AUGUST 15: DORMITION OF OUR MOST HOLY LADY THEOTOKOS
‘In giving birth, thou didst preserve thy virginity. In falling asleep thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos. Thou wast translated to life, O mother of Life, and by thy prayers thou deliverest our souls from death.’ (Troparion of the Feast)
‘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.’ (Kontakion of the Feast)
The hymns of this Feast of the Dormition refer again and again to the most holy Theotokos as the ‘Mother of Life’, but the Virgin Mary is not the first to be given this title. The title ‘Mother of Life’ directs us back to the beginning of creation, to the first man and woman in the garden. For, at the precise moment that the Lord God pronounces the curse of death for their disobedience, the man, Adam, turns to his wife and, in what is perhaps the most optimistic act of the entire Old Testament, calls her Eve – Zoe – Life, for she was, as the Scripture says, the ‘mother of life’.
‘Mother of life’: this paradox expresses the truth that , as human beings, we were created for communion with God, and thus, we were created for life. Our fulfillment and our vocation is to live a life of communion with God, by love drawing nearer to Him toward sharing His immortality, sharing in His divine life.
We were not created for death. Death was not part of our nature, nor is the evil which causes death; and death is by no means ‘natural’. But neither was the punishment of death which followed from our disobedience any kind of contrived or arbitrary punishment; it was simply reality. By disobedience, we turned away from God and thus from the Source of Life; and so death became our destiny, for our nature became corrupted and we were no longer in direct communion with life. Death became our end, because, contrary to what most people in our society believe and what certain western confessions teach, the human soul is not naturally immortal. Rather, immortality is property of God alone; human beings cannot possess it, and we can only share in God’s own immortality by grace. Adam and Eve fell, not from a high state of perfection and immortality, but from a life growing and maturing toward perfection in God, growing towards sharing God’s own eternal life.