On Aug. 15, we celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. We will observe the feast with abbreviated Vespers following the Sunday Liturgy on Aug. 14, and then the festal Divine Liturgy on Monday. You are invited to bring herbs and flowers to be blessed, in honor of our Lady, the most fragrant flower of the Church.
Although we constantly honor the Virgin Mary as the one who bore the Son of God in her womb (that’s what “Theotokos” means), this singular role is the fulfillment and not the cause of her holiness, her astonishing closeness to God. As we hear in the Gospel reading for the Dormition, the Lord corrects those who would say, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts which nursed you,” by saying, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” The Virgin Mary’s whole life expressed her keeping of the word of God. That is what we mean when we say that she is “most pure” and “blameless”: her heart was undivided; she always freely willed to love and serve the Lord.
Her Falling–Asleep is the image of her undivided heart. She spent her last days in peace and prayer. The angels gathered the Apostles to her side to sing her funeral hymns along with the choir of heaven. When her soul departed her body, the Apostles witnessed the Lord himself appearing to carry his Mother in his arms like a new-born infant — just as the Theotokos had carried her Son as a child! — bringing her to the bright chamber he had prepared for her.
The Theotokos is the best the human race has to offer. She is “our champion Leader” in death and in life. For us, this means that if we strive to love and serve the Lord with an undivided heart, our own falling–asleep may in some measure also be an imitation of this Feast of joy.
This is one of the most important feasts dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the season of the Dormition continues until Aug. 23. You can learn more about the Feast of the Dormition here.