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We have no reliable historical documents about how Mary's life came to end.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

Copyright ©1998 http://www.byzcath.org.

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Teachings of Christ

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7,8 ESV)

Scripture

May 20, 2018
Pentecost - Feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit
- Vespers: Numbers 11:16,17,24-29, Joel 2:23-32, Ezekiel 36:24-28
- Matins: John 20:19-23
- Liturgy: Acts 2:1-11, John 7:37-52; 8:12

First Week After Pentecost
- Monday: Feast of the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 5:8b-19, Matthew 18:10-20
- Tuesday: Romans 1:1-7,13-17, Mathew 4:25-5:13
- Wednesday: Romans 1:18-27, Matthew 5:20-26
- Thursday: Romans 1:28-2:9, Matthew 5:27-32
- Friday: Romans 2:14-29, Matthew 5:33-41
- Saturday: Romans 1:7-12, Matthew 5:42-48

May 27, 2018
First Sunday After Pentecost: Sunday of All Saints
- Vespers: Isaiah 43:9-14, Wisdom 3:1-9, Wisdom 5:15-6:3
- Matins: Matthew 28:16-20 (Gospel 1)
- Liturgy: Hebrews 11:323-12:2a; Matthew 10:32;33,37,38;19:27-30

Second Week After Pentecost
- Monday: Romans 2:28-3:18, Matthew 6:31-34; 7:9-11
- Tuesday: Romans 4:4-12, Matthew 7:15-21
- Wednesday: Romans 4:13-25, Matthew 7:21-23
- Thursday: Romans 5:10-16, Matthew 8:23-27
- Friday: Romans 5:17-6:2, Matthew 9:14-17
- Saturday: Romans 3:19-26, Matthew 7:1-8

June 3, 2018
Second Sunday After Pentecost
- Matins: Mark 16:1-8 (Gospel 2)
- Liturgy: Romans 2:10-16, Matthew 4:18-23

Feasts & Fasts

May
3 - National Day of Prayer
6 - Sixth Sunday of Pascha (Man Born Blind)
10 - Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ
13 - Seventh Sunday of Pascha (Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council)
19 - Fifth All-Souls Saturday
20 - Pentecost - Descent of the Holy Spirit
21 - Feast of the Holy Trinity, Victoria Day (Canada)
27 - All Saints Sunday

May 28 - June 28 - The Apostles' Fast

28- Memorial Day (USA)

June
24 - Nativity of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John
29 - The Holy Glorious and All-Praised Leaders of the Apostles, Peter & Paul

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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Pentecost

Blessed are You, O Christ our God, * Who has shown the fishermen to be all wise, * by sending down to them the Holy Spirit, * and through them You have caught the whole world in Your net. * O Lover of Mankind, glory to You. (Troparion - Tone 8)

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

When the Most High descended, confusing tongues, * He divided the nations; * but when He distributed the tongues of fire, * He called all to unity; * and, with one voice, * we glorify the Most Holy Spirit. (Kontakion - Tone 8)

Random Proverb

"My son, do not lose sight of these — keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul." (Proverbs 3:21,22a ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Why do you trouble yourself in a house that is not your own? Let the sight of a dead man be a teacher for you concerning your departure from hence.

St. Isaac the Syrian