His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

Homily for the Liturgy of the Dormition

Kimisis Tis Theotokou Greek Orthodox Church

Brooklyn, New York

August 15, 2021

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What a glorious Feast we celebrate this day! We sing with the Angels of God:

Ἐν τῇ Γεννήσει τὴν παρθενίαν ἐφύλαξας, ἐν τῇ Κοιμήσει τὸν κόσμον οὐ κατέλιπες Θεοτόκε.

In giving Birth you preserved your virginity, and in Your Dormition you have not forsaken the world, O Theotokos.

We praise the Virgin for the miracle of her life and the miracle of her falling asleep. And I am very well pleased to celebrate our “Little Pascha” of her Dormition here at Κοίμησις τῆς Θεοτόκου in Brooklyn.

In the Psalms that are used to populate the hymns for this day, we encounter the following verse:

At Your right hand stood the Queen,                    

arrayed in a vesture of inwoven gold, adorned in varied colors.

Παρέστη ἡ Βασίλισσα ἐκ δεξιῶν σου,

ἐν ἱματισμῷ διαχρύσῳ περιβεβλημένη, πεποικιλμένη. [1]

Every Priest and Deacon knows this verse. For it is always recited in the Holy Proskomidi, when the particle of bread that represents our Panagia is placed on the paten. She is always placed at the Right Hand of her Son, Who is the Lamb of God.

By this liturgical action, we foreshadow the present Feast. For we behold the Virgin on the paten as she is enthroned in Heaven, together with the ranks of the Angels and the Church – both Militant and Triumphant.

In the enthronement of the Panagia, we see our own future state, such  that we perceive ‘our life as hidden with Christ in God.’[2]

The Theotokos understood this deeply within her heart and soul during her lifetime. All the miracles of her life: her rising up the three steps of the Temple when she was presented as a child; the blossoming of Joseph’s staff when she was betrothed; her giving birth and remaining a Virgin; and her witness of the saving ministry of her Son, all the way through the Cross and to Holy Pentecost. The Virgin knew in her own life and experience the truth of God’s promise to each and every one of us:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. [3]

And at her falling asleep, as we see in the Holy Icon of the Dormition, we behold how the Lord, Who is the Life of All Things, appears to receive her soul. And after three days, He grants unto her to share in the first fruits of the Resurrection.

My dear Christians:

All of these things take place for our sake as well. For it is not only the Theotokos who is placed on the paten with the Lamb. We are placed there as well – both the living and the dead. At every Divine Liturgy. And this is because we are also the Body of Christ, the Body that God received from the Theotokos, that perished in a human death, and that is now risen from the dead and enthroned in Heaven.

One of the saintly theologians of the Church, Symeon of Thessaloniki, makes a profound observation on that moment in the Proskomidi, when all the particles of bread have been placed in their appropriate ranks. His remark is succinct, yet would need a lifetime to fully comprehend. This is what he says is on the paten at the completion of the service:

Θεὸς ἐν ἀνθρώποις καὶ Θεὸς ἐν μέσῳ θεῶν….

God among human beings, and God in the midst of gods….[4]

What a marvel! By his descent into the world through the womb of the Theotokos, our Lord deifies us all and brings us the fullness of our potential as human beings – meaning that we can truly be creatures of goodness and kindness, of love and forgiveness, of mercy and compassion.

This is the beauty spoken of in that second line of the Psalmic verse:

ἐν ἱματισμῷ διαχρύσῳ περιβεβλημένη, πεποικιλμένη.

arrayed in a vesture of inwoven gold, adorned in varied colors.

This is the glory of the Virgin, but it is also the glory destined for us, when we practice our faith with sincerity of heart and honest intention.

On this Day of the Dormition of the Theotokos, through her holy intercessions, may we all receive grace upon grace to live our lives in such a way that we may be worthy of our rank in the Divine Paten of Heaven.

Amen.

 

[1] Psalm 44:8, (LXX).

[2] Cf. Colossians 3:3.

[3] Colossians 3:1-4.

[4] ΠΕΡΙ ΤΗΣ ΙΕΡΑΣ ΛΕΙΤΟΥΡΓΙΑΣ.