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Παρασκευή, 15 Αυγούστου 2014

What is The DORMITION of the THEOTOKOS ?


                Here is the icon for The Dormition of the Theotokos.

What does it mean to us ?
How do we read it ? What is happening here ?

Firstly, who is the Theotokos ?

“The term Theotokos is a Greek term for the Virgin Mary meaning 'birthgiver of God'. This term was proclaimed at the 4th Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon which confessed Christ to be fully God and fully man at the same time. Hence the Virgin Mary in fact gave birth to God in human form. In acknowledging her as Theotokos, we in fact confess the divinity of Christ.” 

Taken from: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia - Parish-Community Of The Dormition Of The Theotokos - http://www.dormition.org.au/faith.html

And what is “Dormition” ?

“It is a firm belief of the Orthodox Church that the soul, after physical death, is alive in Christ. Hence we simply term a persons passing as their falling-asleep or dormition rather than limiting the human person to mere 'death'.”

Taken from: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia - Parish-Community Of The Dormition Of The Theotokos - http://www.dormition.org.au/faith.html

What do we understand of the Dormition of the Theotokos ?

“The traditions surrounding the earthly repose of Christ's mother is taken from the Protoevangelion of St James.”Attributed to the hand of the first bishop of Jerusalem, it tells of how, after Jesus ascended to heaven, the Virgin Mary lived in Jerusalem where she preached and taught the Word of God and looked after the sick and the poor.

The years passed and finally Mary, the Mother of God, was approaching the end of her years on earth. Three days before her death, she was visited by the Archangel Gabriel who told her that she would soon die. She wanted to see the Apostles before she died, so they returned to Jerusalem and gathered around her to pray. Finally, the Mother of God peacefully gave up her soul as if she fell asleep.

Before her falling asleep, she chose a tomb in the Garden of Gethsemane where she wanted to be buried. Large crowds followed her funeral procession to the tomb, and many miracles accompanied her burial. Some of the Jewish leaders and priests, who opposed the New Testament teachings of Christ, tried to disperse the crowds but were unsuccessful.

One of their priests, Athonius, tried to push the body of the Virgin Mary off the bed they were carrying her body on. Suddenly, his hands were cut off by an invisible angelic power. Athonius cried out in pain for God to forgive him, and immediately St Peter healed his hands back to their original state.

All of the Apostles except St Thomas were present at the funeral. When Thomas arrived in Jerusalem, three days after the funeral, he asked to see the body so he could pay his respects. The Apostles took Thomas to the tomb and removed the stone sealing the entrance. To their astonishment, the body of the Holy Virgin was not in the tomb. Then an Angel sent from God appeared to announce that her body had been taken to Heaven just like Jesus' was.”

Taken from: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia - Parish-Community Of The Dormition Of The Theotokos - http://www.dormition.org.au/faith.html

Is this event recorded in the Bible ?

“Although the particulars surrounding the death of the Theotokos are not found in the Holy Bible, we have learned about them, as the Fifth Century Patriarch of Jerusalem, St. Juvenal, has said, from our Holy Tradition. The Falling Asleep of the Mother of God is found in the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite in the 1st century, as well as those of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus in the 4th century. And the account of her bodily ascent to Heaven was written of by Meliton, Bishop of Sardis, in the 2nd century.” 

Taken from: Dormition of theTheotokos Greek Orthodox Church,Oakmont ,Pennsylvania http://www.dormitionpgh.org/tidbits/Dormition.asp

“The traditions surrounding the earthly repose of Christ's mother is taken from the Protoevangelion of St James.” (Attributed to the hand of the first bishop of Jerusalem).

Taken from: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia - Parish-Community Of The Dormition Of The Theotokos - http://www.dormition.org.au/faith.html

What is “Holy Tradition” - and can we trust in it ?

“This includes the oral tradition, i.e., teachings that have been passed down from one Christian generation to the other since the time of Christ, which may or may not be included in the Bible. It is, if you will, the living consciousness of the Church; its continuity with the Church of the Apostles. For example, the Orthodox practice and believe many things that may not be specifically written in the Bible but may have biblical meanings and/or symbolic Christians truths. For example, doing the sign of the cross, triple immersion in baptism, facing toward the east in prayer, the ever-virginity and all holiness of the Virgin Mary, the various rites, worship services and devotional practices of the Orthodox that have been passed down from one generation to another, etc.

Thus, the Orthodox Church bases its doctrine on the Bible, Holy Tradition, writings of the Church Fathers (early successors of the Apostles), and on the various ecclesiastical councils which were held throughout the history of the Church.”


Taken from: Orthodox Photos.com -
http://www.orthodoxphotos.com/readings/Orthodox_Church/Holy_Tradition.shtml

“The development of the New Testament canon came about over a long process in the early centuries of the Christian Church. It was not produced at a specific point in time, nor was it decided on by one specific person or council. The criteria for including a particular writing in the New Testament canon included such items as apostolic authenticity, orthodoxy, antiquity, and usage by earlier Church Fathers.

There seems to be two identifiable periods in which different criteria were used for selecting authoritative writings. In the first two centuries, ‘apostolic authority’ was the important factor in deciding to keep or reject a particular writing. In the third and fourth centuries, the list of canonical books was mostly defined and the primary criterion used to reach final decisions was whether it was used by orthodox church theologians in earlier centuries.”  

Taken from: “The Criteria Used for Developing the New Testament Canon in the First Four Centuries of the Christian Church” http://www.ntgreek.org/SeminaryPapers/ChurchHistory/Criteria%20for%20Development%20of%20the%20NT%20Canon%20in%20First%20Four%20Centuries.pdf

What does the Dormition of the Theotokos mean for us ?

“One of the core beliefs of the Orthodox faith has to do with the Theotokos (God-bearer). Since she was the way that God became Man, she holds a special place in our faith. When we pray "Most holy Theotokos, save us", we are asking that she intercede for us, or carry our prayers to her Son,

Jesus with motherly boldness. Because of her sanctity and special place in the life of her Son, her prayers and intercessions on our behalf are especially powerful. We do not worship her for worship is due only to God the Trinity. By saying “save us” we mean through her intercessions for we are only saved by the name of Jesus Christ.”

Taken  from: Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church http://www.propheteliaschurch.org/vsItemDisplay.dsp&objectID=1ACC7192-FE6D-452E 8D405D29E325970E&method=display

If Jesus is our Saviour, why do we need intercession ? Isn’t He already aware of our needs ?

“This is more easily understood when we make it more personal, that is, just as we ask others to say a prayer for us, knowing that they cannot save us, we also ask the Mother of God to pray for us. If we say that we do not need to ask the intercessions of the Saints or the Mother of God, then it is reasonable to say that we should never ask anyone to pray for us, including our friends and family members. But we are taught to pray for one another, and therefore we ask for each others prayers as well as those who have gone before us yet who are alive for in Christ there is no death.”

Taken from: Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church
http://www.propheteliaschurch.org/vsItemDisplay.dsp&objectID=1ACC7192-FE6D-452E 8D405D29E325970E&method=display

Why do we honour Mary the Theotokos so greatly ?

“We, Orthodox Christians honour the Theotokos Mary more than all the saints and angels of heaven for she was found worthy to give birth to Christ, the Saviour of the world by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. The honour we render to the Mother of the Lord is exceptional, most honourable and most revered, for she is not only “a friend of His” same as the other Saints but she is Most Holy (Panagia) above all the saints and all the angels.

For this the angels as much as the people venerate and honour her with prayers, hymns, church services and eulogies. Similarly the Archangel Gabriel greeted her at the annunciation (Luke 1:28-29) as well as Saint Elizabeth, the mother of Saint John the Baptist (Luke 1:40-43). The Most Holy Virgin herself prophesied through the Holy Spirit “for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; for He that is mighty has done to me great things ….. (Luke 1:48-49).

From these words we understand the exceptional honour accorded to the Mother of the Lord is intentional and appointed by God Himself.” 

Taken from: http://christianorthodox.wordpress.com/category/biblical-studies/

So, Mary the Theotokos is honoured by her Son, Jesus Christ, and all who honour Him, and we should honour her too ?

“Yes. And in honouring the Theotokos, we honour Jesus through her relationship with Him.”


Mary the Theotokos intercedes for us through her relationship with her Son ?

“Yes. And it is this relationship with God that is the important point for all of us.

Mary (Panagia) has that special relationship that a mother has with her son, (in her case it is God the Son), however it was accepting a relationship with God in the first place that enabled everything that followed to happen. We, too, need to have a relationship with God that involves Him in all the great, and small, events and interactions of our lives. He completes us.

This leads to our own future dormition and being reunited with Him in the life beyond what we have now, which is why Mary could prepare for her dormition with such joy. She was simply going home, in a relationship that meant everything to her.

- Fr Emmanuel

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