"Encomium on the Dormition of Our Holy Lady, the Mother of God"
by Theodore the Studite

Source Used:  Brian E. Daley S.J. (1998).  ON THE DORMITION OF MARY: Early Patristic Homilies.  From the “Popular Patristics Series Volume 18”.  St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press CRESTWOOD, NY 10707.  Translation Copyright © 1998.

Encomium on the Dormition of our Holy Lady, the Mother of God:

By St. Theodore the Studite
1. To do justice to the holy celebrations proclaimed for today,
my friends, our words call for the sound of the trumpet, for the
voice of the horn sounding out more loudly and echoing to the
ends of the earth; yet I fear they must be borne by the weak in-
strument of our own voices. Still, the queen and mistress of the
world cares little for honor, and may well accept our short, poor
discourse, offered here in her service, as graciously as the long
and splendid works of great orators. For she is moved by the
prayers of those who have asked me to speak, since she values
true goodness, after all, and looks only at our intentions.
But come, gather around me, everyone under heaven-
-all you hierarchs and priests, monks and people of the world,
kings and rulers, men and women, young men and maidens, of
all nations and tongues, of every race and every peo-
ple-change your clothes for the robes of virtue, wrap your-
selves in them as in “bright garments fringed with gold” (Ps
44:13 [LXX]), and come with hearts rejoicing to celebrate the
festival of the burial and the passing [into glory] of Mary, the
Mother of the Lord. For she has gone away from here and
draws near the eternal mountains, she who is the true Mt. Sion,
where God was pleased to dwell, as the Psalmist’s lyre sings
(Ps 131:14 [LXX]). Today she who was heaven on earth is
Wrapped in a cloak of incorruptibility; she has moved to a bet-
ter, more blessed dwelling-place. Today the spiritual moon,
shining with the light of God, has come into heavenly conjunc-
tion with the “sun of righteousness,” eclipsing her temporary
home in this present life; rising anew in his home, she is radiant with the dignity of immortality. Today that ark of holiness,
wrought with gold and divinely furnished, has been lifted up
from her tabernacle on earth and is borne towards the Jerusa-
lem above, to unending rest; and David, the ancestor of God,
poet as he is, strikes up a song for us and cries,
“Virgins” -meaning souls- “will be led to the King” -to you O God- “behind her” (Ps 44:14 (LXX]).
2. Now the Mother of God shuts her material eyes, and
opens her spiritual eyes towards us like great shining stars that
will never set, to watch over us and to intercede before the face
of God for the world’s protection. Now those lips, moved by
God’s grace to articulate sounds, grow silent, but she opens
her [spiritual] mouth to intercede eternally for all of her race.
Now she lowers those bodily hands that once bore God, only
to raise them, in incorruptible form, in prayer to the Lord on
behalf of all creation. At this moment her natural form, radiant
as the sun, is hidden; yet her light shines through her painted
image, and she offers it to the people for the life-giving kiss of
relative veneration, even if the heretics are unwilling. The
holy dove has flown to her home above, yet she does not cease
to protect those below; departing from her body, she is with us
in spirit; gathered up to heaven, she banishes demons by her
intercession with the Lord.
Long ago, death took charge of the world through our an-
cestor Eve; but now it has engaged in combat with her blessed
daughter and been beaten away, conquered by the very source
from whom it had received its power. Let the race of women
rejoice, then, for it has received glory in place of shame! Let
Eve be glad, for she is under a curse no more, having produced
in Mary a child of blessing. Let the whole of creation jump for
joy, drinking the mystical flood of incorruption from that vir-
gin spring and putting an end to its mortal thirst. These are the
things we celebrate today, this is the subject of our solemn song: Mary provides it for us- the root of Jesse who bore the
flower Christ; the rod of Aaron with its sacred bud; the spiri-
tual Paradise containing the tree of life; the meadow alive with
the fragrance of virginity; the blooming vine, cultivated by
God, which became the ripe grape flowing with life; the high,
exalted cherubim-throne of the universal king; the home full
of the glory of the Lord; the sacred veil of Christ; the bright
land of sunrise. She has fallen asleep in peace and righteous-
ness–fallen asleep, I say, but she is not dead! She has passed
on from us, yet she does not cease to protect her people.
With what language should we speak of your mystery? We
are incapable of conceiving it, too weak to describe it, too
stunned to write of it; it is strange, sublime, above all human
thoughts! For it is not as if it could be included or compared
with other events, so that we could make easy explanations,
drawing from our own experience; but receiving reverently
from above what we have learned about you, we ascribe to you
alone privileges beyond what is human! By that ineffable act
of generation, you have transformed nature; for who has ever
heard of a virgin conceiving without seed? O wonder! See,
now: the mother giving birth is also still an incorrupt virgin,
because God was the cause of her conceiving! So in your life-
giving sleep, since you are different from all the rest, you alone
have rightly found incorruption for both [body and soul].
3. Let Sion, then relate the miraculous events of this day.
The measure of her life was finished; the hour of her dissolu-
tion had come. Because she was Mother of God, the holy one
knew in advance the course of her passing- friends of Christ,
in comparison with any other seer who serves the Lord, could
one not ascribe this knowledge all the more to the Mother of
God and chief of prophets? And since she perceived and knew
this, what may our minds imagine that she said? “The day of
my Exodus has come, the time of my journey to you- Let those who will celebrate my burial come, O Lord; let the ministers
who will carry out my funeral stand at my side. ‘Into your
hands I commend my spirit’ (Ps 30:5 [LXX]), but into the
hands of your disciples I commit my unsullied body, God’s
vessel, from which you came forth as the rising sun of immor-
tality. Let those who are scattered to the earth’s ends, the her.
alds and servants of your Gospel, come near to console me.
And if it was your good pleasure to transfer the just Enoch (to
heaven), while still alive, in his time of need (see Gen 5:24), or
to raise up Elijah the Tishbite in a fiery chariot from this visi-
ble world to a place unseen (2 Kg 3:11), where both of them
await the time of your awful and splendid second coming; if
you worked the miracle of transporting the prophet Habakkuk
from Jerusalem to Babylon in an instant because of the needs
of Daniel, and then back again (“Bel and the Dragon” [Dan 12]
33-39) what can be impossible to the mere act of your will?”
When the celebrated one had said such things, the apos-
tolic band of Twelve appeared, borne from every direction on
the wings of the Spirit, like clouds rushing towards the cloud
of light, and coming to rest near her. What did she say then,
that woman whose names are so many, so great and so divine?
As she lay in her bed, she raised her eyes and looked around,
and seeing those she had sought for, she said: “My soul re-
joices in the Lord, and this will be a title of rejoicing for me, a
cause of praise and exultation among all nations of the earth:
for he has gathered the pillars of the Church around me here,
he has brought together for me the rulers of the universe, as the
wondrous ministers of my funeral. O great and marvelous
sign! O proof of a mother’s sanctification! O gift of a Son’s de-
votion! Heaven has been revealed as my home, for it contains
in itself all the bright lights of earth; the Lord’s temple above
us has appeared, presenting to me these holy celebrants, these
priests of the sacred rites. The Jewish establishment will no longer plan violence against me; the council of their priests
will no longer prepare armed assaults against me, hoping to
kill me. For according to their scheme, those bloodthirsty peo-
ple would have destroyed the Mother with the Son long ago,
but they failed in their plan because Providence prevented
them from on high. Now I go from here to a safe dwelling-
place, to a place of security, peace and rest, where the enemy
will no longer lay his snares, where I will see the delights of
the Lord and where I, who am myself his radiant temple, will
gaze upon his temple [in heaven].”
4. But this is what the blessed Apostles answered to her, either speaking on their own or quoting the words of the prophets.
(1) “Hail,” one said, “ladder set up from earth to heaven,
on which the Lord came down to us and returned to heaven
again, as in the vision of the great patriarch Jacob (Gen 28:12)!
(2) “Hail, miraculous bush where the angel of the Lord ap-
peared in flames of fire, where the flame burned without con-
suming, as Moses realized, who alone saw God face to face
(Ex 3:2)!
(3) “Hail, fleece moistened by God, from which a basinful
of heavenly dew flowed forth, according to Gideon, that
worker of wonders (]g 6:37-8)!
(4) “‘Hail, city of the great king, which all the admiring sov-
reigns praised, according to David the psalmist (Ps 47:2,5
(5) “Hail, spiritual Bethlehem, house of Ephratha, ‘from whom the glorious king came forth who was to become ruler
of Israel, and whose goings-forth were from the beginning,
from eternal days’,according to the divine Micah (Mic 5:2)
(6) “Hail, shady mountain of virgins, from which the holy
one of Israel appeared, according to Habakkuk, whose proclamation was divine (Hab 3:3)!
(7) “Hail, shining golden lamp radiating light, from which the inaccessible light of God has shone out on those in dark-
ness and the shadow of death, according to the inspired
Zechariah (Zech 4:2; Lk 1:79)!
(8) “Hail, altar of purification for all mortal creatures,
through which “the Lord’s name is glorified among the pagans
from the rising of the sun to its setting,
and where “a sacrifice
is offered to his name in every place,
according to the holy
Malachi (Mal 1:11)!
(9) “‘Hail, light cloud where the Lord dwells,’ according to
Isaiah, who spoke the most sacred things (Is 19:1)!
(10) “Hail, holy book of the Lord’s commands, newly-
written law of love, through which we can know what pleases
God, according to the mournful Jeremiah (Jer 25:13; 38:33
(11) “Hail, locked gate, through which the Lord God of Is-
rael comes in and out, according to Ezekiel, who gazed on God
(Ezek 44:2)!
(12) “Hail, unquarried mountain-peak, higher than human
hands, from which that rock was cut which became the
corner-stone, according to Daniel, that great teacher about
God (Dan 2:45; Ps 117:22)!”
5. What mind can receive, what speech can do justice to
what those teachers of divine truth sang and said, and to how
they blessed God? But when they performed all the appropriate sacred rites in a sacred way, when they had completed the
holy ceremonies in holy fashion, suddenly the Lord was there
among them in all his glory, with all the hosts of heaven. The
bodiless spirits celebrated their invisible liturgy, while the
Apostles used their bodily voices to sing the praises of God’s
greatness. The heavenly rejoicing mingled with the earthly
feast, my brothers and sisters (and let no one be shocked by our
attempt to describe these divine mysteries): angels, archan-
gels, dominations, thrones, principalities, powers, virtues, cherubim and seraphim, apostles, martyrs, holy men and
women, some walking ahead, some coming to meet them,
some leading or acting as advance guard, some following or
walking alongside, all crying out in one joyful voice,
“Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord! Blessed be the Lord on his righteous and holy mountain (see Ps 47:1 [LXX])! Let heaven be raised on high!” Who has ever heard, from all eternity, such a funeral hymn, O friend of Christ? Who has ever seen such a burial
procession? Who has ever witnessed such a passing as this,
which was accorded to the “Mother of my Lord” (Lk 1:43)?
And it is not undeserved, since no one has ever been judged
higher than she, who is greater than all others.
My spirit trembles when it reflects on the greatness of your
passing, O Virgin; my mind is struck dumb with amazement as
it considers the wonder of your falling-asleep. My tongue is
held fast, when it tries to recount the mystery of your return to
life. For who is the person who can worthily express your
praise, who can narrate all your wonders? What mind can find
words lofty enough to speak in your honor? What tongue can
utter words grand enough, can speak of your goodness, can
make your deeds come alive, can do justice to your life in hu-
man speech or approach your wonders in sacramental myster-
ies, celebrations, feasts, narrative or festal oratory? So, too, in
this present festival our words are weak, lifeless, inaccurate,
obviously off the mark. For you are beyond us, you exceed our
Powers; you incomparably surpass in height and greatness the
wmmit of heaven, in holy brilliance the light of the sun, in the
till realization of freedom the ranks of angels and all the im-
material, spiritual race of intellectual powers.
6. O, what a radiant, brilliant festival! It is only joy that lets
me speak at all! O great sign of your passing, moving us to
wonder: O burial of the bearer of lipht, life and the gift of endless incorruption! As you rise through the clouds on your way to heaven, as you enter the holy of holies with cries of joy and
praise, O Mother of God, remember to bless the bounds of this
earth. By your intercession temper the air, give us rain in due
season, rule over the winds, make the earth fruitful, give peace
to the Church, strengthen orthodox faith, defend the Empire,
ward off the barbarian tribes, protect the whole Christian peo-
ple. And have pity, too, on my rashness; for it is but the fulfill-
ment of your word, O Mother of God, of your prophetic
incantation, that “henceforth,” as you said,
“all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48). Since your inspired word cannot have been spoken in vain, receive the words that I, your unworthy servant, have uttered as best I can. And “give me the joy of your salvation” (Ps 50:14), support me with the strength of your intercession, along with my excellent Father’ here and with this, the flock under his care, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and honor and power, with the almighty Father and the life-giving Spirit now and always and for the ages of ages.