“O Mother of the living God, accept from us this burial hymn, and cover us with the shadow of your light-giving and divine grace.” — Hymn from the Dormition of the Theotokos

Dearly Beloved,

The next two weeks, all Orthodox Christians prepare to commemorate the feast of the Falling Asleep – Koimisis or Dormition – of the Virgin Mary. It is a time to recall the sacred role that the Mother of God expressed for our salvation. With a period of fasting and Supplication Services – Paraklesis – our attention will center on the final days of the All-Holy Mother of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. While this Feast celebrates her death, we should also use these days to remember her life and what our Church teaches about Her.

We Orthodox Christians see Mary’s essential role of our salvation contained within the Scriptures. We see her prefigurement in the Old Testament as the ladder in Jacob’s dream (Genesis 28:10-19) and in the young woman who will give birth to Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14). Of course, we see her throughout the birth and childhood of Christ. We also see her presence in the life and ministry of her Son and the first days of the Church, for example, her presence at the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12), at the foot of the Cross (John 19:25-26), and among the Disciples following the Ascension.

Centuries ago, the Church bestowed upon her the title of Theotokos. This title was formalized at the Third Ecumenical Council to emphasize the divine and human natures of Christ. When we hear the hymn, “For Christ our God who cannot be contained was pleased to be contained in you”, we can look at the icon of the Platytera ton Ouranon (“She who is wider that the heavens”), which dominates the central apse of many of our churches, and reflect in amazement upon the mystery of the infinite God being held within the finite womb of Mary.

But our love and appreciation for the Mother of God far exceeds any intellectual knowledge about her. She is the example par excellence for all humanity, for she freely accepted the will of God for her life. As our Mother we are comforted in the knowledge that she protects us from adversity. We call upon her in our liturgical life and in our personal prayer in times of need to intercede to her Son for our salvation.  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”.

As we celebrate the Holy Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, may we continue to dedicate ourselves to our precious Christian Orthodox Church, inspired by the life of the Mother of God. Strive to remember our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary so that we may join the apostles who chanted at her repose, “Hail, incorruptible source of God’s life-giving Incarnation, that brings salvation to all.”

With Love in Christ,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco