“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-15)
The Feast of the Dormition is our commemoration of the death of Jesus Christ‘s own Mother. The Holy Trinity entrusted the incarnation of the Word of God to Mary: God becomes human and entrusts His human life to this very special woman. At her death, Mary entrusts herself to her Son, the incarnate God.
Because this Feast does deal with death, it is a good time for us to reflect on death. Oftentimes we avoid thinking about death until we are forced to face it at a funeral, and then our emotions can be so stirred that we cannot think rationally about it. This Feast allows to think about death in a Christian way. We pray in our liturgies for a Christian ending to our life – Mary, the Theotokos, experiences a truly Christian death, commending her soul and body to Her Son.
When someone dies – we often comfort ourselves or others by saying that the deceased “is in God’s hands NOW.” That is true, but only because we, our lives, are ALWAYS in God’s hands. God doesn’t just take an interest in us at our death. But our popular belief seems to indicate that we are in control of our life until death and only then do we have to rely completely on God. Our Christian life though is lived in God always and everywhere. “… for ‘In him we live and move and have our being'” (Acts 17:28).
God is love, God is not reacting to us, but always acting for us in love – throughout our life and in our death. God receives our soul at death, not in reaction to our death, but because He carried us in love throughout our life. We are never far from God, never separated from Him.
At the Feast of the Dormition we sing the Kontakion:
Neither the tomb, nor death, could hold the Theotokos,
who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions.
For being the Mother of Life,//
she was translated to life by the One Who dwelt in her virginal womb.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death. The Feast of the Dormition is the celebration of this Good News:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
Death no longer can separate us from God because Jesus Christ died, descended to the place of the dead, and conquered death raising us all to eternal life. The Feast of the Dormition is a celebration of our belonging to Christ, and sharing in His victory over death.
None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:7-9)
The Dormition of the Virgin is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection – and of His extending the resurrection to His Church.
The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him … (2 Timothy 2:11-12)