Once, as the Holy Virgin prayed on the Mount of Olives (near Jerusalem), the Angel Gabriel appeared to Her, as he had the first time in Nazareth, holding in his hand a branch with a white flower from Paradise, and announced to Her that in three days Her earthly life would come to an end and that the Lord would take Her to Him. The Lord arranged it so that toward that time the Apostles congregated in
At the hour of Her end, a bright light illuminated the room in which the Virgin Mary was lying. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, surrounded by Angels, appeared and received Her most pure soul.
The Apostles buried Her holy body, according to Her wish, at the foot of the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the cave where reposed the bodies of her parents and of the righteous Joseph.
During the burial, many miracles came to pass. By touching the bier of the Mother of God, the blind regained their sight, demons were exorcised, and many diseases were cured.
Three days after the burial of the Theotokos, there arrived belatedly the Apostle Thomas, who had missed the burial. He was very distraught at not having paid his last respects to the Mother of Jesus and wished to see Her body for the last time. When the cave in which the Virgin Mary was buried was opened, Her body was not found, but only Her burial clothes. The Apostles returned to their home in amazement. In the evening during their prayers, they heard Angels singing. Glancing upward, the Apostles saw the Most Holy Virgin surrounded by Angels, in radiant heavenly glory. She said to the Apostles: "Rejoice! I am with you for all the days and nights."
She has been fulfilling this promise to help and defend Christians to the present day, having become our heavenly Mother. For Her great love and all-powerful help, Christians always have honored Her and turned to Her for help, appealing to Her as the "Fervent intercessor for the Christian race, the Joy of all those who grieve, Who did not abandon us after Her Dormition." From these earliest times, following the example of the prophet Isaiah and the righteous Elizabeth, all Christians began to address Her as the Mother of God or Theotokos, and this title was confirmed during the Third Ecumenical Council (431 AD) in Ephesus.
The Most Holy Virgin Mary serves as great example to all those who are striving for perfection. She was the first who decided to dedicate Her whole life to God and who showed that voluntary virginity is higher than wedded life. From the first centuries, in emulating Her and Her Son and other prophets and apostles, many Christians began to pass their life in virginity, prayer, fasting, meditation and contemplation. Thus, the monastic life arose, and there appeared many monasteries which became sources of inspiration for a pious life and spiritual wisdom.
Unfortunately, the present ungodly world does not appreciate and even sometimes ridicules the advancement of virginity, disregarding the words of the Lord: "For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs (virgins) for the kingdom of heaven’s sake." To this the Lord added this very unambiguous directive:
"He, who is able to accept it, let him accept it" (Matthew ).
In reviewing the earthly life of the Theotokos, it is essential to emphasize that, just as at the moment of Her greatest glory, when She was chosen to become the Mother of the Savior, as well as at the hour of Her greatest grief, by the prophecy of the righteous Simon, as She stood at the foot of the Cross when "a weapon pierced Her soul," She displayed complete self-control and faith in God. In all events, big or small, She invariably manifested the strength and beauty of Her virtues: humility, perseverance, patience, courage, hope in the Lord and unbounded love for Him! That is why we Christians hold Her in such high esteem and want to emulate Her.
On the Feast of Dormition (August 15th)
"The repose of the Theotokos is best explained through the Dormition icon …The Mother of God has fallen asleep and lies on her deathbed. Christ’s apostles have gathered around her, and above her stands Christ Himself holding His Mother in His arms, where she is alive and eternally united with Him. Here we see both death and what was already come to pass in this particular death: not rupture, but union; not sorrow, but joy; and most profoundly, not death, but life. ‘In giving birth, you remained a Virgin and after falling asleep you have not forsaken the world, O Theotokos … Neither the tomb nor death could hold the Mother of God, who is ever watchful in prayer, in whose intercession lies unfailing hope. For as Mother of Life she was transported to Life…’"
Troparion (in Tone 1)
In thy birth giving, O Theotokos, thou hast retained thy virginity, and in falling asleep thou hast not forsaken the world. Thou hast passed to life, being the Mother of Life. Through thine intercession, deliver our souls from death.