August 15, 2012
Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the beautiful hymns of the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos we sing and hear of the miraculous event of the Apostles being gathered for her repose. In the Orthros, we chant the Exapostilarion: “O you Apostles, assembled here in Gethsemane from the ends of the earth, offer a funeral to my body, and You, O my Son and God, receive my spirit.”
When we reflect on this extraordinary experience of the Apostles of our Lord, we can see how this blessed Feast and the witness of the Theotokos inspire us in our sacred work of sharing the Gospel. The commemoration of the Dormition and the event of the gathering of the Apostles affirms that they had obeyed the commands of Christ to go and preach the Gospel, teach all nations, and baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). At the time of the repose of the Theotokos, the Apostles were engaged faithfully and fervently in the work of ministry. However, when they were called by Christ to return in honor of the life, the witness, and the dormition of the Virgin Mary, they did it wholeheartedly.
Certainly, the Apostles had each been chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit to the ends of the earth (John 15:16). Now they were gathered to honor the one who had been chosen above all others to bear the Son of God. During her final earthly days, the Apostles were in the presence of the one who had born the True Vine, the source of great spiritual fruit in her own life of service and in the lives of all who have come to Christ in faith. Because of her commitment to God’s will, her faithfulness to our Lord, and her lifetime of witness of His power and grace, the Theotokos in her Dormition became a center of celebration and power.
It is in this spirit that the Apostles returned to the work they were called to do. The witness of the Virgin Mary, a witness of Christ, filled their hearts with joy. They rejoiced in the miraculous events of her repose, and they were emboldened even more by the manifestation of grace and holiness. They had once again seen and heard the power of the Gospel, and they could only go forth and be witnesses of the great and mighty acts of God, seeking to bear spiritual fruit in the lives of others (Acts 4:20).
As we commemorate the Feast of the Dormition, we do so in honor of the Theotokos and her witness. We also gather to celebrate her life and repose as a superb example of being chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit. We do not weep, but we sing praises to God for the witness of His power and grace in her life. We do not mourn, for we are strengthened in our commitment, we are assured in our message of truth and life, and we are empowered to go out and share the Gospel so that we can see great spiritual fruit produced in the lives of our fellow human beings.
On this sacred and blessed Feast, may you find the strength and the assurance which emanate from the life and witness of the Theotokos, and may you be renewed and inspired for the great and mighty things our Lord will accomplish in your life and through your life.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America