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We have no reliable historical documents about how Mary's life came to end.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


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February 25, 2018
Second Sunday of Great Lent
St. Gregory Palamas
- Matins: Luke 24:12-35 (Gospel 5)
- Liturgy: Hebrews 1:10-2:3, Mark 2:1-12 (and for St. Gregory, Hebrews 7:26-8:2, John 10:9-19)

Third Week of Great Lent
- Monday: Isaiah 8:13-9:7, Genesis 6:9-22, Proverbs 8:1-21
- Tuesday: Isaiah 9:9-10:4, Genesis 7:1-5, Proverbs 8:32-9:11
- Wednesday: Isaiah 10:12-20, Genesis 7:6-9, Proverbs 9:12-18
- Thursday: Isaiah 11:10-12:2, Genesis 7:11-8:3, Proverbs 10:1-22
- Friday: Isaiah 13:2-13, Genesis 8:4-21, Proverbs 10:31-11:12
- Saturday: Hebrews 10:32-38, Mark 2:14-17 (and for All Souls: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, John 5:24-30)

March 4, 2018
Third Sunday of Great Lent
Veneration of the Holy Cross
- Matins: Luke 24:36-53 (Gospel 6)
- Liturgy: Hebrews 4:14-5:6, Mark 8:34-9:1

Fourth Week of Great Lent
- Monday: Isaiah 14:24-32, Genesis 8:21-9:7, Proverbs 11:19-12:6
- Tuesday: Isaiah 25:1-9, Genesis 9:8-17, Proverbs 12:8-22
- Wednesday: Isaiah 26:21-27:9, Genesis 9:18-10:1, Proverbs 12:23-13:9
- Thursday: Isaiah 28:14-22, Genesis 10:32-11:9, Proverbs 13:20-14:6
- Friday: Isaiah 29:13-23, Genesis 12:1-7, Proverbs 14:15-26
- Saturday: Hebrews 6:9-12, Mark 7:31-37 (and for All Souls: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, John 5:24-30)

March 11, 2018
Fourth Sunday of Great Lent
Saint John of the Ladder
- Matins: John 20:1-10 (Gospel 7)
- Liturgy: Hebrews 6:13-20, Mark 9:17-31 (and for St. John: Ephesians 5:9-19, Matthew 4:25-5:12)

Fifth Week of Great Lent
- Monday: Isaiah 37:33-36:6, Genesis 13:12-18, Proverbs 14:27-15:4
- Tuesday: Isaiah 40:18-31, Genesis 15:1-15, Proverbs 15:7-19
- Wednesday: Isaiah 41:4-14, Genesis 17:1-9, Proverbs 15:20-16:9
- Thursday: Isaiah 42:5-16, Genesis 18:20-33, Proverbs 16:17-17:17
- Friday: Isaiah 45:11-17, Genesis 22:1-18, Proverbs 17:17-18:5
- Saturday: Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 8:27-31 (and for Akathistos Saturday: Hebrews 9:1-7, Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28)

March 18, 2018
Fifth Sunday of Great Lent
Saint Mary of Egypt
- Matins: John 20:11-18 (Gospel 8)
- Liturgy: Hebrews 9:11-14, Mark 10:32-45

Feasts & Fasts

2 - Encounter of Our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ with Simeon and Anna
3 - First All-Souls Saturday
4 - Sunday of the Second Coming of Christ (Meat-Fare)
11 - Forgiveness Sunday (Cheese-Fare)
12 - Beginning of the Holy Forty Days Fast
18 - First Sunday of the Great Fast (Sunday of Orthodoxy)
19 - Washington's Birthday (President's Day) (USA)
24 - Second All-Souls Saturday
25 - Second Sunday of the Great Fast (St. Gregory Palamas)

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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Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life, drive away from me the spirit of despondency, carelessness, love of power, and idle chatter. (Prostration)

Rather grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love. (Prostration)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not condemn my brother; for You are blessed to the ages of ages. Amen. (Prostration)

Random Proverb

"One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want." (Proverbs 11:24 ESV)

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

We honor the relics of the martyrs, that we may adore Him whose martyrs they are. We honor the servants that their honor may be reflected upon their Lord who Himself says: "He that receives you receives me."

St. Jerome, Epistle 109:1, NPNF II, 6:212