We read in the Holy Scripture in Luke Chapter 1 that: “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent forth by God to a city of Galilee, the name of which was Nazareth, to a virgin who was espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the name of the virgin was Mariam. And the angel entered and said to her, “Rejoice thou who hast been shown grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.” [Lk. 1:26-28]
We Orthodox claim without hesitation that Mary is the Mother of God in the flesh. Saint Basil the Great reminds us that: “The first fruit of the Spirit is peace and joy. Therefore…the holy Virgin had received within herself every grace of the Holy Spirit.” [“On Psalm 32,” Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Toal, IV:415.] We know that the Christ–Child whom dwelled in her womb was found to be fully human and fully divine. Therefore, God in His essence was contained within the Ark of her womb and sustained by oxygen and nutrients supplied by the body of this mortal virgin. Saint Photios the Great writes: “The Virgin found favor with God because she had made herself worthy before her Creator, for, having adorned her soul with the fairness of purity, she had prepared herself as an agreeable habitation of Him….She found favor with Him not only because she had kept her virginity inviolate, but also because she had maintained her desires unsullied.” [“Homily V, On the Annunciation,” The Homilies of Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, 116.]
The Holy Virgin was so obedient to the will of God, that having heard from the Archangel regarding her forthcoming service she meekly replied: “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord.” The Holy Virgin Mary was so obedient to the will of God, that having heard from the elder Simeon of the future painful agony to which her heart would be subjected, she humbly accepted her share in the suffering on the cross of her Son and God. (Luke 2:25-35) With these three qualities – humility, obedience, and purity of nature – our creator showed us the highest example of what we humans can be like, of what we should be like, and of how the Creator intended us to be.
In this great Feast of the Church and in the Dormition Icon we celebrate a fundamental teaching of our faith, the Resurrection of the body. In the case of the Theotokos, this has been accomplished by the divine will of God. This Feast is a feast of great hope, hope in Resurrection and life eternal. And like those who gathered around the body of the Virgin Mary, we gather around our departed loved ones and commend their souls into the hands of Christ. As we remember those who have reposed in the faith before us and have passed on into the communion of the Saints, we prepare ourselves to one day be received into the new life of the age to come and into a life without end.
We also affirm through this Feast as we journey toward our heavenly dwelling place, that the Mother of God intercedes for us. She knows the Lord Jesus Christ in a closer way than any of us. Yet like us, the Virgin Mary is a human being, so we relate to her. Thus we are asking someone who lived like us, to intercede for us. Through the birth of Christ the Theotokos has become the mother of all of the children of God, embracing each and every one of us with a love that only a mother can fully comprehend. “The gates of heaven are opened to receive the receptacle of God, who, bringing forth the tree of life, destroyed Eve’s disobedience and Adam’s penalty of death.” St. John of Damascus
Pray to God for us unworthy ones oh compassionate one! Glory to Thee!