The feast of the Dormition is the last great feast in the Church calendar year. It is preceded by a two week fast. The glorious lot of the Ever Blessed Virgin in the role of God’s salvation of the world made all her life wonderful and exemplary.
After the Crucifixion of Christ, the Mother of God was taken to live in the house of her adopted son, the Apostle John. Tradition notes that even after the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, the Mother of God remained in Jerusalem, visiting those places where the Saviour of the world preached, suffered and died. She did not want to leave the country that was dear and holy to her. When Caesar Herod Agrippa began to persecute the Church, both the pagans and the Jews, indignant at the respect the Mother of God was receiving from the Christians, wanted to kill her. It was during this time that she traveled with Apostle John to Ephesus. Church tradition has this as the time of her visit to Cyprus to Bishop Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead after four days, and to the Mount Athos. When the persecution ended, the Mother of God returned to Apostle John’s house at Zion in Jerusalem.
Once when she went to the Mount of Olives to pray, Archangel Gabriel appeared and spoke of her approaching death. Upon returning home, she told Apostle John all that the Archangel spoke of and started preparing herself for her final day on earth. Friends and relatives gathered, and eleven of the apostles were miraculously transported from various parts of the world to her deathbed. They were all amazed seeing each other there. When the Apostle John explained that the Mother of God would soon be departing this world they understood why God had brought them together, and they became sad. But she comforted them saying: “Do not cry and darken my happiness with your sadness. I am going to my Son and your God, and you will bury my body and return each to your work.” As the time of her death neared the room shone with a divine light, the roof disappeared, and a wondrous sight appeared before all. The Lord Jesus Christ descended from heaven surrounded by many angels. All looked upon this wondrous sight with awe and reverence, and when they approached her bed, the holy body of the Mother of God was radiant and a smell of incense pervaded the room.
The apostles carried the body of the Mother of God through the city to Gethsemane to be buried at her request in the tomb of her family and Joseph. They buried her body, closed the tomb with a stone and remained there at the site in prayer for three days. On the third day Apostle Thomas arrived and was very saddened he had been unable to take his leave of her when she had been alive. To make him feel better, the other apostles rolled away the stone to let him pay his respects to the body. But on entering the tomb, they found that the body was not there – only the winding sheet remained. They returned home to partake of a communal meal at which they always left a place for the Resurrected Lord. After the meal, they raised the bread left for Christ aloft and exclaimed “Lord, Jesus Christ, help us.” And they heard a choir of angels, and when they looked up they saw the holy Ever-Virgin surrounded by angels. She hailed them, saying: “Rejoice, for I am always with you.” Then the apostles were filled with joy, and instead of using the usual words, they exclaimed “Most holy Theotokos, help us.” And now they understood and believed that upon the third day after her Dormition, the Mother of God had been resurrected.
Thus, the Dormition of the Mother of God is not a sad event, but a joyous one. Her death is but a short sleep, after which follows her resurrection and ascension to heaven.
From the very beginning, the Church saw in the Mother of God one who would pray for all of mankind. She is the haven of the mothers of the world. She teaches how to live in total faithfulness to the will of God. She, who kept in her heart the divine words, is an example of faithfulness, love and service.