John of Thessalonica
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John, Archbishop Of Thessalonica, who flourished in the 7th century, is noted as a stout defender of the orthodox faith against the Monothelites. He attended as papal legate the third Constantinopolitan (sixth ecumenical) Council (A.D. 680).
John’s Homily on the Dormition of Mary Hom. Dorm. John is a homily delivered by John, Archbishop of Thessalonica (r. 610–649), in an effort to encourage the adoption of the feast of the Dormition in the church of his city. John wishes also to present to his readers a story of the Virgin’s departure that is not corrupted by heretical traditions. The text’s agreements with sixth-century Greek and Syriac versions makes it an important witness to the Dormition tradition.
- Homily on the Dormition of Mary
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Quotes and Excerpts:
THE DORMITION OF OUR LADY, THE MOTHER OF GOD AND EVER-VIRGIN MARY By John, Archbishop ofThessalonica
Source Used: ON THE DORMITION OF MARY: Early Patristic Homilies. From the “Popular Patristics Series Volume 18”. Translation and Introduction by BRIAN E. DALEY, S.J. Translation Copyright © 1998 St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press CRESTWOOD, NY 10707
“1. A fitting hymn of honor, praise and glory is always due, from every creature under heaven, to that remarkable, all-glorious and truly great mistress of all the world, the ever-virgin Mother of our savior and God Jesus Christ. She is truly the God-bearer, and through her all creation has received, by God’s saving plan, the great gift of the presence in the flesh of the only Son and Word of God the Father. After God the Word, who truly took flesh from her for our sakes and became human, had suffered in that flesh by his own will and had been raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, she herself continued to live, for no small period of time, with the holy Apostles in the region of Judaea and Jerusalem; she remained mainly in the household of that virgindisciple beloved of the Lord, as holy Scripture makes clear, while each of the others went out, at the command of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the Gospel in all the world. When some time had gone by, this glorious virgin, the Mother of God, left the earth by a natural death. Not only this, but some people committed to writing the wonderful things that happened in her regard at that time. Practically every place under heaven celebrates every year the memory of her going to her rest, with the exception of only a: few, including the region around this divinely protected city of Thessalonica. Why is this? Shall we condemn the carelessness or laziness of those who have gone before us? Surely we must not say or even think anything of the sort, since they and no one else left this excellent principle as a kind of law for their homeland: that we should celebrate in the Spirit the memory not only of our local saints, but of practically all who struggled for Christ, anywhere in the world, so that in these intercessory gatherings we might grow closer to God. Our forebears, then, were neither heedless nor lazy; yet although those who were present then [at Mary’s death] described her end truthfully, we are told, mischievous heretics later corrupted their accounts by adding words of their own, and for this reason our ancestors distanced themselves from these accounts as not in accord with the catholic Church. 1 For this reason, the feast [of her Dormition] passed, among them, into oblivion. Do not be surprised at hearing that heretics have corrupted writings, since they have been caught doing similar things, from time to time, to the epistles of the divine Apostle and even to the holy Gospels! Yet we do not reject writings that contain the truth because of that fraud of theirs, so hateful to God; rather, we purify them of the bad seed that has been sown, and embrace what has truly been achieved for the glory of God by his saints, and commemorate these things in a way that pleases him and profits our souls. So, we find, our recent predecessors have done, as did the holy fathers who lived long before them-the latter when dealing with the so-called “individual travels” of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and Andrew and John, the former in the case of most of the acts of the Christ-bearing martyrs. 2 For one must truly “remove the stones from the path,” as Scripture says (Jer 50:20), so that the flock chosen by God may not stumble. 2. Since, then, it is very necessary for the good of this Christ-loving metropolis, in order that it lack no blessing, that the world’s benefactress and lady, the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of God, receive our sincere praise as we celebrate with spiritual joy the memory of her entry into divine rest, we have ourselves spent no small effort preparing to set before your devout ears-to awaken and to build up your souls-not everything we have found written, in different ways in different books, about that event, but only what truly happened, what is remembered as having taken place, and what is witnessed until today by the existence of actual sites. 3 We have gathered these testimonies together in love of truth and in fear of God, taking no account of fabricated stories, 4 since they have been interpolated into the traditions by the malice of those who fabricated them. But having listened with beneficial compunction to the truly awe-inspiring and great wonders that took place, in a way really worthy of God’s mother, at the time of her entering into holy rest, we shall offer to that spotless Lady, Mary Mother of God, thanks second only to God, and the praise that befits her, and we shall show ourselves worthy of her gifts by our good works. 5 And if you receive from us this little token oflove and are favorably impressed by the enthusiasm of the exhortation towards better things implied by our present writing, show us your affection as brothers and sisters and as beloved children in the Lord, and secure for me from God, by your unceasing prayer, the constant support I need. His, after all, is the glory, the honor and the power, for the ages of ages! Amen. 3. When the holy Mother of God, Mary, was about to lay aside her body, the great angel came to her and said, “Rise, Mary, take this branch ofpalm,6 which he who planted Paradise gave to me, and give it to the Apostles, so that they may carry it as they sing before you, for after three days you will lay aside your body. For behold, I am sending all the Apostles to you, and they will take care of you and will behold your glory when they carry you to your resting place.” “Why have you brought this palm branch only,” Mary replied to the angel, “and not one for each of them-lest if it be given only to one, the others will complain? And what do you wish me to do? What is your name, that I may tell them if they ask?” And the angel said to her, “Why do you ask my name? For it is too wonderful for human ears. And do not be concerned about the palm branch; for by it many shall be healed, and it shall be a norm of testing for all who live in Jerusalem. 7 For revelation shall be given to the one who believes, but shall be hidden from the unbeliever. Come, then-make your way towards the mountain.”8 Then Mary set out and climbed up the Mount of Olives, while the angel’s light shone ahead of her; she had the palm branch in her hand. When she came to the mountain, it rejoiced-the whole mountain, with all its trees, so that the foliage bowed its head in veneration. When Mary saw this, she became agitated, thinking that it was Jesus, and said, “Are you not the Lord? For such a great sign has come to pass through you: so many trees bowing before you! I say that no one can cause such a great sign except the Lord of glory, who entrusted himself to me.” Then the angel said, “No one can perform miracles apart from his hands. For he provides power to everything that is. But I am the one who receives the souls of those who humble themselves before God; I bring them to the place of the just, on that day when they depart from the body.9 And when you, too, lay aside your body, I will come to you in person.” Then Mary said to him, “My Lord, in what shape do you come to your chosen ones? Tell me what I must do–tell me, so that I may do it, and you may come and lead me on high.” “What are your thinking, my Lady?” he replied. “When God sends a mission to you, I will not come alone, but all the armies of angels will come and sing before you. Hold fast, then, to the palm branch.” Saying this to her, the angel became as light, and went up into heaven. 4. Mary returned to her home. Immediately, the room was shaken because of the glorious radiance of the palm branch in her hand. After the tremor, she went into her inner chamber and laid the branch away in a linen cloth. Then she prayed to the Lord, saying, “Lord, listen to the petition of your mother Mary, who cries out to you; send down your favor upon me. Let no power come against me in that hour when I depart from the body, but fulfill what you said when I called out to you in tears, asking, ‘What shall I do to escape the powers that will confront my soul?’ You gave me a promise then, saying, ‘Do not weep—neither angels nor archangels will come against you, nor cherubim nor seraphim, nor any other power, but I myself will come to meet your soul.’ For now the pains of childbirth are upon me again. 10 And she prayed, “I bless the eternal light in which you dwell; I bless every living thing planted by your hands, each of which will remain for all ages. 0 Holy One, who dwell among the holy ones, ‘hear the voice of my supplication’ (Ps 27:2).” 5. When she had said this, she went out and said to her housemaid, “Hear me: go and call my relatives and acquaintances; say to them, ‘Mary calls you’.” Her maid went out and called them all, as she had commanded; and when they had come to her, Mary said to them, “Fathers and brothers, help me! For I am about to depart from the body for my eternal rest. Arise, then, and show me a great act of generosity. I do not ask you for gold or silver, because all those things are vain and corruptible. But I ask you for the generosity of remaining with me these next two nights; let each of you take a lamp, and do not let it go out for three days, and I will bless you before I depart. 11 They did as she told them. The report was passed on to all Mary’s acquaintances and to her relatives, and they all gathered around her. Mary turned and saw them all standing around, and raised her voice, saying: “Fathers and brothers, let us help each other; let us light our lamps and stay awake, for ‘we do not know in what hour the thief is coming’ (Mt 24:43).” It has been revealed to me, my brothers, when I shall depart; I have learned this and am certain of it, and I am not afraid, for it is a universal thing. I am only afraid of the enemy who makes war on everyone. He can do nothing, of course, against the righteous and faithful; but he defeats the unbelieving and sinners, and those who do their own will-he does in them whatever he desires! But he does not overcome the righteous, because the angel of wickedness finds nothing in them, but draws back from them in shame. For two angels come to meet each human being: one an angel of righteousness and one of wickedness, and they encounter him at the moment of death. And when death besieges the soul with anguish, the two angels come and grasp his body. Ifhe is someone who has done works of righteousness, the angel of righteousness rejoices over him, because the wicked one has nothing in that person. Then several angels come to the soul, singing before him all the way to the place of the just. Then the angel of wickedness is grieved, because he has no share in him. But if the person is found to be one who has done evil deeds, that angel rejoices, and brings with him other wicked spirits, and they lay hold of the soul and pluck it out for themselves. Then the angel of righteousness grieves deeply. So now, fathers and brothers, help each other, that nothing evil may be found in our company.” When Mary had said this, the women said to her, “Sister, you who have become Mother of God and mistress of all the world, even if all of us are afraid, what do you have to fear? You, after all, are Mother of the Lord! Woe to us, if you say this-where can we flee? You are the hope of us all. We little ones-what shall we do, or where shall we escape? If the shepherd fears the wolf, where are the sheep to run?” All who stood near began to weep. And Mary said to them, “Be silent, my brothers and sisters, and do not weep, but give glory to her who is at this moment in your midst. If beg you, make no lament here for God’s Virgin, but let your song be praise instead of lamentation, such that it may pass to all generations on the earth and to everyone who belongs to God. Sing praise instead of mourning, so that in place of mourning you may receive a blessing.” 6. Saying this, Mary called to those who were nearest to her and said to them: “Arise, let us pray!” And when they had prayed, they all sat down and began to discuss with each other the great things God had done, and the signs he had worked. As they spoke, the Apostle John arrived and knocked on Mary’s door, then opened it and went in. When Mary saw him, she was disturbed in spirit; she groaned and shed tears, and cried out in a loud voice, “John, my son, do not forget the words your Master addressed to you on my behalf, when I wept for him on the cross and said, ‘You are going away, my Son, and to whom do you leave me? With whom shall I live? 12 And he said to me, as you stood and listened, ‘John is the one who will look after you.’ Now, then, my son, do not forget what you have been commanded on my account. Remember that he loved you above all the Apostles; remember that you, rather than any of the others, leaned on his breast. Remember that it was to you alone, as you reclined on his breast, that he spoke the mystery that no one knows except me and you, since you are the chosen virgin, and since he did not wish me to grieve, for I was his dwelling place. For I said to him, ‘Tell me what you have said to John,’ and he gave you a command and shared it also with me. 13 Now, then, son John, do not abandon me.” When she had said this, Mary wept quietly. But John could not bear it; his spirit was troubled, and he did not understand what she had been saying to him, for he did not realize that she was about to depart from her body. Then he said to her, “Mary, Mother of the Lord, what do you want me to do for you? After all, I have left my servant with you, to provide you with food. Surely you do not wish me to transgress the command of my Lord, which he laid upon me when he said, ‘Travel around the whole world, until sin is abolished!’ (cf. Mt 28: 19) Now, then, tell me what burdens your soul. Do you lack anything?” And Mary said to him, “John, my son, I do not need any of this world’s goods; but when, on the day after tomorrow, I depart from the body, I beg you to show me a kindness: keep my body safe, and lay it only in a sepulcher. Guard it, with your brother Apostles, on account of the high priests. For with my own ears I heard them saying, ‘When we find her body we will commit it to the fire, because that deceiver came forth from her!”‘ When John heard her saying, “I shall depart from the body,” he fell on his knees and said with tears, “O Lord, who are we, that you let us see such tribulations? For we have still not forgotten our earlier troubles, and now see-we must endure further tribulation! Why, 0 Mary, do I not depart from the body, that you might keep watch over me?” When Mary heard John say this, weeping, she begged those standing nearby to be silent-for they, too, were in tears-and she restrained John, saying, “Child, be patient with me and cease your weeping!” Then John rose and wiped away his tears. And Mary said to him, “Come along with me, and ask the people to sing psalms, while I speak with you.” And while they sang, she led John into her inner chamber, and showed him her funeral garments and all the things she had made ready for her corpse; she said, “John, my child, you know that I have nothing on earth except my funeral dress and two tunics. There are two widows in this place; when I depart from the body, give each of them one.” And after this, she led him to where the palm branch was, which had been given her by the angel, and she said to him, “John, my child, take this branch, that you may carry it before my bier; for so I was commanded.” Then he said to her, “I cannot take it without my fellow Apostles being present, lest when they come, discussion and resentment should arise among us. For there is one greater than I among them, who has been set over us. 14 But if we consider it together, they will approve.” 7. As soon as they came out of her private chamber, there was a great clap of thunder, so that those who were in the place were terrified. And after the sound of the thunder, the Apostles descended, like hail from the clouds, at Mary’s door: eleven of them, each sitting on a cloud! First there was Peter, second Paul-he, too, borne by a cloud and counted along with the Apostles, for he, too, was an original source of faith in Christ. After them, the other Apostles were also gathered, on clouds, at Mary’s door. They greeted each other, gazing in astonishment at one another and marveling at how they had come together in the same place. And Peter said, “Brothers, let us pray to God who has gathered us together, especially since our brother Paul is with us.” When Peter had said this, they stood still in prayer, and made this petition with one voice: “We pray that it may be made known to us why God has brought us together.” Then each deferred to the other, that he might lead the rest in prayer. So Peter said to Paul, “My brother Paul, stand up and pray before me; for I rejoice with an inexpressible joy that you have come to live in the faith of Christ.” And Paul said to him, “Pardon me, father Peter, for I am a neophyte and am not worthy to follow in the footsteps of all of you. How, then, shall I pray before you? For you are the pillar of light, and all the brothers standing around are more worthy than I! You, Father, pray for me and for us all, that the grace of the Lord may remain with us.” Then the Apostles rejoiced at Paul’s humility and said, “Father Peter, you have been set over us-you pray for us!” So Peter prayed, saying, “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ will glorify you, just as the service which I perform is touched with glory; for I am the least of the brethren and your servant. As I have been chosen, so you will be also-one call has been given to all of us! So everyone who gives glory to another gives glory to Jesus and not to a human being. For this is the command of the Teacher, that we should love one another (Jn 15: 12; cf. 1 Jn 3: 11, 23).” At that, Peter stretched out his hands and gave thanks, saying, “Almighty Lord, ‘who are seated upon the cherubim’ on high (2 Sam 19:15) and ‘look upon the lowly’ (Ps 112:6 [LXX]), ‘who dwell in unapproachable light’ (2 Tim 6:16), you ‘loosen what is hardened’ (Dan 5: 12), you ‘reveal hidden treasures’ (Is 45:3), and you have planted your kindness within us. Which of the gods is as gracious as you to those who pray? ‘And you do not remove your mercy from us’ (2 Mace 6: 16), for you save from evil all who hope in you; you live, and have conquered death, from this time and for the ages of ages. Amen.” And once again they embraced each other. 15 8. Just then John came into the midst of them and said, “Give me a blessing, too!” Then they also embraced him, each in the proper order. And after the embrace, Peter said to him, “John, beloved of the Lord, how have you come here and how many days have you been here?” And John said, “It happened when I was in the city of Sardis 16 teaching at about the ninth hour, that a cloud came down upon the place where we were gathered. And it took me up, in the sight of all who were with me, and brought me to this place. I knocked on the door and they opened for me, and I found a crowd around our mother Mary, and she said to me, ‘I am about to leave the body.’ I did not remain in the midst of those who stood around her, but grief weighed down upon me. So now, brothers, if you go in to her early in the morning, do not weep or be agitated, lest the crowd around her, seeing us in tears, should waver in their faith concerning the resurrection, and say, ‘They, too, fear death!’ But let us encourage each other with the sayings of our good Teacher.” Then the Apostles, going early in the morning into Mary’s house, said with a single voice: “Blessed Mary, mother of all the saved, grace be with you!” And Mary said to them, “Why have you come here? Who announced to you that I am to depart from the body? And how have you been gathered here? For I see you gathered together, and I rejoice.” And each recounted the place from which he had been transported, and said, “We were taken up by the clouds and brought together here.” Then all of them praised her and said, “May the Lord, the savior of all, bless you!” And Mary rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I praise you, who give all a share in your blessing! I bless the place where your glory dwells! I bless you, giver of light, who came to dwell for a time in my womb! I bless all the works of your hands, which obey you with full submission! I bless you, who bless us! I bless the words of life that come forth from your mouth, and which have been given to us in the form of truth! For I believe that what you have said will come true for me. You said, ‘I will send all the Apostles to you, when you go forth from the body’; and behold, they are gathered together, and I am in the midst of them, like a vine bearing fruit, just as in the days when I was with you. I bless you with every kind of blessing! Let the rest of the things said to me by you come to their fulfillment! For you said, ‘You will be able to see me, when you depart from the body.”‘ Saying this, she called Peter and all the Apostles and led them into her private chamber, and showed them her funeral apparel. And after this, she went out and sat in the midst of everyone, as the lamps remained lighted; for they did not allow them to be extinguished, according to Mary’s orders. 9. When the sun set, on the second day of Mary’s departure from her body, 17 Peter said to all the Apostles, “Brothers, let one who has the literary training speak, addressing the crowd through this whole night. 18 And the Apostles said to him, “Who is wiser than you? We shall be especially delighted to hear something of your educated words!”
Then Peter began to speak: “Brothers, and all who have come to this place at this hour of our mother Mary’s departure, you have done well to light lamps that shine with the fire of this visible earth. But I wish that each of you will also take hold of his immaterial lamp in the age that has no end; this is the threefold lamp of the inner person, which is body and soul and spirit. 19 For if these three shine forth with the true fire, for which you are now struggling, you will not be ashamed when you enter into the marriage-feast to rest with the bridegroom. So it is with our mother Mary. For the light of her lamp fills the world, and will not be quenched until the end of the ages, so that all who wish to be saved may take courage from her. Do not think, then, that Mary’s death is death! It is not death, but eternal life, because ‘the death of the just will be proclaimed glorious before the Lord’ (Ps 115:15). This, then, is glory, and the second death will have no power to do them harm.” While Peter was still speaking, a great light shone in the house in the midst of them all, so that the light of their lamps seemed dark by contrast. And a voice was heard, saying, “Peter, speak to them of a kind of knowledge which they can bear. For the best doctor cares for the pains of those who suffer, and the nurse adapts her care to the age of the child.” Peter raised his voice and said, “We bless you, 0 Christ, the rudder of our souls!” 10. Then Peter said to the virgins who were present there: “Hear about your grace and your glory and your honor! For blessed are all who guard the form of their holy life. Hear and learn what our teacher said to us, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is like virgins’ (Mt 25: 1). He did not say ‘it is like a great length of time,’ because time passes, but the name of virginity will not pass away. Nor did he liken it to wealth, since money is spent but the name of virginity remains. That is why I believe you are even now in glory: for that reason, he compared the Kingdom of heaven to you, since you have no cares. For when death is sent upon you, you do not say, ‘Woe to us-where shall we flee, and leave our poor children or our great wealth or our planted fields or our large possessions? You do not worry about any of these things. You have no other concern but that for your own virginity. And when death is sent upon you, you will be found ready, lacking in nothing. Learn, then, that nothing is greater than the name of virtue, and nothing more burdensome than worldly things. “And listen to this. 20 In a certain city there was a man who lived with an abundance of all things. He happened to have servants, and two of his servants committed the offense of disobeying his orders. The master was angry at them, and sent them off to a distant region for a while, with the intention of calling them back afterwards. One of the exiled servants built a house for himself, and planted a vineyard and built a bakery, and acquired other great possessions. But the other servant, if he was able to earn anything from his labor, saved it in the form of gold. And summoning a goldsmith, he drew a crown and said to the goldsmith, ‘I am a servant, and have a master who has a son; form their images in a gold crown.’ The goldsmith made use of his skill, and said to the servant, ‘Come, put the crown on your head!’ But the servant said, ‘Take your payment; I have a particular time in mind for wearing the crown.’ Then the goldsmith understood what was said by the servant, and went home. “After this, the time set for the end of their exile drew near. And the master sent a severe underling to them with the command, ‘If you do not bring them back to me within seven days, you will be in trouble!’ The messenger went with great haste, and coming to that region he searched for the servants night and day. And coming upon the one who had acquired the house and vineyard and other possessions, he said to him, ‘Let us go, for your master has sent me to you.’ Seeming to comply, the servant first said to him, ‘Let us go,’ but later said to him, ‘Wait for me, until I can sell all the possessions I have acquired here.’ Then the messenger said to him, ‘I cannot wait; for I have an appointed time of seven days, and since I respect his threat I cannot tarry.’ Then the servant wept, saying, ‘Woe is me-I have been found unprepared!’ And the messenger said to him, ‘O wicked servant, you forgot that you are a servant and have been sent into exile, and that when the master wished he would send for you! Why did you plant vineyards, from which you will not be able to take anything away? You have been found unprepared! Before I came to you, you should have made yourself ready.’ Then the servant wept and said, ‘Woe is me! I thought I would always be in exile, and I did not believe that my master would seek me out; that is why I acquired all these possessions in this country.’ Then the messenger forced him to get going, bringing nothing along with him. “But when the other servant heard that he had been sent to them, he got up, carrying the crown, and walking along the road on which the messenger was to come, he waited patiently for him. And when he came, the servant said to him, ‘My master sent you for me. Let us go off together with joy, for nothing holds me back! What I have is light-for I own nothing but this gold crown. For I had it made, as I waited day by day and prayed that my lord would be merciful to me, and that my master would send for me and take me from this exile, lest anyone should envy me and take away my crown. Now I have received the answer to my prayer. Let us get up, then, and be on our way!’ “Then both servants went off with the messenger. When their master saw them, he said to the one who had nothing, ‘Where is the product of all this time of your exile?’ And the servant answered, ‘Master, you sent to me a harsh soldier, and I begged him to allow me to sell my goods and take their value into my hands. And he said to me, “I have no permission to do so.” Then his master said to him, ‘O wicked servant, now you thought of selling, when I sent a messenger to you! Why did you not consider your exile, or reckon that those possessions would be of no value to you?’ In anger, he commanded that he be bound hand and foot and sent off to other, still more wretched places. Then summoning the one who had brought the crown, he said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy servant! You desired liberation, as is obvious from the crown you acquired, for a crown is the mark of free people! But you did not dare to wear it without the permission of your master. For a servant cannot be set free except by his own master. As then you desired freedom, receive it from me!’ That day he was set free, and was put in command of many.” 11. After saying this to the virgins with Mary, Peter turned to the crowd and said, “Let us also hear, my brothers, the things that will come upon us. For truly we are the virgins of the true Bridegroom, the Son of the God and Father of all creation-we, the human race; being angry with our race at the beginning, God cast Adam into this world. Under his displeasure, then, and in a kind of exile, we live in it, but we will not be allowed to remain in it. For the day of each of us is coming, and it will bring us to where our fathers and ancestors are, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And when the end of each of us comes, the stem messenger will be sent to us-namely, death. When he comes to the soul of a sick sinner, who has piled up for himself many sins and iniquities, and harasses him severely, then the sinner will plead, ‘Have patience with me this one time, until I redeem the sins which I have sown in my body.’ But death will accept no excuses. For how will he make any concession when a person’s allotted time is fulfilled? So, having no store of righteousness, he will be borne away to the place of torment. But if anyone does the works of righteousness, he will rejoice and say, ‘Nothing holds me back-for I have nothing now to bring with me, except the name of virginity.’ He will then beseech death, saying, ‘Do not leave me behind on this earth, lest some envy me and take away the name of my virginity.’ Then his soul will go forth from his body and be brought to the immortal bridegroom with hymns, and they will establish it in a place of repose. As for now, then, my brothers, struggle on in the knowledge that we shall not remain here forever!” 12. After Peter had said these things and exhorted the crowd until dawn, the sun rose. And Mary got up and went outside, and raised her hands and prayed to the Lord. After her prayer, she went in and lay down on her bed. Peter sat at her head and John by her feet, while the rest of the Apostles stood in a circle around her pallet. And about the third hour of the day, there was a great clap of thunder from the heavens, and a sweet fragrance, which caused all those present to be overpowered by sleep, except for the Apostles alone, and three virgins, whom the Lord appointed to stay awake so that they might be witnesses of Mary’s funeral rites and her glory. And behold, the Lord came on the clouds, with a multitude of angels beyond number. 21 And Jesus himself and Michael entered the inner chamber where Mary was, while the angels sang hymns and remained standing outside her chamber. And as soon as the Savior entered, he found the Apostles with holy Mary, and he embraced them all. After this, he embraced his own mother. And Mary opened her mouth and blessed him, saying, “I bless you, for you have not grieved me with regard to the things you foretold. You foretold that you would not allow angels to come again to seek my soul, but that you would come for it yourself. It has happened, Lord, according to your word (cf. Lk 1:38). Who am I, lowly one, that I have been counted worthy of such glory?” And having said this, she brought the course of her life to its fulfillment, her face turned smilingly towards the Lord. And the Lord took her soul and placed it in the hands of Michael, after wrapping it in veils of some kind, whose splendor it is impossible to describe. The Apostles looked on as the soul of Mary was given into the hands of Michael, filled out with all the members of a human being, except for the form of female and male, but with nothing else in it except the likeness of the whole body and a brilliance seven times greater than the sun. Peter was filled with joy, and asked the Lord, “Is then the soul of each of us bright, as Mary’s is?” The Lord said to him, “O Peter, the souls of all those being born in this world are like this, but when they depart from the body they are not in such a brilliant condition, because they were sent here in one state but are later found in another. 22 For ‘they loved the darkness’ (Jn 3: 19) of many sins. But if someone guards himself from the iniquities of this world’s darkness, and so leaves the body, his soul will be found to be as bright as this.” Again, the Savior said to Peter, “Take care to keep Mary’s body, my dwelling place, safe. Go out of the left side of the city23 and you will find a new tomb; place the body in it, and remain there, just as she commanded you.” After the Savior said this, the very body of the holy Mother of God cried out before everyone and said, “Remember me, King of glory! Remember me, that I am your creation; remember me, that I guarded the treasure entrusted me.” Then Jesus said to her body, “Surely I will not abandon you, the treasury of my pearl! Surely I will not abandon you, the guardian of the treasure entrusted to you, who were found trustworthy! Far be it from me to abandon you, the ark who steered the way for your own steersman! Far be it from me to abandon you, the treasury who remained sealed until you were sought!” And saying this, the Savior disappeared.
13. Peter and the other Apostles, and the three virgins, prepared Mary’s body for burial and laid it on a bier. After this, all those sleeping awoke. Then Peter picked up the palm branch, and said to John, “You are the virgin [Apostle]; it is your duty to sing hymns before the bier, holding this.” Then John said to him, “You are our father and bishop; it is your duty to be before the bier until we bring it to the place [of burial].” And Peter said to him, “So that none of us may grieve, let us crown her bier with it [i.e., the palm branch].” Then the Apostles rose and lifted Mary’s bier. And Peter began the hymn, “Israel went out from the land of Egypt, alleluia” (Ps 113: 1 [LXX]) 24 And the Lord and the angels were walking along on the clouds, singing hymns and blessing God, without being seen; only the voice of the angels could be heard. The sound of a mighty crowd filled all of Jerusalem, and when the chief priests heard the tumult and the sound of people singing hymns, they were distressed and said, “What is this tumult?” Someone told them that Mary had departed from the body, and that the Apostles were gathered around her, singing hymns. Immediately Satan entered into them (cf. Jn 13, 27), and they were filled with anger and said, “Come, let us go out and kill the Apostles, and let us burn the body that bore that sorcerer!” And they rose up and went out with swords and shields (cf. Mt 27:46, 55 par.), to put them to death. But immediately the angels on the clouds struck them with the inability to see and caused them to bump their heads against the city walls, since they could not see where they were going-except for one single chief priest, who found a way to go out from within the walls to see what was happening. And when he drew near the Apostles and saw the bier, crowned with the palm, and the Apostles singing hymns, he was filled with a mighty burst of anger and said: “Here is the dwelling of the one who despoiled our people; what tremendous glory she has!” And he went up to the bier in his great anger, and wishing to upset it, he laid hold of it where the palm branch was, and pulling on it, attempted to dash it on the ground. But immediately his hands adhered to the bier and were severed from his elbows, and remained hanging from the bier. Then the man cried out in pain before all the Apostles, beseeching them, “Do not abandon me in such an urgent condition!” Then Peter said to him, “The action of coming to your rescue does not belong to me, or to any of these men. If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, whom you rose up against, imprisoned and put to death, surely you will be released from this predicament.” And the man said, “Did we not realize that he is the Son of God? But what shall we do, when avarice darkens our eyes? For our ancestors, when they were about to die, summoned us and said, ‘Children, see that God has chosen you from all the tribes, that you might have a position of power before all this people, and might not have to work in the mud of this earth. This is your work: to build up this people, and to receive from all of them tithes and first-fruits and every firstbom coming forth from the womb. But be careful, sons, lest your holy places become too prosperous and you rise up and go into business for yourselves, and anger God. 25 Give, rather, your surplus to the poor, and to the orphans and widows of your people, and do not ignore the soul in distress. But we did not listen to the traditions of our ancestors, but when we saw that the place abounded greatly, we put the first-born of our flocks and our cattle and all our beasts on the tables of those who sell and buy. When the Son of God came, he cast them all, even the money-changers, out of the holy place, and said, ‘Take all of this out of this place, and do not make my Father’s house a house of business’ (Jn 2: 16). But we, looking only at our customs that had been condemned by him, thought up evil plans in our hearts and rebelled against him and put him to death, knowing in fact that he is the Son of God. But do not hold on to the memory of our wickedness, but have mercy on me; for that is what has happened to me on the part of God-he has loved me, that I might live!” Then Peter ordered the bier to be put down, and said to the chief priest, “If now you believe with your whole heart, go and kiss the body of Mary, and say ‘I believe in you and in the God who was born of you.’ Then the chief priest blessed holy Mary, in the Hebrew language, for three hours, and did not allow anyone to touch her, offering witness-texts from the holy books of Moses and the other prophets that it is written about her that she would be the temple of the God of glory. Those who heard were struck with wonder at hearing these traditions, which they had not heard before. And Peter said to him, “Go now, and join your hands together.” And he did join them, saying, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Mary, Mother of God, let these hands of mine be joined to each other.” And immediately they became as they had been from the beginning, without any deficiency. And Peter said to him, “Stand up, and take a strand from the branch of palm, and go into the city. And you will discover a blind multitude, who cannot find the way they should walk; tell them what has happened to you. And if anyone believes, lay this strand of plam on his or her eyes, and immediately that person will see.” The chief priest went off as Peter had commanded, and found many blind people-these were the ones whom the angels had struck with blindness-weeping, and saying, “Woe to us, for what happened to the Sodomites has also happened to us! For in ancient times God struck them with blindness, and afterwards he sent fire from heaven and burnt them up. Woe to us! Behold, we have been mutilated already, and it only remains for the fire to come!” Then the man who had taken the strand of palm spoke to them about the faith. And those who believed began to see, while those who did not believe did not see, but remained blind. 26 14. The Apostles, however, lifted up the precious body of our most glorious lady, Mary, the Mother of God and evervirgin, and placed it in a new tomb, in the place the Savior had showed them. They remained in that place, awake in unity of spirit, for three days. And after the third day, they opened the sarcophagus to venerate the precious tabernacle of her who deserves all praise, but found only her grave-garments; for she had been taken away by Christ, the God who became flesh from her, to the place of her eternal, living inheritance. And our Lord Jesus Christ himself, who bestowed glory on his immaculate Mother Mary Theotokos, will also bestow glory on those who glorify her. Those who call upon her, celebrating her memorial every year, he will save from every danger, and he will fill their households with good things, like the house of Onesiphorus (cf. 2 Tim 1:16; 4:19). And they will receive the forgiveness of their sins, both here and in the age to come. For he has shown her to be his cherubic throne on earth, an earthly heaven, the hope and refuge and confidence of our race, so that if we celebrate, with the sacred mysteries, the festival of her holy Dormition, we might find mercy and grace in the present age and in the age to come, by the grace and kindliness of our Lord Jesus Christ: to whom be glory and power, with his unbegotten Father and with the all-holy and life-giving Spirit, now and always and for the ages of ages. Amen.
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