August 27, 2009
The Dormition of the Mother of God
My present talk for your appreciation is occasioned both by love, and by necessity. I speak not only by reason of my love for you, and because I desire that the word of salvation should be brought to your God-loving hearing, and so nourish your souls; but also, it is necessary for me, in addition to praising the Church, to expound on the majesty of the ever-Virgin Mother of God. This wish, being twofold, impels and inclines me, and unwavering duty also compels me; though speech cannot comprehend that which is higher than any word, just as the eye cannot fix its gaze upon the sun.
Although we cannot speak about that which surpasses all words, we may offer hymns of praise out of love for the Mother of God, according to our ability. If "the death of His saints is precious in the sight of the Lord" (Ps. 115/116: 15), and "the memory of the just is praised" (Prov. 10:7), then how much more is the memory of the holiest of the saints, through Whom all holiness has been accorded to the saints? I refer to the Ever-Virgin Mother of God, Whose memory it now behooves us to celebrate with the most exalted praises.
We now celebrate Her holy Dormition, or Death, through which She was brought "a little lower than the angels," (Ps. 8:5) and yet She ascended incomparably higher than the angels and the archangels..., and is above them because of Her closeness to God, and by the wondrous deeds which were, from the beginning, written and accomplished regarding Her.
It was on Her account that the God-inspired prophets prophesied, and the miracles were performed that foreshadowed this great and universal wonder: the ever-Virgin Mother of God. The testimonies of the Spirit, in various ways, indicate beforehand types of the future truth. (Joachim and Anna, in their old age, would become parents of a child) who would without seed give birth to the One begotten of God the Father from eternity....
The King of all greatly desired the beauty of the ever-Virgin (Ps. 44/45:11), ...and He overshadowed Her, or rather, the... Power of the Most High dwelt within Her. He did not manifest His presence through darkness and fire as with the God-seer Moses, nor through storm and clouds as with the Prophet Elias, but the Power from on High overshadowed the all-pure and virginal womb, separated... neither by air..., nor by anything sensible.... Thus, the Word of God took up His abode in Her in an inexpressible way, and came forth incarnate in the flesh. He "showed himself on earth and conversed with men" (Baruch 3: 38), deifying our nature and granting us, according to the divine Apostle, that "which the angels desire to look into" (1 Pet. 1:12). This is... the most glorious glory... of the ever-Virgin Mary.
What words are there to explain what transpired after the inexplicable birth? In Her co-operation and suffering with the condescension of the Word of God, She is also glorified and exalted together with Him, in His great and wondrous majesty. But with the Ascension to Heaven of Him Who was incarnate of Her, She in turn rivaled those great works surpassing mind and speech, which through Him were Her own, with manifold deeds and prayers, and also Her solicitude for the whole world, and the inspiration She gave to preachers sent to all the ends of the earth.
She was a support and consolation for all, and toiled with the rest in the proclamation of the Gospel. Thus She lived a difficult life proclaimed in mind and word. Therefore, the death of the Theotokos was also life-bearing, carrying Her over into heavenly and immortal life. The remembrance of it is a joyous feast and universal solemnity.... Into the hands of Her Son the God-bearing spirit of the Ever-Virgin Mary was given; and indeed a short while afterwards, Her body was translated by Him into the eternal heavenly habitations. This was fully just and proper.
Go here to read the entire Sermon by Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica