On the Dormition

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Church of the Chora, Constantinople

How amazing, my brothers and sisters in the love of Christ! Today she who gave birth to the life of all people has moved on to be a sharer in that life. The life which was begotten before the ages from the Father, which is God and the Word of God, which she bore in the flesh and nursed from her own breasts, the life that built all things from nothing and generated life in them–this life she has inherited, and has come as its mother to share in it above all the holy ranks of heaven and earth. The life that is the fountainhead of the universe she received from God and made a spring for this world, the light of mortal beings; for it is written, “The life was the light of men and women” (Jn 1:3f). She has gone to dwell with this light, the true and substantial light, “the shining-forth of the glory of God the Father” (Heb 1:3), which lightens the world, which has become flesh through her by the Holy Spirit, “enlightening every man and woman who comes into the world” (Jn 1:9). And when Christ our God, co-eternal with his Father and the Spirit, chose by decree to take her to himself, to share in his glory–his most-blessed mother, who is, after him, the greatest of all beings–all the angels and archangels rushed through the air to gather in a joyful visit to this world, sent from heaven by God to be the celebrants of her holy falling-asleep…

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Hagia Sophia, Thessaloniki

The radiant cloud that bore the Lord of glory has been lifted up–lifted up to him: she who flashed forth his perfect divinity in her body like lightning, who rained down holy gifts from him on everything under heaven. There the orbit of that spiritual moon above our world, which the prophet spoke of (Hab 3:11), comes to completion: the moon which gave birth to the sun who is one of those three suns that share a single substance–the Trinity, as revealed by the tradition of the Fathers. “And the moon stood still in the tracks” of her virginity (Hab 3:11); [she is] truly the Mother of God, revealing his radiance that all of this creation might come to know its God. She is received with rejoicing and unspeakable delight in the house of God the Father, herself the house which God had built for his Son, who dwelt in her without being circumscribed and was made flesh from her by the Holy Spirit; who remained in her nine months and became an infant; yet who was God inseparable from his Father and the Spirit. She who was made the dwelling-place of the consubstantial Trinity has come to a better dwelling–she who is forever his home, having heard from the archangel Gabriel, “The Holy Spirit will come down upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the one born of you will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). So she is glorified above the holy ranks of heaven and earth; she is transplanted from here, as “from glory to glory” (2 Cor 3:18)–the mortal bush that bore the fire of divinity (see Ex 3:2f)–to “the land of the living” (Ps 116:9), where she shall join in radiating the light of the face of Christ our God, who was truly and wholly contained in her womb: preserved unburnt by him, as the one who, above all women, is blessed with the name of Virgin Mother.

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Church of the Chora, Constantinople

Excerpt from “An Ecomium on the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady, Mary, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin” by Our Father the Holy Modestus, Archbishop of Jerusalem. From On the Dormition of Mary, published by SVS Press, 1998.

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