Today we celebrate a great and joyous solemnity: the falling asleep of the Mother of God in Jerusalem, and her bodily translation into glory.
“The Whole Mystery of the Economy”
The readings from Genesis, Ezekiel, and Proverbs present us with a series of images, all with reference to the Theotokos. She is the ladder ascending from earth to heaven, beheld by the patriarch Jacob in a vision (Gen. 28:12). She is Bethel, God’s house, and the gate of heaven (Gen. 28:17). She is the east gate of the Temple sanctuary, which remains shut – virginal: no man enters, “for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered through it,” as Ezekial prophesies (Ez. 44:2). She is wisdom, or the house of wisdom, of which king Solomon speaks (Prov. 9:1)
These readings – from Genesis, Ezekiel, and Proverbs – represent the 3 divisions of the Jewish Bible: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. Together they comprise a “bouquet” representing the whole of what we call the Old Covenant. It is as if to say: Mary is the sum towards which the whole history of Israel was pointing all along. She is the daughter of Zion, the hinge of salvation history. In her is the beginning of the New Covenant.
In the words of St John of Damascus, “in the name Theotokos is contained the whole mystery of the economy.” Economy – oikonomia, as we often hear in our hymns – refers to God’s ordering of his “household,” his governance of creation and history according to his plan for our salvation and glorification. There is an order to God’s plan, and a unity of meaning. This unity is revealed in the person of the Holy Virgin.
Mary’s role in this economy, her identity as “Mother,” does not end with giving birth or rearing her child. We see her not only at the Annunciation and the birth of Jesus, but also at his first miracle in Cana, at the foot of the Cross, and with the Church at Pentecost. As St John of Damascus said, “the whole mystery of the economy.”
In the festal cycle of our liturgical year, which begins September 1, the first great feast is the birth of the Theotokos, on Sept 8. The last great feast is today, her falling asleep and bodily assumption into heaven. Our liturgical remembrance of Christ’s work of salvation begins and ends with Mary. We begin with her birth, we end with her glorification. “In the name Theotokos is contained the whole mystery of the economy.