friday: Titus 1:15-2:10, Mark 9:33-41
- Saturday: Ephesians 1:16-23, Luke 14:1-14

December 17, 2017
Sunday of the Forefathers
Second Sunday Before Christmas
- Matins: Luke 24:36-53 (Gospel 6)
- Liturgy: Colosians 3:4-11, Luke 14:16-24

Twenty-Ninth Week After Pentecost
- Monday: Hebrews 3:5-11, 17-19, Mark 9:42-10
- Tuesday: Hebrews 4:1-13, Mark 10:2-12
- Wednesday: Hebrews 5:11-6:8, Mark 10:11-16
- Thursday: Hebrews 7:1-6, Mark 10:17-27
- Friday: Hebrews 7:18-25, Mark 10:23-32

December 23, 2017
Saturday Before Christmas
- Galatians 3:8-12, Luke 13:18-29

December 24, 2017
Sunday Before Christmas
Sunday of the Holy Fathers
- Matins: John 20:1-10 (Gospel 7)
- Liturgy: Galatians 3:8-12
- Matthew 1:1-25

Christmas Eve
- First Royal Hour: Micah 5:2-4, Hebrews 1:1-12, Matthew 1:18-25
- Third Royal Hour: Baruch 3:36-4:4, Galatians 3:23-29, Luke 2:1-20
- Sixth Royal Hour: Isaiah 7:10-16; 8:14; 8:8-10, Hebrews 1:10-2:3, Matthew 2:1-12
- Ninth Royal Hour: Isaiah 9:6,7, Hebrews 2:11-18, Matthew 2:13-23
- Vespers: 1) Genesis 1:1-13, 2) Numbers 24:2, 3 ; 5-9, 17, 18, 3) Micah 4:6, 7; 5:2-4, 4) Isaiah 11:1-10, 5) Baruch 3:36-4:4, 6) Daniel 2:31-36, 44, 45, 7) Isaiah 9:6, 7, 8) Isaiah 7:10-16; 8:1-4, 8-10
- Liturgy: Hebrews 1:1-12, Luke 2:1-20

December 25, 2017
Christmas
- Matins: 1:18-25
- Liturgy: Galatians 4:4-7, Matthew 2:1-12

December 26,2017
Synaxis of the Most Holy Mother of God
- Hebrews 2:11-18, Matthew 2:13-23

December 27, 2017
First-Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen
- Acts 6;8-15, 7:1-7, 47-60, Matthew 21:33-42, Hebrews 10:1-18, Mark 11:23-26

December 28, 2017
Twenty Thousand Martyrs of Nicomeida
- Hebrews 10:35-11:7, Mark 11:27-33

December 29. 2017
Holy Innocents
- Hebrews 11:8,11-16, Mark 12:1-12

Saturday After Christmas
- 1 Timothy 6:11-16, Matthew 12:15-21

December 31, 2017
Sunday after Christmas: Commemoration of the Holy Righteous David the King, Joseph the Betrothed, and James the Brother of the Lord
- Matins: John 20:11-18 (Gospel 8)
- Liturgy: Galatians 1:11-19, Matthew 2:13-23

Feasts & Fasts

December
6 - St Nicholas the Wonderworker and Archbishop of Myra in Lycia
9 (8) - The Conception of the Most Holy Mother of God by the Righteous Anna
12 - Our Lady of Guadalupe
17 - Second Sunday Before Christmas (Holy Forefathers)
24 - Sunday Before Christmas (Holy Fathers) / Christmas Eve
25 - The Nativity of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ
26 - Synaxis of the Most Holy Mother of God, Boxing Day (Canada)
27 - First-Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen
28 - 20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia
29 - 14,000 Infants (the Holy Innocents) Slain by Herod at Bethlehem
31 - Sunday after Christmas: Commemoration of the Holy Righteous David the King, Joseph the Betrothed, and James the Brother of the Lord

Please pray!

"They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword...." (Hebrews 11:37a)

Please lift up in prayer all those who are persecuted and deprived of liberty, everywhere in the world. Please especially remember the peoples of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Niger - the whole Middle East and Africa - who are literal martyrs for Christ. Also the peoples of Ukraine. They are our brothers, for all are one in Christ.

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Saint Nicholas of Myra

The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock, * as a rule of faith, an image of meekness, and a teacher of abstinence. * Therefore, you attained the heights through humility, * and riches through poverty. * O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, * pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved. (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

In Myra, You were shown to be a servant of the sacred things, O Holy Nicholas, * for, fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, you, O Venerable, laid down your life for your people, * and saved the innocent from death. * Therefore, you were sanctified as a great initiate of the grace of God. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

"Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live." (Proverbs 4:4 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

[The Lord] is always knocking at the doors of our hearts, that we may open to Him, that He may enter in and rest in Our souls, and we may wash and anoint His feet, and He may make His abode with us. The Lord in that passage reproaches the man who did not wash His feet (Luke 7:44); and again He says elsewhere, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man will open unto Me, I shall come in unto him" (Rev. 3:20). To this end He endured to suffer many things, giving His own body unto death, and purchasing us out of bondage, in order that He might come to our soul and make His abode with it.. ..His food and His drink, His clothing and shelter and rest is in our souls. Therefore He is always knocking, desiring to enter into us.. Let us then receive Him, and bring Him within ourselves; because He is our food and our drink and our eternal life, and every soul that has not now received Him within and given Him rest, or rather found rest in Him, has no inheritance in the kingdom of heaven with the saints, and cannot enter into the heavenly city.. But Thou, Lord Jesus Christ, bring us thereunto, glorifying Thy name, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen

St Macarius the Great