August 15, 2013
Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos
Being higher than the Heavens, more glorious than the Cherubim, and more honorable than the whole creation, the Theotokos by reasons of her surpassing purity became the receiver of the everlasting God, and today she commits her most pure soul into the hands of her Son.
(Hymn of the Vespers of the Feast)
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,
On this day of our commemoration of the Feast of the Dormition, our hearts are filled with hope as we reflect on the holy repose and miraculous translation of the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary. We have hope in Christ our Lord because the Theotokos offers us a superb witness of His power. Certainly, her calling to bear the Son of God was unique, but in all aspects of her life and death she offered a beautiful example of how the power and grace of God can transform us from death to life.
This transformation for all of creation began when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and announced the Incarnation of Christ. She was called to this service by God, a calling she freely accepted in faith, because of her purity of heart and holiness of life. On this Feast we honor her for this by singing, “She who by reason of her surpassing purity became the receiver of the everlasting God, today commits her most pure soul into the hands of her Son” (Hymn of Vespers). While her purity of soul was completed through carrying our Lord in her womb, she was already a holy person through her love of God and communion with Him.
The purity and holiness of the Theotokos affirmed and strengthened the true life she experienced in her relationship with God. O Great miracle and mystery! Yes, she bore the Giver of Life, the One through Whom all things were brought into existence, the Son of God who revealed the power of divine life over death. Today we commemorate this by chanting, “Having become the temple of Life, you have obtained life eternal; for you who has born the Life in Person, has now passed over death into life” (Hymns of Matins). But she also knew this eternal life through her faith. She believed in the promises of salvation, and she found hope in the revelation and presence of God. Because of her faith, she was translated from life to life following her repose, and through dying she rose to live eternally with her Son.
It is because of her holiness and her experience of the true life in Christ that the Theotokos is able to be an intercessor for us all. Certainly, we seek the intercessions of all of the Saints, asking them to pray to God on our behalf that He may continue to show us mercy and grace. However, as we acknowledge on this day and in the Feast of the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary is prayerfully addressed as the Mother of our Lord, as one who has a very special and unique relationship with Him. For the Theotokos, this is a relationship of trust in the divine will of God. It is an eternal communion that has come through a life of holiness. It is faith in the love of God, knowing that He will accomplish all things necessary for our salvation.
This is the witness of the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary on the Feast of her Dormition. As through her life, she offers in her repose a witness of the priority of living a pure and holy life. Through her miraculous translation, God reveals through her the power of divine life over death. As one who “ceaselessly intercedes on our behalf,” she shows us a complete and unyielding faith in the will and power of God.
May we give glory and honor and thanksgiving to Him for the Theotokos as we commemorate her Dormition, and may we find in her a true witness of faith that renews our hope, brings comfort to our struggles, and assures us of the abundant and eternal life we have in the kingdom of God.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America