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E. Poselianin


Once, while the Mother of God was praying, the Archangel Gabriel appeared before her and brought her the joyous news of her imminent repose, which he said would occur in three days.

As a sign, the Archangel, herald of the good tidings gave the Most Holy Virgin a branch from Paradise. It was the branch from a fig tree that shone with the light of heavenly grace. This branch was to be carried before Her funerary bier during the burial procession of her Most-honored and Most-pure Body. A great joy entered her heart at the Archangel's good news. She bowed down to the ground and with all her strength, thanked her Creator.

It was the Most-pure Virgin's wish that, at the time of Her repose, she see the Holy Apostles who were dispersed around the world preaching, and not see the prince of darkness and his horrors at the hour of her departure. She prayed to her Son and Lord that her wish be granted, and that He Himself, accompanied by the Holy Angels, accept her Holy Soul into His Divine hands, as He had previously promised.

When the Mother of God returned home after this, her final prayer in the Gethsemane vineyard, all were amazed at the incomprehensible Divine power and glory surrounding.

The Mother of God related her revelation to the beloved John, her adopted son, showed him the light-bearing branch given Her by the angel, and directed him to carry it before her funerary bier. John immediately sent messengers to St James, the brother of the Lord and first bishop of Jerusalem, and to all the relatives and close acquaintances of the Mother of God, announcing Her imminent repose, relating the very day of her departure. St James sent news of this to all the faithful in Jerusalem and in all of the outlying cities and towns.

All those gathered by the Most-pure Virgin wept on hearing from Her own lips the news of Her repose.

"Do not weep," the Mother of God said to them, "but rejoice in my departure. I will not leave you orphaned, and not only you, but the whole world. I will visit you and protect you, and will help those in need."

With such comforting words, the Mother of God consoled the weeping people surrounding Her, alleviating their sadness. She directed that She be buried in Gethsemane, near Jerusalem, at the Mount of Olives, where her righteous parents and Joseph the Betrothed were buried.

At God's order, Angels of the Lord suddenly took up the Holy Apostles from faraway places, brought them on clouds to Jerusalem and deposited them, before the doors of the house of the Most Holy Theotokos on Zion. They were both overjoyed to see one another, and also wondering in amazement as to why the Lord had gathered them together. Apostle John the Theologian came out and greeted them in tears; he announced to them the imminent departure of the Most-holy Theotokos from this worldly life. The Holy Apostles understood that the Lord had gathered them from all parts of the world so that they might be present at the repose of His Most-pure Mother, and bury her Most-holy body with honor. The Apostles grieved over their coming separation from the Most Holy Virgin Mary.

On entering the house, all of them saw the Mother of God, filled with spiritual joy, sitting peacefully on the bed.

The 15th day of August came; the long-awaited, blessed hour in which the Most-Holy Theotokos was to be translated, had arrived.

Many candles were lit and the Apostles chanted the doxology. In preparation for her blessed departure, the Most-immaculate Virgin lay on a decorated bier, and awaited the arrival of her most desired Son and Lord.

And He, Whom she had conceived without sin, to Whom she had given birth without pain, painlessly accepted her Most-pure soul from her Holy Body, not giving it over to corruption. Then began the joyous and sweet Angelic singing, in which could be heard oft-repeated words that the Archangel Gabriel had once brought from Heaven to the Virgin in Nazareth: "Rejoice, Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee, blessed art Thou among women!"

Thus, escorted in pomp by all of the ranks of the hosts of Heaven, carried in the arms of the Lord, Mariam's soul quietly ascended to the dwellings above...

The Earthly life of the Mother of God - Part 17 E. Poselianin

St. Peter, together with St. Paul and St. James, brother of the Lord, and with the other Apostles, lifted the bier onto their shoulders, and St. John the Theologian carried before the bier the radiant branch from Paradise. The rest of the gathered saints and multitude of people, carrying candles and censers, walked along and sang. The Apostle Peter would intone the chant, and the rest would join in with him.

It was with such pomp that the body of the Most-immaculate Virgin, which had received God into itself, was carried from Zion, through Jerusalem, and to the village of Gethsemane.

Hearing the strange chanting and seeing the solemn procession with the body of Mary, the people of Jerusalem, non-believing Jews, came out of their houses and followed the crowd, wondering at the great pomp and honor being accorded the body of the mother of Jesus. On hearing of this, the high priests and levites, incensed with envy and hatred, sent servants and soldiers with instructions to incite many in the crowd to use weapons and staves to disperse the people accompanying Mary's body, to beat up Jesus' disciples, and to put the body of the Theotokos to the torch. When, armed as for battle, those intent on this evil course attacked the procession, a cloud that had been moving across the sky suddenly descended to ground level; a circle of cloud, surrounded the Apostles and all those accompanying them forming a wall through which the sounds of their chanting could be heard, but they themselves could not be seen.

Holy Angels, invisibly hovering over the most-immaculate body and the assembly of the faithful, struck the evildoers blind, so that some struck the city wall and sustained head injuries, while others, not knowing where to go, groped their way along the walls and searched for someone to guide them.

A Jewish priest named Athonios happened to be on that path. God ensured that at that precise moment, the circle of cloud again ascended, and Athonios was able to see the Holy Apostles and the multitude of faithful, carrying candles and singing psalms, surrounding the Most-immaculate Theotokos' bier. Rekindling his former enmity toward the Lord, he became enflamed with hatred, and said, "This body, which gave birth to that Liar who violated the law of our fathers, is being accorded such honor!" Physically strong, and filled with hatred, he savagely threw himself at the bier, intending to cast the most-pure body of Our Lady to the ground. As soon as his hands had dared touch the bier, they were suddenly cut off as if by the invisible, incorporeal sword of God's vengeance, and his hands remained fixed to the bier, while Athonios fell to the ground, crying "Woe, is me, woe!"

Recognizing that he had sinned, he repented and called to the Apostles, "Have mercy on me, o servants of Christ!"

The Apostle Peter ordered him to stand next to the bier, and said, "Well, you have gotten what you wanted. Understand that God's vengeance has ensued. We cannot heal your wounds. The only one who can heal you is the One Whom you unjustly oppose and Whom you killed - our Lord. Yet He will not want to grant you healing until you have believed on Him with your entire heart, until you have confessed with your lips that Jesus is the true Messiah, the Son of God." Athonios cried out, "I believe that He is the Savior of the world, whom the prophets had foretold, He is the Christ. We had already seen in Him the Son of God, but clouded by hatred and envy, did not want to confess Him to be God and subjected him to death without a cause. Through the power of God He arose from the dead on the third day, filling all of us who hated him, with shame. We strove to hide the fact of His Resurrection and to that end bribed the guards, but we could not put a stop to the Lord's fame or to the news about the miracle that spread everywhere.

" Thus did Athonios confess his past transgressions and repent of the audacious sin he had just committed.

The Holy Apostles and the faithful rejoiced, as do the angels when a sinner repents, and Peter ordered Athonios to touch his arms to the severed parts hanging from the bier; with faith he invoked the name of the Most-immaculate Lady Theotokos. When Athonios had done as he had been ordered, the severed members were suddenly properly rejoined, the joints met were completely healed; only a red line near the elbows that encircled each arm remained, as a sign that the arms had been severed.

Then Athonios prostrated himself before the bier, bowing down before Christ God Who had been born of the Most-immaculate Lady. He uttered lengthy and loud praises of the Mother of God, noting the Old Testament prophecies about her.

Arriving with the multitude of the faithful at Gethsemane, the Holy Apostles placed the bier with the Most-Immaculate Body near the tomb. When, toward evening, they had placed the body in the tomb and leaned a heavy stone against the cave opening, they found that for a long time they could not bring themselves to leave the tomb, as if they were fettered to it by their love for the Mother of God.

At God's discretion, Thomas, one of the Holy Apostles, was not present at the burial of the body of the Most-immaculate Theotokos, and did not arrive at Gethsemane until the third day. He mourned and grieved a great deal for not having been worthy to receive a final blessing from the Mother of God, for not having been worthy to see the Divine glory, God's wonderful miracles, and the signs manifested at her Dormition and at the translation of her body. Taking pity on him, the Apostles, suggested that he open the tomb, so that he might at least see the Most-immaculate body of the Theotokos, venerate it, kiss it, and find comfort in his time of grief and sorrow.

When they had moved away the stone and opened the tomb, they were shocked to find that the tomb was empty; it did not contain the body of the Mother of God, but only the cloths that had covered her, cloths redolent with a sweet fragrance. The Apostles stood bewilderment, tearfully kissed the epitaphion that remained in the tomb, and prayed to the Lord that He reveal to them the fate of the Most-immaculate body.

Toward evening they sat down to eat and gather their strength. The Apostolic order for a meal was as follows: They would leave an empty place among them, at the head of the table, and would set thereon a piece of bread in honor of Christ. Standing up to give thanks after the meal, they would take the piece of bread, "the Lord's appointed portion," and would elevate it offering praise to the exalted name of the Most-holy Trinity. In concluding this rite, they would pray, "O Lord, Jesus Christ, [continue to] help us!" Then they would consume the bread as a blessed gift. This was not something the Holy Apostles would do only when they were all assembled; each performed it as well if he happened to be having the meal alone.

That evening, gathered together in Gethsemane for a communal meal, they could think or talk of nothing but the disappearance of the Theotokos' body they had placed in the tomb. When at the conclusion of the meal they stood and began the customary elevation of the piece of bread set aside in honor of the Lord, and in praise of the Most-holy Trinity, suddenly they heard sound of angelic singing from above. Looking up, they saw in the air the Most-immaculate Lady, the Mother of our Lord, alive, surrounded by a multitude of angels, and shining with inexpressible glory. She said to them, "Rejoice! I am with you always!" Filled with joy, they cried out not "Lord Jesus Christ [continue to] help us!" but "Most-holy Theotokos [continue to] help us!"

After witnessing this miraculous apparition, the Holy apostles were convinced, and assured the Holy Church, that the reposed Mother of God was resurrected on the third day by her Son and God, and was taken bodily from the tomb and into Heaven.

Then they went to the tomb and took the epitaphion that had been left there, as a comfort to those in sorrow and indisputable proof of the Theotokos' rising from the tomb.

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