On Saturday, Orthodox believers celebrate the Assumption of the Mother of God. Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias shall serve liturgy at the Assumption Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. The Church remembers the death of the Virgin Mother of God on August 28, however, since we believe that Christ conquered death through His Crucifixion and Resurrection, the death of the Virgin was a “falling asleep”, beyond which we believe she ascended into Heaven. There is no mention in the Gospel of the death of the Virgin Mary, but saints wrote down the narrative in the first centuries of Christianity, their works are now a part of the Church Tradition. According to this testimony, the Holy Virgin received a presentiment of her forthcoming death from the Archangel St Gabriel, so, the Mother of God wished to bid farewell to the Apostles, but they were preaching in different parts of the earth. Her prayers miraculously gathered them at her home in Jerusalem; however, Apostle Thomas wasn’t with them. When the Godbearer fell asleep, divine light suddenly flooded her house, and, according to Tradition, Christ Himself, surrounded by angels, came to receive the soul of his Mother. By the way, this is the source of the traditional depiction on the icons of this feast that represent Christ at the tomb of the Virgin holding a small Virgin Mary, symbolising her rebirth into eternal life. The burial of the Godbearer’s body was in the tomb of her ancestors on Mount Zion. However, three days later, the Apostle Thomas arrived in Jerusalem, who regretted that he was unable to take a proper leave of the Mother of God [before her death]. At his request, they opened the tomb, but the body of the Virgin Mary was no longer there. On the same day, after the evening meal, the Apostles saw the Godbearer surrounded by the angels; she commanded them to rejoice and promised not to ever leave them. Already in the 6th century, the tradition of celebrating the feastday of the Assumption of the Godbearer was widespread. In contemporary Russia, this is not only one of the Great Feasts of the Church, there is a special service celebrated at the “tomb” of the Mother of God, which is particularly touching, with deeply meaningful chants. For believers, this feastday ends the two-week Assumption Lent, which is a preparation for this great holy day.
27 August 2010
Two things to note here… we shouldn’t be using Theotokos when we are speaking in English… we don’t use Θεοτόκος in Russian, we say Богородицa instead. There is nothing wrong with Godbearer as a translation of Θεοτόκος and Богородицa. Theotokos in English is a pseudo-intellectual and Peckinsniffian usage insinuated by Schmemann in the mid-60s, after the death of the saintly Metropolitan Leonty Turkevich. The konvertsy use it as “Orthodoxese”… we shouldn’t use it for that very reason. Keep it simple and focused… that’s the Church’s way. After all, the Church has canonised countless peasants and elders… but very, very few “scholars” (if any). The konvertsy have their heads crammed with “book larnin’”… and do remember, “book larnin’ scalded no pigs”. Of course, then again, there are konvertsy like Rod Dreher who don’t even have that… caveat lector.
Secondly, there are those who love fighting the “Calendar Wars”… do avoid them; they’re as radioactive as the konvertsy and Renovationists. Of course, the Traditional Church Calendar is what we should follow. Of course, we should NOT be using the papist calendar for the fixed feasts. All good-hearted people understand both of these points instinctively. However, that doesn’t mean that those who use the heterodox calendar are guilty of heresy… that’s reserved for slimers like Schmemann and Metaxakis who introduced this abomination of desolation to the Church. You don’t earn any brownie points with God by defaming those who had nothing to do with the introduction of this false notion… in fact, you serve Satan when you do so (Screwtape laughs… can’t you hear him?).
The advice my staritsa gave me was simple, “Defend the Church Calendar, don’t pay attention to the papist calendar (except to give greetings to Catholics who are celebrating on that day), and don’t argue the point with Modernists. They won’t give up; it’ll just anger and frustrate you. You have a low threshold for that, stay away from it”. It’s like the idiotic fights the konvertsy have over “tollhouses”… Mother told me, “It’s not central to your salvation… stay out of it. Know that you WILL be judged, though, and act accordingly”.
Churchly people are straightforward, to-the-point, and focused… phonies are slippery, diffuse, verbose, and have a “quote” for any conceivable situation. A child can tell the difference…