Modestus of Jerusalem
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Modestus of Jerusalem (Died 630 A.D.) was a Patriarch of Jerusalem whose Christian parents died when he was five months old. Still raised Christian, as an adult he was sold as a slave in Egypt. He converted his pagan master to Christianity, who subsequently freed him.
In 614, the last great shah of the Sassanian Empire, Khosrow II, destroyed Jerusalem, killed 66,509 Christians and captured Zacharias of Jerusalem, the then Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the True Cross (said to be the cross upon which Jesus was crucified). Modestus was then chosen to stand in for Zacharias as Patriarch. He buried the monks killed at the monastery of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified and rebuilt the Holy Sepulchre (the church which contains the site of Jesus Christ’ crucifixion and burial). Modestus was buried in the Church of the Eleona on the Mount of Olives.
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Encomium on the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady, Mary, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin
AN ENCOMIUM ON THE DORMITION OF
OUR MOST HOLY LADY, MARY, MOTHER
OF GOD AND EVER-VIRGIN
By Our Father the Holy Modestus,
Archbishop of Jerusalem
1. Knowing the holy significance of the sacred feasts of The Mother of Christ, our God, is a gift beyond telling. For the mystery itself is full of glory, beyond the grasp of all mortals and all the powers of heaven, and the manifold revelation of Wisdom, rich though it is, is at a loss to offer worthy praise of this miracle that exceeds all the intellectual power of rational, conscious creation. She who is truly and literally the Mother of God has been sanctified by God himself, and is holier and more glorious than cherubim and seraphim. And in order to address this boundless dignity of hers, exalted beyond all the heavenly powers by the glory of the ineffable divine mystery which engulfs her- a glory impenetrable to both thoughts and contemplation – those who were chosen to be teachers in the Church of Christ our God, by the divine grace of the all-holy Spirit, and who were given strength by him, have risen up valiantly to their task, and have loved to dwell on it in pious contemplation, as in the sun’s fiery chariot, as long as they could. For her sake, because of our Savior Christ, who issued forth from her and ‘in whom lie hidden
the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Col 2:3), these inspired prophets have been judged worthy to discover sacred Writings and to expound them for each holy festival of the Mother of God, and so to escort the devout people towards riches that can never be taken away, towards the Spirit’s most splendid array of honors, towards the divinely designed edification of the orthodox Churches, for the glory of God our Savior.
But for some reason they have revealed nothing about her glorious falling-asleep, nor have those who came after them explained it to us. Therefore on the day of the falling-asleep of the Mother of God, most people who are eager for knowledge, most disciples of Christ and wise persons who love to listen to divine things, intensely yearn to know something of this unspoken mystery that surrounds her. And because of this eager interest of theirs, so pleasing to God, I have most gladly made this holy and welcome project my own; moved by deeply reverent longing, and by confidence in the Mother of God, who brought our life and salvation into the world, even I- poor wretch that I
am–have found strength to attempt to compose a little essay about her. So I turn my voice now to God, like the thief crucified at the right of Christ our Savior; and from him, through his all-holy Mother, I beg to experience his great mercy. For the glory, then, of his Father and the Spirit, let us begin as follows.
2. How amazing, my brothers and sisters in the love of Christ! Today she who gave birth to the life of all people has moved on to be a sharer in that life. The life which was begotten before the ages from the Father, which is God and the Word of God, which she bore in the flesh and nursed from her own breasts, the life that built all things from nothing and generated life in them- this life she has inherited, and has come as its mother to share in it above all the holy ranks of heaven and earth. The life that is the fountainhead of the universe she received from God and made a spring for this world, the light of mortal beings; for it is written, ‘The life was the light of men and women’ (Jn 1:3f.). She has gone to dwell with this light, the true and substantial light, ‘the shining-forth of the glory of God the Father’ (Heb 1:3), which lightens the world, which has become flesh through her by the Holy Spirit, “enlightening every man and woman who comes into the world” (John 1:9). And when Christ our God, co-eternal with his Father and the Spirit, chose by decree to take her to himself, to share in his glory- his most-blessed mother, who is, after him, the greatest of all beings–all the angels and archangels rushed through the air to gather in a joyful visit to this world, sent from heaven by God to be the celebrants of her holy falling-asleep.
All the holy powers of heaven, too, rejoice to learn of the mystery; they praise the kind Savior Christ, who was born of her and who calls her to himself, and give abounding glory, as Scripture says, to him who formed the stars (Gen 1:16; cf. Ps
147:4), for revealing her as more glorious than the heavens.
She is heaven for his divinity, and through her rational beings
on earth now shine like heavenly bodies with the radiance of
his divine grace, above the sun and moon and stars; for he says
to them, “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14). From all of
rational and intelligible creation, he has chosen her to be his
all-holy Mother, and has endowed her with gifts above all others. The cherubim do not dare to look at him, or have the strength to gaze at him; the spirits worship him with his all-holy Father and Spirit, ceaselessly crying out, “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts” (Is 6:3). Yet he has, through her, set creation free from slavery, and has brought into reality surpassing joy for the whole cosmos; he has said to the powers above, “Rejoice with us” (Lk 15:9)! For through her, the mortal drachma is found, and the good shepherd has put on the skin of his sheep and has saved his intellectual beast from its wandering, laying it across his shoulders (Lk 15:3-10). The Lord of hosts rejoices, who became flesh from her without ceasing to be what he is, who sanctified her as a field ready to receive God, where God the Father graciously willed to be the farmer, and the Holy Spirit the workman who planted the seed. Christ, God’s only Son, grew up and bore fruit in her as the true vine, providing joy for the holy powers of heaven and salvation for mortals on earth; for he says in the Gospel, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer” (Jn 15: 1). The Mother of God has come to this true vine that she brought forth, to harvest the grapes of incorruption and immortality, rejoicing over her new fruitfulness in the Kingdom of God. She is nourished on the heavenly bread of life, vitalized forever by him who entered our history from her sacred womb and came forth to share our mortal life, strengthening our hearts by right faith in him. Like an olive tree, like God’s cultivated field, she has borne for us the fountainhead of mercy: Christ, whose mercy fills all things to overflowing.
3. The radiant cloud that bore the Lord of glory has been lifted up- lifted up to him: she who flashed forth his perfect divinity in her body like lightning, who rained down holy gifts from him on everything under heaven. There the orbit of that spiritual moon above our world, which the prophet spoke of (Hab 3:11), comes to completion: the moon which gave birth to the sun who is one of those three suns that share a single substance- the Trinity, as revealed by the tradition of the Fathers. “And the moon stood still in the tracks” of her virginity (Hab 3:11); [she is] truly the Mother of God, revealing his radiance that all of this creation might come to know its God. She is received with rejoicing and unspeakable delight in the house of God the Father, herself the house which God built for his Son, who dwelt in her without being circumscribed and was made flesh from her by the Holy Spirit; who remained in her nine months and became an infant; yet who was God, inseparable from his Father and the Spirit. She who was made the dwelling-place of the consubstantial Trinity has come to a better dwelling- she who is forever his home, having heard from the archangel Gabriel, “The Holy Spirit will come down upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the one born of you will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). So she is glorified above the holy ranks of heaven and earth; she is transplanted from here, as “from glory to glory” (2 Cor3.18) the mortal bush that bore the fire of divinity (see Ex 3:2f.)- to “the land of the living” (Ps 116:9), where she shall join in radiating the light of the face of Christ our God, who was truly and wholly contained in her womb: preserved unburnt by him, as the one who, above all women, is blessed with the name of Virgin Mother.
Beyond this, she has flourished as the stock of Jesse, blooming forever, bringing to fruition the one planted by the Father, whose boundless and inconceivable greatness gives joy to the holy powers of heaven and the choir of the saints by the beauty and the abundance he shares- the joy of seeing his delight freely accessible and abounding above all other pleasures. For the Lord of hosts has called to himself that field which he chose above all the earth; he grew up from her like an unplanted shoot, whose grain can neither be gathered nor thrown away, nourishing all things forever without being consumed, harvested only in the Father’s bosom. She who had become the all-glorious bridal chamber of the hypostatic union of the natures of Christ, the true heavenly bridegroom, has entered the bridal suite of heaven, while all the holy powers of heaven long for his supernatural beauty. The immaculate spiritual room, from which the King of the ages came forth in making his descent to us, has been transferred to the Jerusalem on high, since like a soldier the King has put to flight the enemy, with all his armies. Christ our God, in fact, when he grew to manhood, betrothed his orthodox Church to himself, and poured forth for her his precious blood and gave his life; in the words of Paul, that light of the world so rich in divine wisdom: “This is a great mystery: I speak of Christ and of the Church” (Eph 5:32). She who is higher than cherubim and seraphim, being truly designated Mother of their Lord, has now come to live in the Kingdom of heaven.
4. When she had completed her life’s voyage happily, that spiritual vessel of God dropped anchor in her new, safe harbor,
near to the helmsman of the world, who through her saved the
human race from the floods of wickedness and sin and gave it
new life. The one who gave the Law on Sinai, and who administered it from Sion, our God, summoned his ark of sanctification to be brought home from Sion to himself, just as David, her ancestor, had said of her in a psalm, “Go up, O Lord, to the place of your rest, you and your ark of sanctification” (Ps 131:8). She is not carried like Moses’ ark of old, drawn by oxen, but she is escorted and surrounded by an army, heaven’s holy angels. She is not an ark made by hands, not plated with gold, but is God’s spiritual handiwork, resplendent all over with the radiance of the holy and life-giving Spirit, who descended upon her. She does not contain the vessel of manna and the tablets of the covenant, but the Lord who provided both the manna and the eternal blessings promised in the Old and the New Covenants, and who was born as her child- he who freed from the curse of the Law those who have faith in him. She does not contain the rod of Aaron, nor is she crowned with glorious cherubim, but rather the incomparably more glorious rod of Jesse, revealed by the prophet and overshadowed by the almighty power of the Father on high (Is 11:1; Lk 1:35). She does not move before the Hebrew people, like that former ark, but follows the God who has
appeared on earth in flesh furnished by her; she is called blessed
by angels and by men and women, for the glory of the one who
magnified her above all ranks of heaven and earth, as she cries
out her holy words, ‘My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.’ (Lk 1:40).
5. The bright spiritual dawn of the sun of justice, then, has
gone to dwell and to shine in his brilliance; she is called there
by the one who rose from her, and who gives light to all things.
Through her, that overwhelming radiance pours the rays of his sunshine upon us, in mercy and compassion, rekindling the
souls of the faithful to imitate, as far as they can, his divine
kindness and goodness. For Christ our God, who put on living
and intelligent flesh, which he took from the ever-virgin and
the Holy Spirit, has called her to himself and invested her with
an incorruptibility touching all her corporeal frame; he has
glorified her beyond all measure of glory, so that she, his holy
Mother, might share his inheritance, as the Psalmist says: “The
queen stands at your right hand, wrapped in a golden robe
woven with jewels” (Ps 44:9 [LXX]). That precious, holy vessel, most sacred of all things, she who became Mother of God,
has taken up her “pearl of great price” (Mt 13:46); she is glorified with the splendor of his supernatural beauty, to whom
“silver and gold belong” (Hag 2:9) and through whom
“kings have their royal power” (Prov 8:15) he who has shone forth from heaven in her, and who received a body from her virgin womb, while she was still being tossed in the great sea of this life; he who came forth [from her], to give himself as the
world’s ransom from slavery. So as soon she had completed
the course of this temporal life, in a way far beyond the ordinary, she arrived at the true joy which lies at the heart of things,
for she bore that joy in our nature in a way beyond our telling.
This is that joy which is God by nature, begotten of God before
the ages, the joy that has appeared on earth at the end of the
ages from her, and which fills heaven and earth with its divine
gladness, having finally banished the sadness of Eve.
6. But today, the one whom the inspired Prophet called “the
cornerstone” (Ps 117:22 [LXX]) has wonderfully accomplished
the transferral of his own mountain, which looms over all creation in the height of its glory. From this mountain, Christ our God has been “cut without touch [of human hands)” (Dan 2:45),
and has “set the whole universe right” (Ps 95:10 [LXX]); he has
constructed in the world communities of right faith, so that those who reverently take refuge in him by way of that mountain might be saved from all impious heretical belief, just as Holy Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (Rom 10:11). She who remained a Virgin, the
“sealed fountain” (Cant 4:12) of divine gifts, has been led out to meet him; through her, the garden of the orthodox Church is watered, and is tended by the second Adam, born of her, who
drank from the virginal fountain of her breasts as from a flowing spring, and who gave life to Adam, God’s first creation, as he lay in death. Today, the spiritual tent that supernaturally housed the God and Lord of heaven and earth in the flesh has been folded up and pitched anew by him, ready to share his incorruptible bodily existence forever: “a mighty shield” (Sir 6:14), offering all of us Christians safety and protection.
7. 0 most blessed dormition of the glorious Mother of God, of her who always remained a virgin, even after giving birth, and who did not experience corruption in that life-sheltering body of hers, even in the tomb! She is preserved [from it] by Christ the Savior, who came forth from her and who is mighty to do all things. O most blessed dormition of the glorious Mother of God, through whom “the spirits and souls of the departed just” (Dan 3:86) are judged worthy of the ever- lasting divine patronage of Christ! O most blessed dormition of the glorious Mother of God, through whom we have been created anew in mystery, and have become God’s temple! O most blessed dormition of the glorious Mother of God, through whom a double healing has come to all the world- healed herself in body and of spirit, she leads the entire universe to complete well-being! O most blessed dormition of the glorious Mother of God, through whom our race, as his undivided body, is glorified and made blessed in Christ our God- is itself praised and reverenced, as it is written, by all things “in heaven, on earth and under the earth” (Phil 2:10)! O most blessed dormition of the glorious Mother of God, through whom we have received “the remission of our sins” (Eph 1:7) and are redeemed from the tyranny of the Evil One! O most blessed dormition of the glorious Mother of God, through whom all things are renewed, and things on earth are united to those in the heavens, crying out with them in praise, “Glory to God in the heights, and peace on earth, good will among men and women” (Lk 2:14)! O most blessed dormition
of the glorious Mother of God, through whom the kindness of
the three-personed Godhead, far exceeding all our conjectures,
is revealed to us–making the holy powers of the heavens wonder, and rousing us to confession and ceaseless praise of God’s unspeakable compassion and unbounded goodness! O most blessed dormition of the glorious Mother of God, about whom prophets and just men made proclamation with their holy trumpets, hoping to have a share in her most welcome day of days, when the Savior came forth from her to redeem them from the inescapable bondage of Hades! O most blessed dormition of
the glorious Mother of God, through whom God is on earth and a human person in heaven, remaining the same yet under-going transition without change or division, through his compassion and his saving will! For she once heard, “You are earth, and to earth you will return” (Gen 3:19), but Christ, who is God, put on her flesh, and sits at the right hand of the Father, above the cherubim and seraphim, the thrones and virtues and principalities and powers, the archangels and angels. O most blessed dormition of the glorious Mother of God, through whom “we have put on Christ, and have been counted worthy to become children of God” (Gal 3:27)! O most blessed dormition of the glorious Mother of God, through whom “the True Vine” has sprung up, and the glorious apostles have grown out from it as branches, reaching to the limits of the earth and filling all the world with the excellent fruit of religion and with their miracles! O most blessed dormition of the glorious Mother of God, through whom Christ, the divine light and light-giver, has shone forth, and the holy martyrs, conformed to his sufferings, are kindled from him like lamps shining in the world! Even with their blood, they confess her to be Mother of God, and receive from him the crown of righteousness. O most blessed dormition of the glorious Mother of God, for whose sake angels and archangels come down from on high, and divine apostles gather from the ends of the earth, in a way known to God alone, who leads them on the way and gathers them for the holy celebration of her dormition as
Mother of God! In this our Lord, who is good above all others, fulfills the command which he gave to Moses long ago,
“Honor your parents” (Ex 20:12), since he is by nature one who gladly shows honor.
8. Think of it! Holy angels were sent from God to his holy and glorious Mother, to one who is higher than they and all the powers of heaven, the one who had “found grace with God” (Lk
1:30); they are sent from heaven on high to one who has been
shown by God to be higher and wider than heaven itself-sent
now, not to announce the incomprehensible news that God has been conceived, as once the archangel Gabriel did, but to lead her towards the one she conceived, in his heavenly kingdom; not to proclaim her inconceivable childbirth to all the world by bringing good tidings to shepherds (Lk 2:9), but to receive her with everlasting glory and to let her enter into the ineffable joy of the Lord (Mt 25:21), who was born of her. For since they knew “the manifold wisdom of their Lord” (Eph 3:10), as it is written in the Church’s Scripture, it was reasonable that they should also be divinely eager to gaze on his glorious mother, on her whom they discovered to be most dearly desired and revered by the God who is by nature desirable and lovable, on her who was chosen from the beginnings of our race, “according to his foreknowledge” (Eph 3:10), to become, for the salvation of all the world, the ever-virgin Mother of God. With prophetic eyes, her ancestor David foresaw that she would have this role, and said in the Psalms, ‘Listen, daughter, and see; incline your ear. Forget your people and your father’s house. The king yearns for your beauty, for he is your Lord; bow down to him” (Ps 44:11 (LXX]). They were eager to see and admire her divine beauty, shining with God’s glory, through which Christ our God, God’s only Son, made human nature fair with the loveliness and beauty of his Godhead, divinizing it in himself. They longed to see her form, so
“full of grace” (Lk 1:28), from which he formed himself by the Holy Spirit and became, in truth, mortal in form while remaining what he was and “existing in the form of God” (Phil 2:6). They yearned, too, to see his real, holy, individual [human] substance, more powerful than the powers on high, and to give praise to the super-substantial, really existent Word of the Father, who made that substance holy and became flesh from her by his Holy Spirit. And perhaps they were amazed to consider how this mortal being had come to be mother of the maker of mortals- to wonder who she might be, and how great are the personal qualities of the one who nurtured God. She contained the uncontainable one, she bore the fire of divinity without being singed, she gave birth to the maker of all, she cradled in her arms him who carries the universe in his hand, she fondled him ‘who looks down on the earth and makes it to tremble’ (Ps 103:32 ILXX]), she fed him “who gives food to all flesh” (Ps 135:25 (LXX]). So they wondered how they might sing her praises, and exalt her journey from this earth to the God who is beyond the universe.
9. So the divine apostles, whom we have mentioned before,
hastened from every corner of the earth, led and assisted by an impulse from on high, to find that all-holy Mother, through whose offices they had been found by Christ and had been considered worthy of a mission in the Holy Spirit- the highest dignity by far which the Spirit bestows. She had already attained that honor, and was, at that moment, about to receive in addition Christ’s heavenly gifts, ” which eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it yet entered the human heart” (1 Cor 2:9) gifts given also, through her, to the race of mortals. She was to become, on earth, God’s bridge beyond this universe, by the grace of her virginity. That is why his assistance towards us has been so marvelous, and why he can save us while utterly destroying the evil schemes of the enemy: it is not a divine ambassador, not an angel who has come to accomplish it, but the Lord himself. So it is written, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps 120:2 [LXX]): through her, he has made known to us the way to ascend to him by right faith, and by the good life that leads to heaven.
Not only this, but they walked in a sacred procession, through the gate built on Sion facing eastward and letting in the dawn, which was an inspired anticipation of her transferral-for she was foreseen and revealed in prophecy by the activity of the life-giving Holy Spirit- the gate to which no falsehood draws near, there the one truly life-giving way leads us on, and our Lord and God lifts us, by that way, to his Father, saying in the Gospel, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). They gathered at that gate, and like archangels greeted the celebrated Mother of God; and just as they were ready to send on to the Lord that [angelic] escort whom they dispatched with her to the heavens, they announced the good news to her, proclaiming it, in what seemed an appropriate way, in this divinely inspired funeral hymn:
10. “Hail, woman so desired by God, living temple of the Most High, whom no place can contain! In you the personified, uncreated Wisdom of God the Father dwelt, and built the Temple of his body: Christ our God, who found his resting-place in you for the salvation of all the world, and who is pleased to welcome you into his own eternal, glorious resting-place. Hail, holy Mother of God! The king of glory, the Lord Jesus, chose you to be his spiritual kingdom on earth, and through you he has bestowed on us his heavenly kingdom; there he has ordained that you became one body with him in incorruption, more glorious than all others, to the glory of his Father and the Spirit. Hail, everlasting divine reward of the devout! Christ received our ancestral heritage from you, and raised up for us a horn of salvation’ (Lk 1;69), so that we might proclaim the word of his truth as good news to all nations. For he truly saves from all tribulation those who confess you to be Mother of God- the God who has initiated you into his mysteries, that you might be with him to intercede for us. Hail, daughter of Joachim and mother of the God who created all things! You are summoned by him to share in blessedness beyond all joy of the holy ranks who are called blessed on earth and in heaven. Hail, spring of healing! You have poured forth Christ, who cures every illness. He bursts on us with the mystical waves of the grace of his life-giving Holy Spirit, bearing us like a rushing river towards life eternal; and he has summoned you, to nourish you “by the water of his rest’ (Ps 22:2 [LXX]). Hail, glorious Mother of everlasting light, which is by nature and in substance the true God! He has shone forth from you in our substance on earth, and has “let the light of his face shine upon us’ (Ps 4:7); now you are gloriously called by him to be, by God’s grace, “before him in the light of the living’ (Ps 55: [LXX]. “Hail, refuge of mortals with God! He made us his own through you, and became ‘our refuge and our strength’ (PS 45:1 [LXX), working through us great healing and giving strength to the whole world, in order to give increase to the chosen race of Christians; and he called you, O blessed Mother of God, to be the everlasting memorial of his ineffable kindness and love of humanity, which has touched us through you.
Hail, God-given treasury of the heavenly kingdom! In you,
“The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (Jn 1:29) was escorted into our midst, to call together a festival of heaven’s holy angels and the mortals on earth. You were foreordained to be the priceless jewel, stored up in the ‘Church of our ancestors’ (Heb 12:23) on high. Hail, holy Mother of God our Savior, who has come through you to be with us, and we to be in him! He it is who has judged you worthy to be celebrated and venerated by all devout people on earth, and now- even
more- to be venerated in heaven by the holy angels as the revered mother of their Lord.
“Hail, most holy virgin Mother, who have brought forth
Christ, the Son of God, made flesh from you by the Holy Spirit! He is perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity; in two natures, two wills and two fields of operation, he wills and acts as God and wills and acts as a human being, and as one and the same subject he possesses full power in both realms, without confusion and without division. Since you abide in his presence with full freedom of access, pray to him for his Church, that it may be preserved forever in this reverent state of mind. Hail, venerable, immaculate Mother of God! The Lord God came from on high to dwell in your womb as his earthly homeland, without being limited and without leaving heaven behind; now he deems you worthy to come from this earthly, temporal homeland into a better land in heaven, a place also given- through your mediation- to the saints as their longed-for goal. Hail, divine altar erected on God’s foundation! Through you the atoning and saving sacrifice for the whole world came forth, Christ our God. For from you, holy Mother of God, he put on that vestment of flesh prepared for him by the Holy Spirit, and came forth as “a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek’ (Ps 109:4 LXX]; cf. Heb 5:6), as Scripture says; and he has decreed that he will take you as his partner, in order to provide forever a propitiatory sacrifice for all humanity, as you intercede for them Hail, Mary, resplendent spiritual Paradise! For you produced, by the Holy Spirit’s gift, that fruit of immortal life growing from God the Father, Christ our God. By sharing right faith in him, we have been brought to life; and he has settled you now in Paradise, in the tent of an immortal body, so that through you he might open up for us a means of access to him. Hail, mistress of the mortal race, holy Mother of God! From you the God who is holy and good above all things, our Master, has come forth in the world to share our mortal nature in all things except sin. He has judged us worthy “to become partakers of his divine nature’ (2 Pet 1:4); having bestowed on you the grace of being his spiritual citadel, he calls you now to himself, ‘the Lord of hosts in his city’ (Ps 47:9 [LXX]). Hail, lovely and splendid harbor! God has revealed you as truly the Mother of God. The human race is tossed by storms on the sea of this life, but it finds safety in you; and it has gained the gifts of the Spirit and eternal blessings through you, from him who has done wonderful things for you in our history, and who glorifies you in a surpassing degree for ages and ages.”
11. Those holy angels we have mentioned, sent by God, stood by the side of God’s Mother; being spiritual and invisible, they gazed at the sublime glory of the divine grace and power that accompanied her, and stood dumbstruck by the incomprehensible divine mystery that enfolded her. They rejoiced in exaltation to receive her as the Mother of their Lord; but the apostles, who were now left orphans by the Mother of God, as far as her bodily presence was concerned, grieved no less than they had done in that sacred night when they were initiated into the sacraments of the whole world’s salvation, and heard from Christ the Savior, “Grief has filled your heart” (Jn 16:6). Then, as the Mother of God was surrounded by both choirs singing her praises, visibly and invisibly, both heard, it is said, the divine decree for her; Christ, our good God, according to his promise, did not disdain to “be in their midst” (Mt 28:20) and to appear to his Mother, in a way known only to him. And that blessed one, gazing on him and deeply moved, as always, by the holy yearning of her divinely maternal heart, left her holy body behind and “committed into his hands” (Ps 30:6 (LXX]) her blessed, holy soul.
12. What a marvel! She has fallen asleep! She has fallen asleep! She who gave birth to the life and resurrection of the world has fallen asleep! By the grace that came from her, every spiritual and intellectual nature shares eternal life. Her Son is the one who has despoiled the underworld and death, who has “neutralized the devil” (Heb 2:14), who will raise up by his command (cf. 2 Thess 4:16) those who have died since time began and who sleep in him the one who is Lord, and who says, “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:24). She follows him as his Mother, the all-holy one, and says to him in a kind of prophetic address, “My heart has not grown tired following after you, and has not longed for the day of men and women” (Jer 17:16).
Today, she who gave rest in her arms to the joy of cherubim and seraphim and all the heavenly powers has fallen asleep. He is the rest of the angels and of all things, and the holy and life-giving Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, rests in him as the Son who shares God’s very substance; he is the true rest, who says in the Gospels, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). She now closes her holy eyes, who once set the light of the world shining, who carried the maker of lights himself in the world like a golden processional torch, untouched by human hands; “he it is who
planted the ear and formed the eye” (Ps 93:9 [LXX]), and who summons people from all the ends of the earth “into his marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9). Her glorious body, the receptacle of life, must be laid to rest by holy hands, for it was the source of immortality and incorruptibility, which flowed from the Holy Spirit within that mortal and corruptible nature that belongs to all of us. She clothed the Lord, who “wraps himself in light as in a robe” (Ps 103:2 [LXX]), in the fleshly garments in which he advanced in age, for he was born of her.
13. Then, in fact, that holy body of the Mother of God~-where the single Jesus was formed, where the God who is over all came truly to be called human-was lifted up on a bier. O holy bier, who bear that truly immaculate body, through which he who makes all things holy has come forth! O holy bier, bearing another couch not made by hands, “where the God who laid down the heavens” has “‘chosen to take his rest” (Ps 17:10; 131:13 [LXX]). O holy bier, bearing the holy dwelling place–greater than all the world- of the God whom no place contains! O holy bier, bearing God’s workshop for the salvation of the universe! O holy bier, bearing the palace of heaven’s king, built by him as the place of his real yet uncircumscribed presence- the presence of his Incarnation! O holy bier, bearing that wonderful chariot, in which the God “who sits upon the cherubim” (Is 17:16) came forth to ride over the earth! Having fully clothed himself with the purple robe of our
nature, “he rules over the nations” (Ps 46:9 [LXX]). About him, the prophet said, “Why are your robes red, as from a Winepress when the grapes have been trodden down” (Is 63:2)? O holy bier, bearing the pure, chosen spiritual mine, from which the creator and Lord wrought anew for himself his own creation! O holy bier, bearing the blessed tent that came from Abraham and David–the tabernacle from which the most high and incorporeal God took his living, spiritual body, Which did not exist before him, but took up its very existence in him!’ O holy bier, bearing the spiritual incense that fills the whole world “with the fragrance of Christ, our God” (2 Cor 2:15). O holy bier, bearing the sacred vessel filled with the myrrh of a divinity beyond all divinity! O holy bier, bearing the all-holy body of the most glorious Mother of God, which is carried away amid celebration by the holy angels and the divine apostles, to the praise and glory of her Son and our God!
They placed it in a tomb as in a shrine of life, in the place
called Gethsemane- they who had become the eye-witnesses and servants of the Word, and those holy ones who then were in their company. Their desire in doing this was that through her, our kindly and just judge might be rendered merciful towards us Christ our God, who came forth from her, and who will appear in glory like lightning from heaven, to take his place where the prophets have foretold, to judge the living and the dead with the divine apostles, through the ministry of the holy angels.
14. What mighty feat of the mind, what power of the word can grasp and give worthy voice to the many things that took place then-holy things, things beyond our comprehension, performed and sung by these witnesses to celebrate her glory? God revealed to them ineffable mysteries; a variety of blessings were bestowed on them, and they were initiated, through her power, into gifts of healing beyond number. For this reason, then, and because she is the glorious mother of Christ, our God and Savior, who bestows life and immortality, she was raised to life by him, to share his bodily incorruptibility for all ages. He raised her from the grave and took her to himself, in a way known only to him. So to him be glory and power, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and for the ages of ages!
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