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We have no reliable historical documents about how Mary's life came to end.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

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)

Scripture

August 4, 2019
Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
- Matins: John 20:11-18 (Gospel 8)
- Liturgy: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, Matthew 14:14-22

Ninth Week After Pentecost
- Monday: 1 Corinthians 11:31-12:6, Matthew 18:7-11
- Tuesday: 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Matthew 18:18-22; 19:1, 2, 13-15

August 6
The Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ
- Vespers: Exodus 24:12-18, Exodus 33:11-23; 34:4-6, 8, 1 Kings 19:3-9,11-13, 15,16
- Matins: Luke 9:28-36
- Liturgy: 2 Peter 1:10-19, Matthew 17:1-9

- Wednesday: 1 Corinthians 13.4-14:5, Matthew 20:1-16
- Thursday: 1 Corinthians 14:6-19, Matthew 20:17-28
- Friday: 1 Corinthians 14:26-40, Matthew 21:12-14, 17-20
- Saturday: Romans 14:6-9, Mathew 15:32-39

August 11, 2019
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Sunday After Transfiguration
- Matins: John 20:19-31 (Gospel 9)
- Liturgy: 1 Corinthians 3:9-17, Matthew 14:22-34

Tenth Week After Pentecost
- Monday: 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, Matthew 21:18-22
- Tuesday: 1 Corinthians 15:29-38, Matthew 21:23-27
- Wednesday: 1 Corinthians 16:4-12, Matthew 21:28-32
- Thursday: 2 Corinthians 1:1-7, Matthew 21:43-46

August 15
The Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary
- Vespers: Genesis 28:10-17, Ezekiel 43:27-44:4, Proverbs 9:1-11
- Matins: Luke 1:39-49, 56,
- Liturgy: Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 10:38-42; 11:27,28

- Friday: 2 Corinthians 1:12-20, Matthew 22:23-33
- Saturday: Romans 15:30-33, Matthew 17:24-18:4

August 18, 2019
Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
- Matins: John 21:1-14 (Gospel 10)
- Liturgy: 1 Corinthians 4:9-16, Matthew 17:14-23

Feasts & Fasts

August
1-14 Dormition Fast
6 Transfiguration of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ
15 The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary
29 Beheading of St. John the Baptist

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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Dormition

O Mother of God, in giving birth you preserved virginity; * and in falling asleep you did not forsake the world. * You are the Mother of Life and have been transferred to life, * and through your prayers you deliver our souls from death. (Troparion - Tone 1)

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

Neither the tomb nor death could detain the Mother of God, * who is unsleeping in her prayers and our unfailing hope in her intercession; * for He Who dwelt in her ever-virgin womb, * transferred to Life the Mother of Life. (Kontakion - Tone 2)

Random Proverb

"My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge." (Proverbs 5:1,2 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

It was said about John the Little that one day he said to his older brother: "I want to be free from care and not to work but to worship God without interruption." And he took his robe off, and went into the desert. After staying there one week, he returned to his brother. And when he knocked at the door, his brother asked without opening it: "Who is it?" He replied: "It's John, your brother." The brother said: "John has become an angel and is not among people anymore." Then he begged and said: "It's me!" But his brother did not open the door and left him there in distress until the next morning. And he finally opened the door and said: "If you are a human being, you have to work again in order to live." Then John repented, saying: "Forgive me, brother, for I was wrong."

Sayings of the Desert Fathers