Theoteknos of Livias

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Theoteknos (ca. 550-650) was a Bishop of Livias in the later part of the 6th century.  Very little is known of him except for his writing concerning the Assumption of Mary.  Sometime between 550 and 650, Theoteknos wrote a Dormition narrative similar in its content to that of John of Thessalonica titled Encomium on the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God.  Although the first Christian century may be silent, but anonymous traditions concerning the dormition began circulating as early as the third century and perhaps “even earlier,” such as the “Book of Mary’s Repose”.  Even with the lack of written historical and archaeological records from the first three centuries, the  mainstream Catholic and Orthodox teaching is that Church Tradition preserved a more ubiquitous oral tradition. 

The book, Early Patristic Homilies On the Dormition of Mary published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press (1997) contains a collection of texts referring to early ecclesiastical sources of this tradition. It contains English translations of texts referring to the Falling Asleep in the Lord of the Blessed Virgin Theotokos by John of Thessalonica, Theoteknos of Livias, Modestus of Jerusalem, Andrew of Crete, Germanus of Constantinople, John the Monk of the Old Lavra, John Damascene and Theodore the Studite. The translator, one of the great patristic scholars in this country, Professor Brian E. Daily, S.J., has provided a good discussion of these texts by way of introduction. In addition to these texts as well as the vast tradition of the Catholic Church, one could go on and add several Orthodox traditions from the later Byzantine fathers and ecclesiastical authors of the second millennium, such as Leo the Emperor, John of Euchaita, Isidore of Thessalonica, Philotheos of Constantinople, Gregory Palamas of Thessalonica, Nicholas Cabasilas, Damaskenos Stoudites, etc. 

Encomium on the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God:

[1.] “Sing to the Lord a new song, because he has done won-
ders.” (Ps 97:1) Let us all rejoice greatly in the resurrection of
the Lord, our God and Savior Jesus Christ, and let us sing spiri-
tual songs, constantly praising him who arranges all things for
our salvation. After his resurrection from the dead and his as-
cension into heaven, after he had taken his throne at the right
hand of his God and Father-
even though he is inseparable
from his heart–in the immaculate flesh which he had taken
from Mary, the holy Mother of God, he summoned all his holy
disciples and apostles to come through the clouds and gather by
that spotless, holy one who never knew marital union; he gath-
ered them for a great event, for she who had become wider than
the heavens and higher than the cherubim was to receive the
palm of reward to which she had been called, and to be taken up
into heaven. For if he has blessed his saints with the whole
kingdom of heaven, if he opened Paradise to a thief with a sin-
gle word, how much more [would he have been eager to wel-
come]’ the one who made him a home in her womb- the one
whom he had created, whom he had formed, from whom he be-
came flesh, as [he willed]. His purpose was that the power of
the Prince of Evil should be destroyed through her by whom he
had deceived us,
2 and that through her all women should find
freedom from the curse that bound them;
“for she shall be
saved through childbearing,’
” as the Apostle says. (1 Tim 2:15)
[He has glorified] her, the holy and all-beautiful one, the
venerable one worthy of all joy, mother and virgin, holy and
spotless; her, who nourished with her milk the one who brought honey from the rock (Ps 80:16), who nursed in her
arms him who needs no nourishment at all, and who was found
worthy to bear as her own son, without human seed, her own

[2.] She was begotten like the cherubim, from pure and
spotless [clay].
For while she was still in the loins of her fa-
ther Joachim, her mother Anna received a message from a
holy angel, who said to her,
“Your seed shall be spoken of
throughout all the world.”* Therefore Anna brought her to the
temple of the Lord as an offering.
And during all her time
there, the maiden stood alongside Christ the king,
“at his right
hand, splendidly clothed in a robe of gold,” as the prophet
“Listen, daughter, and see, and incline your ear; forget
your people and your father’s house. The king desires your
beauty; he is your Lord–pay homage to him.” (Ps 44:10-13)
She was found worthy of unspeakable joy, which the
prophets had foretold for her; her heart was penetrated both by
a sword (Lk 2:35) and by joy. When she considered her con-
ception [of Jesus] without seed, and the divine overshadow-
ing, and [when she thought of] his human career- of how the
invisible one had become visible, how the incomprehensible
one shared her nature and reclined with publicans, stood be-
fore Pilate like a slave and was nailed to a cross and sealed in a
tomb and was in great confusion at the thought, surely a
sword did pass through her soul. But joy filled her at his resul
rection from the dead… and his ascension… and at the thought
that the flesh that had come forth from her own womb, without
sced, now sits enthroned with the Father; and this joy is greil.
and gladness has taken hold of the blameless one.
(19:) For it was right that the holy woman who brought forth
the Son should see him on his high and lofty throne and should see “every knee bend to him, those in heaven and those on earth” and hear “every tongue confess” his praise (Phil 2:10), who ” is to judge the living and the dead” (Creed of
Nicaea, etc.).
It was right that she be surrounded by the holy apostles, as
mother of all of them- for the only-begotten Son, the Word of
God, called his own disciples brothers; right that her most holy
body, which bore God, which had received God and was made
like God, that spotless body radiant with divine light and full
of glory, should be borne in procession by them and by the an-
gels and confided for a short time to the earth, and then to be
taken up in glory to heaven along with her soul, which was so
pleasing to God.
For if, when he saw his disciples discouraged by his pas-
sion, Jesus said to them, “I go to prepare a place for you” (Jn
14:2), how much more will he have prepared a place for the
one who begot him- all the more so, as she had all the more
right of access to him! So the immaculate body of the all-holy
one, and her pure soul, in which God took delight, were taken
up [to heaven] with an escort of angels. For if she had received
nourishment from angels in the Lord’s temple, while she was
still a child, how much more should she be served by the pow-
ers on high after she had become herself the Lord’s temple!
[4.] The holy one was pleasing to God the Father; the vir-
gin was pleasing to the substantial Word, begotten from the
Father before the ages; the virgin was pleasing to the life-
giving Spirit, who gives every being light and transforms them
into citizens of heaven. For if Enoch, who pleased God, was
taken up “that he might never see death” (Gen 5:24; Heb 11:5),
how much more would God have taken up the soul of her
whom he had made one body with divine grace,
to the paradise of delight where the divine light shines without end! And if he commanded that Elijah, who was a prophet, should
mount to heaven in a chariot of fire (1 Kg 2:11), how much
more she who is foretold and called blessed in the prophets’ writings, who shines in an outstanding way among prophets and the apostles like the moon in the midst of the stars.
The whole heavenly court, the whole assembled choir of angels [now came] to [the service of] the all-holy one
and even though the God-bearing body of that holy one did taste
death, it was not corrupted; for it was kept incorrupt and free of
decay, and it was lifted up to heaven with her pure and spotless
soul by the holy archangels and powers; there it remains, exalted
above Enoch and Elijah and all the prophets and apostles, above
all the heavens, below God alone-who has been pleased to arrange all things for our salvation. The divine nature, after all, is
not circumscribed by any place, since it is beyond measure, unknowable, uncomposed, unlimited. It was the good pleasure of
our Lord, the Word, to become flesh from her, as the prophet had
foretold: “The Lord said, You are my son, and I have begotten
you this day.’ (Ps 2:7)” That is: this day he has taught us that he
has become human among us, he who came forth from the holy
one in a childbirth without human seed. And he says, once again,
“From the womb, before the morning star, I have begotten you
(Ps. 110.3).”
That is: having been born from the Father before
the ages, he has manifested by the Holy Spirit what has been
since the beginning, and what is so by God’s decree.
[5.] The assumption of the body of the holy one, and her ascension to heaven, took place on the fifteenth day of August,
which is the sixth day of the month of Mesore. And there was
joy in heaven and on earth, as the angels struck up the hymn,
while human beings glorified the mother of the King of
Heaven, who had herself glorified the human race: the Mother
of God, the pure one, the three-storied ark, the impenetrable
rock that gushed forth the stream of life- Christ, who said, “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink.” (Jn 7:37)
What terms of praise can one use to give adequate voice to
the actions of the all-venerable one while she still lived in the flesh? While on earth, she was heaven; she associated with angels, and was the ambassador for the human race before the
immaculate King, before him who
“cancelled the charges against us” (Col 2:14). For if [God] glorifies those who glorify him, if he honors them with the gift of prophecy and offers them eternal life, how much more will he glorify, in soul and body, his mother according to the flesh. Truly,
“he has glorified her and will glorify her again” (Jn 12:28).
[6.] Her all-holy body was being borne in procession by the
holy Apostles–in whose number the apostle Paul was also in-
cluded-and was being carried from Mount Sion to the place
called Gethsemane, where the Savior’s betrayal occurred, and
where the judgment will take place, “and the books shall be
opened, and the Ancient of Days shall sit, and a river of fire”
will gather sinners together and reproach them in the place
where all peoples <will be judged> (Dan 7:10). We await the
judgment in which we will give account to the Son of God.
For the Ancient of Days has given him the right to judge (cf.
Dan 7:13f). There the Lord promised the disciples that they
would “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Is-
rael” (Mt 19:28).
The all-blessed body, then, of the holy one was being carried towards the place I have mentioned, accompanied by angels’ songs of praise; and the unbelieving Jews, who had killed
the Lord, looking down the valley, saw her remains lying on
the bier and went towards it, intending to do violence in that
very spot to the body which God had honored: his temple, his
lampstand, his vessel containing pure oil, his altar of holo-
causts, appearing in splendor within the Holy of Holies.
All those who meant to attack her and to burn her body
were struck with blindness; and one of them, who touched her
bier with his own hands, was deprived of them–they were cut
off! So that immaculate flesh was glorified; all of them came to believe and confessed her Mother of God, and the one
whom they had vilified as a seductress they now praised in
song as God’s own Mother. And those who had lost their sight
now saw the wonders worked by God towards his mother.” For a wonderful thing happened: the hands of the one who had
lost them [were restored to him.] And all believed in Christ,
who was before her and from her and with her, “the Son of
David according to the flesh” (Rom 1:3).
Let no one think that the miracle worked by the all-holy
body of the Mother of God was something impossible–for
she had remained a virgin incorrupt. It was, after all, fitting for
the spiritual ark, which contained the vessel of manna and the
blooming rod of Aaron (Num 17:23), for she blossomed and
bore the fruit that can never be consumed. The former ark defeated the hostile foreigners, who wanted to do it violence;
how much more, then, should the spiritual ark defeat those
who from the beginning have fought against God and against
the beautiful name “that is invoked over us” (Jer 14:9)?
[7.] For she is ark and vase and throne and heaven. She
was judged worthy to be entrusted with ineffable mysteries;
she was judged worthy to reveal things hidden and sealed in
the Book of Daniel, and through her
“all of us, with faces unveiled, will gaze on the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18). Through her, the veil on Moses’ face has been lifted.
Her all-holy body was now guarded by the apostles, who continued to attend her at the Lord’s command. Peter, the chief of the apostles, and Paul, who according to the witness of
Scripture “bore the Lord’s name” (Acts 9: 15), rivalled each
other in speeches rich in hidden wisdom. Suddenly there was
thunder and a great earthquake; and they saw the holy virgin
being taken up into heaven, so that there, where a place had
been prepared for her by her Son, she might abide in free access to him, joining the choirs of angels and the company of prophets and apostles. She is teacher and prophet, the boast of
virgins. She has “sought her beloved and found him,” as is
written in the Song of Songs (3:1-4); she has run across the
mountains “like a gazelle… or a young stag” (ibid. 2:17),
“Like a deer that years for running streams” (Ps 41:1) and is not
deprived of her goal. She has found what Eve had lost; she has
found what Adam was deprived of, because of his disobedience. She has entered, saying, “Breathe on my garden” (Cant
4:10). God the Word has entered, has dwelt in her, and Para-
dise is opened. The Advocate has entered, and welcomes the thief; “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
0 wonderful mystery- O strange miracle! A thief is in
Paradise, and the priests and scribes are outside, and do not dare
to draw near. The drawn sword which guarded the way to the
tree of life (Gen 3:24) has recognized the thief, because of the one who sent him; but those who read the Law have fallen from
grace, because they would not glorify her who was a member of
their people. Moved by envy, they rejected the voices of the
prophets and ignored Moses, who taught them in the Law, and
they remained without grace, the enemies of God. For Moses
said, “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me”, God
and a human being- for Moses was like a god in Pharaoh’s eyes
(Exod 22:20); “hear him in all the things that he will say to you”
(Deut 18:15). “And everyone who will not listen to that prophet
will be cut off from the people” (Deut 18:19; Ex 30:33).
Those unbelieving ones! They did not glorify their sister
Mary, nor did they receive her son, who had been announced by
Moses as God and a human being. But they will see and be
amazed, when they look at him coming in glory on the clouds of
heaven (Mt 24:30). Then they will be converted, and will beat
their breasts and will call her blessed, along with Anna, the
bosom that nursed her. Then they will give glory to her who is descended from David, and will say to her, “You are of our
race and our flesh. Now we know that you are higher than the
heavens, and the bride of the heavenly King. Now we know that all the prophets spoke on your account. One of them said, ‘He will descend like dew upon the fleece’ (Ps 71:6, c. Jg 6:36-40); and another, ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive in her womb’ (Is 7:14). And another, “Grace has been poured out on your lips’ (Ps 44.2); and Ezekiel, “A gate looks towards the East’ (Ezek 44:10). And another, ‘O mountain, from you a holy stone is cut out, and the place of its cutting cannot be found’ (Dan 2.34); and another, calling you the moon, has said, ‘The sun has risen, and the moon remains in its course’ (Hab 3:11) that is, Christ has come forth from you and your virginity remains in its place.
“Truly, we have made a mistake in our foolishness, and
have considered her life madness’ (Wisdom 5.4); we have not
plucked the fruit of righteousness, for we had a veil of smoke
[before our eyes]. For when the prophet had seen the Lord, sitting on his throne of glory, and the six-winged ones chanting
“Holy, holy, holy,’ he noticed that the house was full of smoke
(Is 6:4). We are that house. Now we know what the prophets
meant to reveal to us. But what good is it to us to say these
things? For if one does not acknowledge Christ before men
and women, Christ will not acknowledge him before the Father (Mt 10:32).”
[9.] Let us all confess our faith in Christ, let us praise the
Father and the Holy Spirit. Let us rejoice with the Mother of
God; let us sing along with the choirs of angels, and let us celebrate, as the festival of festivals, the assumption of the Ever-
virgin. On earth she was radiant, as the treasure and teacher of
virgins; in heaven she is available to us all as our intercessor.
She has free access to God, and so bestows on us spiritual
gifts; she gives grace to our words, and teaches us wisdom, for she is the mother of wisdom. “Wisdom cries out in the
streets, and moves with assurance in the open squares” (Prov 1:20). She cries out in the streets: “The tree that grows by
streams of water bears fruit, and its leaves do not wither” (Ps
1:3). So the Lord Jesus Christ, our God, the incomprehensible
Wisdom, the ever-flowing spring, was made flesh of the Vir-
gin, and when her womb bore its fruit, her virginity was not destroyed. She is the mother of Christ, who said, “The one who
believes in me, as Scripture says, rivers of living water will
frow from his heart” (Jn 7:38). He calls “water” the teaching
that comes from the Holy Spirit. Thirsting for this water, the
prophet said, “As the deer yearns for streams of water, so my soul yearns for you, O God” (Ps 41:2).
[10.] “In the open squares she moves with assurance.” Dwelling in the world and associating with the human race, she bestowed on the world the prize of peace. Christ himself is our peace (Eph 2:14), who said to his disciples, “My peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27). He means by “peace” a love of him and of our neighbor, and the readiness to die for him, in order that we might become sharers in his resurrection. This is real peace. And the prophet referred to the Mother of God as peace, too, when he said, “Righteousness and peace have embraced. Truth has sprung up from the earth” (Ps 84:11). Mary is peace; Christ is righteousness and Christ is truth. The Mother of God is the earth. The Lord Jesus Christ, our God, has sprung up from her, and has said, “I am the life and the truth” (In 14;6). And again, the same prophet said, “The earth will yield its fruit” (Ps 84:13). Our earth is Mary, our sister and our lady; she has given her fruit “in due season” (Ps 1:3), the bread that will never fail us, Christ, who says, “I am the bread of life; the one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. For my flesh is truly food, and my blood is truly drink” (Jn 6:48, 54-55).
This is the fruit our earth has yielded- the ever-virgin
Mother of God. While she lived on earth, she watched over us all, and was a kind of universal providence for her subjects. Now that she has been taken up into heaven, she is an unassailable fortification for the human race, and intercedes for us with God the Son, with whom and through whom be glory to the Father with the all-holy Spirit, now and always and for the ages of ages.

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