Guest Viewpoints

Reflection for the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos

August 16, 2023
By Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord.

The Feast of the Dormition – Kimissis – of the Theotokos is filled with rich theology and deep significance for our faith. The first two weeks of August, when we observe the Dormition Fast, is sometimes referred to as our Summer Lent, when we prepare for the departure of the Virgin Mary from our physical presence. This is also a time of significant prayer, with the chanting of the beautiful Paraklesis services at our parishes, beseeching her intercessions before Jesus. She is not just the mother of the Lord, but she is the mother of us all, and the Mother of the Church. As our Mother, we are comforted in the knowledge that she protects us from danger, harm, and adversity.

Our love and appreciation of the Mother of God exceeds any intellectual knowledge about her. She is an extraordinary example for all humanity, for she freely accepted the will of God for her life. We call upon her in our liturgical life and in our personal prayer to intercede to her Son for our salvation because we know that the appeals of a mother have great influence upon a son. As a hymn for the Feast states: “Never cease, we entreat you, to intercede with Him on our behalf; for next to God we have put our hope in you…O Theotokos.”

The Virgin Mary’s essential role is clearly depicted in Holy Scripture. We see her prefigurement in the Old Testament when we read about the ladder in Jacob’s dream where God says: “All peoples on Earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Genesis 28:14). And, in the prophecy of Isaiah we hear it proclaimed: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14).

Of course we see her throughout the birth and childhood of Christ, as well as in the life and ministry of her Son and the first days of the Church. She was at the side of her son when he performed the first miracle at the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12). We saw her human frailty when she wept at the foot of the Cross (John 19:25-26). Mary was also among the Disciples following the Ascension (Acts 1:14).

And just as full and rich as her life was, so, too, was her ‘falling asleep’ or ‘Dormition’ where she was taken up into heaven. In the icon depicting this sacred moment, we see the Apostles who have come from great distances to be at her side, along with four bishops. The Apostle Peter is censing her body. There is an atmosphere of deep prayer and love. Jesus is also depicted in the center of the icon in a ray of Divine light, holding an infant dressed in white symbolizing Mary’s pure soul.

We chant at the end of the Paraklesis a beautiful verse from the Exaposteilaria about the final moments from the Virgin Mary’s funeral: “O you Apostles from far off, being gathered together in the village of Gethsemane, lay my body in burial. And you my son and my God, receive now my spirit from me.”

As the spirit of the Virgin Mary is received in heaven, let us also receive her intercessions as we fervently pray, “Most-holy Theotokos, save us!”

‘Hronia Polla’ to all those who celebrate on this Feast. May the Lord, through the intercessions of the Theotokos His Holy Mother, grant you and your family His abundant blessings.


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