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The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos

By Archpriest Ayman Kfouf
Holy Dormition, 2015

The Dormition of the Theotokos is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, celebrated on August 15. The word "Dormition" is a derivative from the Latin word "dormitio", which means "falling asleep."

The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is the commemoration of the falling asleep, burial, resurrection, and translation of the Theotokos into heaven in the body.

Historical Background of the Feast

The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is one of the oldest Marian feasts in the church. The roots of the feast go back to Jerusalem, where the apostles and the Christians of Jerusalem honored and kept alive the memory of the falling asleep of the Theotokos. Consequently, quickly, her empty tomb, in Gethsemane, became a destination for pilgrims from Jerusalem and the surrounding neighborhoods.

After the dogmatization of the doctrine of the Divine Motherhood of the Virgin Mary in the third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431), the commemoration of the falling asleep of the Theotokos became more popular amongst Christians in the vast majority of the Christian world.

In the late sixth century, in the year 588, the Emperor Maurice officially adopted the commemoration of the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos into the liturgical calendar in the entire Byzantine Empire, and commanded that it be celebrated on August 15.

In the second half of the seventh century, the feast of the Dormition appeared in the West under the influence of the East. It was accepted in Rome under Pope Sergius I (687­701), and from Rome it passed over to the rest of Europe.

August 21, 2013 + A Description of the Theotokos

St. Maximus the Confessor, The Life of the Virgin, translated by Stephen H. Shoemaker, Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 2012, p. 149.

She is the ardent intercessor of her Son, Christ God, for all those who entreat her.
She is the calm harbor of all those buffeted by waves, who rescues them from spiritual and fleshly waves.
She is the guide on the way of life for all who have gone astray.
She is the one who seeks converts those who are lost.
She is the help and support of those who are afflicted.
She is the intercessor and mediator of those who are penitent.
And I will say even more than the above:
She is the resurrection of the fallen Adam.
She is the destruction of Eve's tears.
She is the comforter of those who mourn.
She is the throne of the king, who bears the One who bears all.
She is the one who renews the old world.

August 14, 2013 + On the Dormition of the Theotokos

St. John of Damascus, Homily 1 on the Dormition

O wonder truly above nature! O amazing event! Death, long seen as revolting and hateful, is now praised and called blessed. Long known as the bearer of sadness and depression, of tears and melancholy, it is now revealed as the cause of joy and celebration. So it is, if for all God's servants, who death is now called blessed, the ends if their lives give sure proof that they have found God's favor – if death is called blessed for this reason! Death brings them to fulfillment and shows them to be blessed by making their goodness unchanging; as the proverb puts it, "Do not call a person blessed before his death" (Sir. 11:28).

But we do not understand this as applying to you. Blessedness was yours-not death. Your passing was not your arrival at perfection, nor did your departure bestow security on you. For to you the beginning, the middle and end of all the good things that are beyond minds, their security and true confirmation, was your conceiving without male seed, God's dwelling in you, your childbearing without damage [to your virginity] So you truly predicted that you would be called blessed by all generations, bot from the moment of death but from the very moment of that conception (Lk. 1:48). Therefore death has not made you blessed, but you have yourself made death glorious; you have destroyed its horror and shown death to be a joy.

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