Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Theotokos is bodily assumed
on the third day.

   While Thomas was enlightening the lands of India by preaching the Gospel, the honored Dormition of the Mother of God took place. All the Apostles had been caught up from various lands on the clouds of heaven, and were transported to Gethsemane, to the bier of the all-blessed Virgin.
   By God's special arrangement, Thomas was not brought hither. This was permitted by the will of God, that the faithful might be assured that the Mother of God was bodily assumed into Heaven. For just as they were more greatly assured of the Resurrection of Christ, through the disbelief of Thomas, so did they learn of the bodily assumption into heaven of the all-pure Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, through the delay of Thomas.
   On the third day after the burial, Thomas was suddenly caught up in a cloud in India and transported to a place in the air above the tomb of the Virgin. From that vantage point, he beheld the assumption of her body into the heavens, and cried out to her, "Whither goest thou, O all-holy one?". And, removing her cincture, she gave it to Thomas, saying, "Receive this, my friend." And then she was gone.
   Thereafter, he descended to find the other disciples keeping watch over the sepulcher of the Theotokos. He sat down beside them, with the cincture in his hand, greatly saddened that he had not been there when she reposed, as had been the other Apostles. Hence, he said, "We are all disciples of the Master; we all preach the same thing; we are all servants of one Lord, Jesus Christ. How, then, is it that ye were counted worthy to behold the repose of His Mother, and I was not?. Am I not an Apostle?. Can it be that God is not pleased with my preaching?. I beseech you, my fellow disciples: open the tomb, that I also may look upon her remains, and embrace them, and bid her fare well!.
   Taking pity on him, the Apostles then did as Thomas requested and opened the tomb that he might at least behold and venerate the sacred relics. The holy Apostles then rolled away the stone and opened the tomb. All were aghast when they discovered that her remains had vanished, not realizing that just moments before she had been bodily transported to paradise. All that remained were the burial clothes, which emitted a wonderful fragrance. Thus they stood in amazement and then each of them kissed the burial clothes which were lying in the tomb. They then prayed to the Lord that He would reveal to them where the body of the Theotokos had been transported.
   The Queen goes to dwell with Her Son and to rule with Him forever.
   It is noteworthy that the zealous pastor, St. Gregory of Tours (538-594), in his Book of Miracles, testifies to his belief in the Dormition of the Virgin-the first of its kind in the West: "Finally when blessed Mary having completed the course of this life, and was to be called from the world, all the Apostles gathered to her house from their different regions. And when they had heard that she was to be taken from the world, together they kept watch with her; and lo, the Lord Jesus came with His angels. Taking her soul, He gave it to the Archangel Michael and withdrew. At dawn the Apostles raised her body with a pallet and they placed it in a vault and they guarded it awaiting the coming of the Lord. And behold, a second time the Lord stood by them and he or­dered the holy body to be taken and borne to Paradise; there having rejoined the soul exultant with His elect, it enjoys the good things of eternity which shall know no end".
   Again, using the imagery of the Apocrypha, St. Gregory of Tours speaks of Mary's body being "taken up and borne on a cloud into Paradise where, now, reunited with her soul and rejoicing with the elect, it enjoys the good things of eternity which shall never come to an end."
   Saint Joseph the Hymnographer (c.816-886), confirming her bodily assumption, writes that Thy tomb declared that thou wast buried and it now openly shows that thou hast been bodily borne to the heavens.  
   Saint Cosmas (7th-8th c.), also speaking of her bodily translation, writes: The Lord and God of all gave thee as thy portion the things that are above nature. For just as He kept thee virgin in thy childbirth, so did He preserve thy body incorrupt in the tomb; and He glorified thee by a divine translation, showing thee honor as a son to his mother.
   The great doctor of the Dormition, St. John of Damas­cus (c.676-c.750), writes: "But even though, according to nature, thy most holy and happy soul is separated from thy most blessed and stainless body, and the body as usual is delivered to the tomb, it will not remain in the power of death and is not subject to decay. For just as her virginity remained inviolate while giving birth, when she departed from life her body was preserved from destruction and only taken to a better and divine tabernacle which is not subject to any death."
   Continuing, he writes: "It was fitting that she, who in childbirth had kept her virginity undamaged, should also, after death, keep her body free from all corruption". He then speaks of the benefit of her assumption. For Christ assumed her as His own Mother, into a dwelling far better and more divine, the Holy of Holies.
   Saint Gregory Palamas (+1359) writes that "the 'Ark of holiness' was resurrected, as was Christ Who had risen from the dead on the third day. Her burial clothes afforded the Apostles a demonstration of her resurrection from the dead. As in the case of their Master, her burial clothes, too, alone remained in the tomb for their scrutiny."
   Saint Modestos of Jerusalem (+634), confirming her eternal bodily incorruptibility, writes: "As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Saviour and God Who is the Giver of Life and immortality, she has been endowed with life by Him. She has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body, together with Him Who has raised her up from the tomb, and has taken her up to Himself in a way known only to Him."
   Saint Neophytes the Recluse (1134-1220) also speaks of her bodily translation, writing: "That pure and holy body, placed by the Apostles in the sacred place of Gethsemane, was borne to the God of the Apostles and delighted in those things which 'eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man'" [I Cor. 2:9].
   Under the presidency of the great Patriarch Dositheos, a statement was made at the Council of Jerusalem, in 1672, that "though the immaculate body of Mary was locked in a tomb, yet, like Christ, she was assumed and translated into the heavens on the third day."

   Holy Apostles Convent (1989), The Life of the Virgin Mary, The Theotokos, Holy Apostles Convent and Dormition Skete, Colorado, U.S.A.