Neither death nor the tomb
could hold the Mother of God.
She is always ready to intercede
for us, forever our steady hope
and protection. She is the Mother
of Life, Christ Who dwelt in her
ever-virginal womb lifted her up
(Kondak of the Feast)
I was told the story of an old peasant woman. When she was younger she lost her only son, and only child. He was killed in the Second World War. Her neighbours, remembering she had almost idolized the child, thought that she would be inconsolable, and they were astonished when she adopted another son. They were still more astonished because he was a little black boy.
She gave him everything that her son had owned. There was no doubt of her love for him. There could be none for those who saw her face, weather-beaten and lined, marked and sealed with sorrow, and yet shining with quiet happiness.
One day a neighbour said to her: “I would never have thought that you would put another boy in your son’s place”. “I haven’t,” she answered simply: “There is only one boy, Jesus Christ”.
That woman knew blessedness which would not be possible to human nature hads not the Mother of God, whom she resembled so vividly, made it possible.
The Feast of the Dormition –the Falling Asleep –of the Blessed Virgin is the epitomy of all that Mary stands for. The feast of the Dormition is the feast of triumphant and accomplished motherly love. The love of the Blessed Virgin was so great that her body had to follow her soul, because it is through love that one has the limitless yearning for union with the Beloved. The Dormition is for us all the ultimate prevision of the state of blessedness awaiting us all on the Final Day of Judgment when our souls will be reunited with our bodies and shall attain the heavenly vision of our Saviour and His Beloved Mother.
They say that when her time came to die the Apostles were miraculously brought from all the corners of the earth to attend her to her last breath and honour her mortal remains after her falling asleep. Our Lady was born up to heaven in the hands of angels. The legions of saints awaited her coming, and before them all came Gabriel. She passed a multitude of angels and saints and came at last to a place of solitude and her Son came to her and He crowned her with a great crown set with seven brilliant stars.
What does this all mean? Because we cannot conceive of Heaven, we have, in our minds, almost whittled it away to nothingness. Because it is not a place as we understand place, we unconsciously think of it as nowhereness. In our dread of forming a materialist conception of it, we have conceived it as nothing.
We do not know where or how or what Heaven is, but this we know: Our Lady stands as the portal, as the gateway, into this place. It is through her that we will pass into new and eternal life –a rebirth into the eternal glory prepared for the righteous before all time. Our Lady’s body is there and the Body of Christ is there: and our Lady’s soul and the Soul of Christ and His divinity.
We can realize this only through its effect upon the world. There, before God is humanity, our humanity; but innocent humanity in all its primal loveliness; humanity with which the Spirit of God is in love. And she is ours! Therefore it is always Advent, always spring: The life and birth and death and resurrection of Christ always goes on upon earth, and unending cycle of light. Even now the earth is continually made new; we are continually born again.
This is what really matters most of all to everyone, this is why we gather for her holy feast at the Eucharistic Liturgy: the power to be made anew. Not simply beginning again, dragging along with us the old scars, the old crippling wounds, the old weakness dragging at the will; limping with the weariness of yesterday, sore with the heartsickness of the last defeat, bitter with the still smarting grievance against one another.
Not that, but real newness, being born again. A new will, new heart, new vision, new love –indeed new life.
But where should we look for this rebirth in this world of 21st century man? In these troubled days when “certainty” has lost its meaning, when strife, hunger, murder and the atom bomb overshadow our daily lives and the lives of our beloved, our families need to live, as never before, as our Lady lived after the crucifixion. For it is within the Christian family that Jesus most readily enters our lives. A generation of families will need to know that, in the words of the old peasant woman, “there is only one boy, Jesus Christ”. In the way the whole world was entrusted to the care of the Most Blessed Virgin in the person of the beloved apostle John by the dying words of Christ: “Woman this is your son”, likewise all children are entrusted to their parents.
The worlds future will depend on this, in particular the future of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church, upon our realizing that the survival of all that is worth the cost of a man’s blood, depends on how we foster the Christ-life in the souls of the children.
Fr. Bazyl Zawierucha