Above: The newest addition to our Church frescoes: The Life of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. Safe travels to all enjoying the holiday weekend!
Mary the Mother of God-The Time of Dormition
John 19:25-Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
Fr. Rodney Torbic
The beloved Mother of God would have the singular perspective of having been with the Lord Jesus Christ from the first sign of His life in human flesh until the time of His last moment of life in earthly flesh. No person other than Mary, the Mother of God, has shared comparable unity and this full perspective with Christ. Mary was chosen from among all women of all centuries to be the birth giver of the Lord Jesus Christ. Mary stands out through the centuries for the role given to her by God. She stands as the primary example of purity. She stands as the primary example of commitment and obedience. Mary did not deviate from her commitment to Christ. She stood at the Cross and watched the suffering of the Son with whom no one had been more closely united. She stood at the Cross and could reflect back to the moment of His birth. Mary shared experiences with Christ, visible and invisible, that would directly affect her life and the lives of others. Mary’s relationship with Christ continues to affect the way Mary is viewed by each successive generation. The Church holds Mary in the highest regard. She is mentioned specifically in the Divine services of the Church. Major feasts of the Church encompass important points in Mary’s life. Miracles attributed to Mary are part of the liturgical calendar of the Church throughout the year. Believers turn to Mary in prayer at every moment of every day. Mary is felt to be the strongest of intercessors before the Lord. Mary’s life is a source of inspiration and teaching for individuals seeking to grow as Christians. She is a model for believers seeking to be fully united with Christ. She is a source of joy for individuals seeking joy in Christ. Mary knew the joy of giving birth to the Christ Child. She knew the joy of seeing the young Jesus grow to adulthood. She experienced the concern of a mother looking for her absent child. Mary and Joseph posed the question of Jesus that many parents ask of a son or daughter whose absences cause concern. They asked: “Son, why have you done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought you anxiously.”(Lk.12:42-52) Mary and Joseph’s parenting responsibilities for Jesus were affected by Jesus’ Divine nature. Regarding His absence, Jesus said: “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”(Lk.2:49) Raising Jesus from birth to adulthood and being witness to His teachings and actions would result in an unfolding vision for Mary. The succession of experiences from Virgin birth to Ascension would be like no others in history. When parents struggle with the raising of their own sons and daughters, they do well to look to Mary, the Mother of God as an example. She was blessed to have a Son as no other. She had a great responsibility as no other mother. Mary accepted the great responsibility from the very outset. When visited by Archangel Gabriel at the time she was informed she would give birth, Mary showed complete cooperation with God. When told she would give birth to Jesus, Mary responded to the angel from God with these words: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”(Lk.1:26-38) When a child is to be born into a family, parents do well to cooperate with God from the very outset. Parents do well to look to the Mother of God as an example of handling well the responsibilities of parenthood. Serious believers do look to the Mother of God for direction and for intercession before her Son. Ample evidence exists of prayers written for use in coming to the Mother of God and beseeching her intercession. Testimonies exist through the centuries of miracles attributed to the Mother of God. No shortage exists of men and women of faith willing to give accounts of ways the Mother of God has responded to their prayers. Churches built in honor of the Mother of God are located throughout the world. Icons are written of the Mother of God in many different variations and with themes of great diversity. People of faith travel great distances to venerate specific icons honoring the Mother of God. People of faith tell of changes in their lives due to the veneration of the Mother of God and icons in her honor. Prayers can take a simple form but serious prayer is much more than a simple process. Examining the prayers to the Mother of God will reveal their far-reaching nature and great complexity in their composition. The Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God gives rise to thinking about the specialness and singularity of Mary’s life. She was the daughter of Joachim and Anna. She would grow to be remembered throughout the ensuing years of history. Mary’s role in history was foretold centuries before her birth. In the book of the Holy Prophet Isaiah the words are written: “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”(Is.7:14) Centuries later, at a wedding, Jesus’ mother would intercede with Him resulting in Jesus’ performing the miracle of turning water into wine.(Jn.2:1-11) She has not ceased to intercede with the Lord Jesus Christ. To this very day, believers turn to Mary, the Mother of God and seek her to intercede with her Son in their behalf. She remains faithful to those turning to her in their time of need. The Akathist in Honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God repeatedly states: “Rejoice, O Joyful One, Who in Thy Dormition hast not forsaken us!” Mary’s influence in the lives of believers continues unto the present day. Long after her earthly life came to an end, Mary continues in the hearts and minds and lives of faithful Christians. With the saints and martyrs, she affects the shape of Christian life and is at the heart of the foundation of Christianity. Contemporary life requires faithfulness to Christ in these trying times when violence to children abounds. Mothers today often worry about the safety of their children. Mary and Joseph faced the peril of the young Jesus being put to death. The angel told Joseph in a dream: “Arise, take the young Child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”(Mt.2:13). Joseph and Mary heeded the words of the angel. Families attentive to the Lord’s words will experience security. The Psalmist said: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”(Ps.126/127:1) The Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God and the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God are celebrated each year in God’s Holy Church. The Church wants believers to think carefully and extensively about her life. When thinking about the Mother of God, consideration must be given to the thoughts and dedication of believers entering into prayer with her. Consideration needs to be given to the dynamics of the prayers and the interaction taking place. Individuals in God’s Holy Church draw near to the Mother of God in serious prayer. They draw near with expectations, with hopes and with expressed interests. The prayers articulate their needs. Believers drawing near to the Mother of God experience a unity in prayer. They draw strength from the experience. They are changed by the experience. The experiences are very real for them. Prayers to the Mother of God lead to physical changes in believers. Prayers to the Mother of God lead to changes in disposition. Sustained prayers to the Mother of God lead to radical transformations. Centuries have passed since the birth of Christ. Centuries have passed since the end of the earthly life of the Mother of God. The Mother of God continues to affect the vibrancy of the lives of believers. The Mother of God has a very real presence in God’s Holy Church. Individuals entering a local church or monastery are affected by the presence of the many images of the Mother of God. Each person has a certain degree of knowledge about the Mother of God. Each person makes choices regarding the way to relate to the Mother of God . Each person determines whether to embrace the Church’s teaching on Mary. A person’s prayer life is shaped by the way a person believes and is affected by the person’s experience and knowledge of God. The Mother of God needs to be viewed and understood in her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. She needs to be viewed from the historical perspective of having been chosen to give birth to Christ and having been present to witness His Crucifixion. Her experience with the Holy Spirit sets her apart from others.(Lk.1:35) The Mother of God is a continuous source of learning. A believer studying the life of Mary will always find something new. A believer will always find something from which to benefit. The Church records Mary’s birth. The Church records her earthly death. The Church provides certain information about her between her birth and death. The Church provides information about her prior to her birth and after her death. While Mary’s earthly life was time limited, in many ways she transcends time. She experienced the Divine within her. She radiates the brightness of the Divine through the centuries. Her existence was foretold before she was born. Icons of the Mother of God touch the hearts, the minds and the souls of believers. Knowledge about the Mother of God shapes the minds and lives of believers. Joy rises up in believers as they sing hymns of the Mother of God. Joy rises up in the lives of believers as they recall experiences with the Mother of God. Joy in Christ is associated with the joy of His Mother. The life in Christ involves giving due honor and consideration to the woman blessed to be His Mother. One learns more about Christ when one learns more about His Mother. One learns more about how to be a Christian by looking at the way His Mother lived from a young age to the conclusion of her earthly life. One learns about their relationship when He hung upon the Cross.(Jn.19:25-27). The Lord Jesus Christ took time to take care of His Mother when He was dying upon the Cross. She cared for Him in His infancy and young life. Their bond remains firm and unbroken. Mary’s stature has only grown through the centuries. She has influenced the shape of history. She continues to influence the shape of history. Mary remains greatly honored and reverenced as individuals learn about and grow in Christ.
Prepared for Adult Class. St.George Serbian Orthodox Church, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania. August 15/28, 2012. Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. Father Rodney Torbic
Today is the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, one of the Church’s Great Feasts and the last one of the church calendar year which begins September 14th. The first great feast celebrated in the church year is the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos so that the church year begins and ends with our commemoration of the Most Holy Theotokos: her birth at the beginning and falling asleep at the end.
From Bulgakov on the Dormition (here)
“The feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God goes back to the most ancient times of Christianity and in the IV century is already universal, as is evident from the witness of Gregory of Tours and especially that it is mentioned in all the most ancient calendars. In the V century stichera for this feast were written by Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople and in the VIII century two canons
attributed to Cosmas of the Holy City and John of Damascus were written. Originally the feast was celebrated on August 18, however that did not prevent its celebration in places on August 15. The common celebration of the feast on August 15 was established by the will of the Emperor Maurice (since the year 582).”
It’s been a long and hot summer; and muggy and little rainy and wet. And yes, fun too. Can summer ever be unfun? Granted, around here we tend to put the little ones to work during the summer months. I can sneak off somewhere while the older ones got my back with the baby. It was an agreement we had on many a careless day (though, I admit, I can’t remember them actually agreeing to it).
And while the days are still very hot in the afternoon sun, summer, in its true sense, is no longer here. For, in all honesty, summer is no longer summer when the sounds of a school bus parking itself outside our door can be heard in the early morning hours. For that matter, it’s no longer summer when there’s anything in the early morning. School is here and summer, though technically speaking is still with us, is rapidly becoming just a memory.
The kids are off. They’re excited. They can’t wait to see friends they haven’t seen all summer. Me, the baby and little Jovana, on the other hand, I’m sure we’ll find something to do in this empty house. Maybe we’ll watch cartoons or go outside or go to the park. There’s plenty to do. I’m sure we’ll peak out the window once or twice during the day as well.
Can’t be long until that bus comes back.
H/T: BBC (here)
Dated: Aug. 16, 2012
Ethiopian church patriarch Abune Paulos dies
The head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Paulos, has died aged 76, the government has announced.
The foreign ministry said he had been receiving treatment over the past week for an undisclosed illness.
The patriarch’s office is due to hold an emergency meeting on Friday to finalize arrangements for what is expected to be a state funeral.
Abune Paulos led Ethiopia’s 40 million Orthodox Christians – half the population – since 1992.
Mulugeta Aserate Kassa, an adviser at the Ethiopian embassy in London, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme the patriarch had been “very healthy” on Wednesday, when he led a service in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
He later fell ill and was rushed to hospital, said Mr Mulugeta, a close friend of the patriarch.
The patriarch died early on Thursday morning (Aug. 16), he added.
Mr Mulugeta said he could not confirm the cause of death, but the patriarch had suffered from hypertension and diabetes.
He suffered a heart attack, according to opposition website Ethiopian Review.
Abune Paulos was chosen to lead the church in 1992 – a year after the overthrow of the communist government of Mengistu Haile Mariam.
“He brought the church in line to meet the challenges of the 21st Century,” Mr Mulugeta said.
“He was a pragmatist at heart.”
He was jailed under Mengistu in the 1970s and then went into exile in the US.
Critics accused him of being close to current Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who has also been ill recently.
Abune Paulos was the first person from the Tigray ethnic group – the same as Mr Meles – to head the country’s Orthodox Church, Mr Mulugeta said.
“He was loved by many,” he added.
Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church used to be part of Egypt’s Coptic Christian Church, but got its own patriarch in 1959.
Ethiopia has some of the word’s oldest churches, including rock-hewn churches, which are a World Heritage Site, in Lalibella in northern Ethiopia.
H/T: Fr. Ted’s blog (here)
“We human beings, in other words, are called to continue and to extend the mystery of Christ’s Transfiguration on the mountain. As Metropolitian John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon has affirmed, the distinctive characteristic of the human animal is not so much that we are a logical animal, but rather that we are an animal that is creative. Endowed as we are with freedom and self-awareness. entrusted with the power of conscious choice – ‘sub-creators’ formed in the image of God the Creator, living icons of the living God – we have the capacity not merely to manufacture or produce but to create, to set our personal seal upon the environment, to reveal new meanings within nature: in a word, to transfigure. Through our creative powers, through science, technology, craftsmanship and art, we enlarge the radiance of the transfigured Christ, revealing in all material things the glory that is latent within them. That is precisely what we are seeking to achieve through our ecological initiatives.” (Bishop Kallistos Diokleia, In Communion, Fall 2006, pg. 6)
The topic of toll houses can be a touchy one for Orthodox. Deacon Milan Medakovic writes about it on his blog Vonmem. He mentions two groups of opposition to the toll house teaching. One claims that it is too similar to the Catholic teaching of purgatory while the other asserts that it is based on gnostic teaching. This latter, he points out, was “unknown until the Deacon Lev Puhalo, now known as Archbishop Lazar Puhalo retired bishop of the Orthodox Church in America (formerly the Russian Metropolia), gave it voice round the time of the publication of Fr. Seraphim Rose’s book The Soul After Death.”
Read the full article here