August 15 – Pastoral Message
By Rev. Dr. Nicholas V. Gamvas
The Koimisis or Falling Asleep of the Theotokos
The Feast of the Koimisis or Dormition of the Mother of God is celebrated on August 15. Through her womb, heaven and earth were joined together. Through her, all humankind has been reborn. Her death and burial show us the completion of God’s plan for all people. The Feast celebrates the Mother of God as the Mother of Life.
Theotokos, means the Mother of God. The Great Feast of the Dormition of The Theotokos celebrates the wondrous way in which The Theotokos left this earthly life and was taken into heaven in a miraculous way: both body and soul. The Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ received her soul and body into heaven. The Theotokos left behind an empty tomb filled with the fragrance of flowers.
The Great Feast of the Dormition of The Theotokos recalls the physical glorification of Mary as she shares in the resurrection life of her Son, Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. When, at her death (or falling asleep, assumption, or dormition), Jesus Christ received her body and soul into heaven. He in a way gave all humanity a preview of the transfiguration that awaits all of us in the Kingdom to come. Holy Tradition tells us that all the Apostles, except Thomas, were transported mystically to Jerusalem in order to be with the Mother of God as she died and also were present at her burial. When Thomas arrived the next day, they opened the tomb so that he could say pay his respects. They found only an empty tomb filled with sweet-smelling flowers.
“Koimisis” is a Greek word meaning “Falling asleep”.
St. John Damascianos clearly believed in the Koimisis, Dormition,or Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, body and soul into heaven. In one of his sermons on the Dormition he says: “It was fitting that He, who preserved Mary’s virginity after His birth, should also preserve her body incorrupt after death. It is fitting that She, who carried in her arms the Creator as a Child, dwell in the heavenly mansions. It is fitting, that she, who beheld her Son on the cross while her heart was pierced with a sword of grief she did not know at the Nativity, should now look upon Him as He sits with the Father. It is fitting that the Mother of God possess all that her Son possesses and that all creatures venerate her as the Mother and maidservant of God.”
The Virgin Mary, Theotokos, is unique and wonderful. There are many saints in heaven, but these must await the final day of judgment for their bodies to be raised, and for them to be ‘whole’ again, body and spirit. Their bodies remain in their tombs. We venerate them as relics, nearness to these sacred bodily remains of the saints, is a great blessing to us. They are ‘matter,’ stuff of the earth, which will be glorified on the great day of the Lord’s coming. How this will happen, what it might be like, we might wonder? Whatever that great process will be, it has already happened to the Mother of God! Her relics are not among us. Her tomb in Jerusalem lies empty, yet still gives off a wonderful fragrance, because for three days she lay there as the apostles and the Church mourned. Today, the Church rejoices. Yet again, in His Mother, God has provided a sign of the Resurrection, a promise of the future glory we all hope to enjoy on that day. The Virgin Mary Theotokos, is the faithful disciple, who carried out the will of God with a generous spirit. She accepted Christ, and bore our Savior within herself in love. Christ accepts her, and bears her to the throne she occupies in heaven. She is the sign of hope, the proof of Christ’s merciful love, the first among the redeemed, the highest among our race. Indeed, she is more honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, for they are only spirits, she in the flesh, glorifies God in the flesh. On the great feast of her Koimisis, Assumption, Dormition, her ‘falling asleep’, we magnify her and stand among the generations which call her blessed. Amen
Apolitikion of 15, August
The Koimisis Falling Asleep of the Theotokos:
O Mother of God, in giving birth you still preserved virginity;
and in falling asleep you did not forsake the world.
You are the Mother of Life and have been transferred to life,
and through your prayers have delivered our souls from death.
The Virgin Mary, Theotokos’ personality is depicted vividly in the Gospel
of Luke: And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit
rejoices in God my Saviour.”