Although the historical accounts differ somewhat, the
Deposition that is celebrated today took place most likely during the
reign of Emperor Arcadius (395-408), when the precious Cincture of the
Mother of God was brought from Zela of Cappadocia to Constantinople, and
placed in the Church of the Theotokos in the section of Chalcopratia.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
O Ever-Virgin Theotokos, shelter of mankind, thou hast bestowed
upon thy people a mighty investure, even thine immaculate body's raiment
and sash, which by thy seedless childbirth have remained incorrupt; for
in thee nature and time are made new. Wherefore, we implore thee to
grant peace to the world, and great mercy to our souls.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Thy precious sash, O Theotokos, which encompassed thy
God-receiving womb, is an invincible force for thy flock, and an
unfailing treasury of every good, O only Ever-virgin Mother.
The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but
the Lord's testimony is sufficient for thee, O Forerunner; for thou hast
proved to be truly even more venerable than the Prophets, since thou
was granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom they proclaimed.
Wherefore, having contested for the truth, thou didst rejoice to
announce the good tidings even to those in Hades: that God hath
appeared in the flesh, taking away the sin of the world and granting us
Kontakion in the Plagal of the First Tone
The glorious beheading of the Forerunner was a certain divine
dispensation, that the coming of the Saviour might also be preached to
those in Hades. Let Herodias lament, then, that she demanded a wicked
murder; for she loved not the Law of God, nor eternal life, but one
false and fleeting.
New Martyr Anastasius, a Bulgarian, was born in 1774 in the Strumnitsk
diocese, in the village of Radovicha. His parents gave him over to
military studies. When the youth was twenty years old, he happened to be
with his teacher in Thessalonica. The master wanted to sell some
Turkish clothes without paying the customary duty. He told his disciple
to dress himself as a Turk and go into the city. The collectors of the
duty stopped him and demanded the written receipt of duty payment. The
youth answered that he was a Turk. Then the collectors demanded that he
recite the salutation with the Moslem prayer. The youth became confused
and quiet. They ordered him to appear before the commander, who in
interrogating the martyr suggested that he become a Moslem. The youth
refused, and they led him away to the chief tax-collector.
The official tried at first to flatter, then to threaten the martyr, who
admitted his civil guilt, but would not agree to betray the holy Faith.
The tax-collector made this known to the mufti, who in turn answered,
"You have in one hand the sword, in the other the law, use what you
He knew that by law the tax-collector ought to collect the tax from the
youth, but then by judgment of the mufti he would not be a follower of
Mohammed, armed with a sword. When he had received such an answer, the
commander of the haraje sent the youth to the local mullah together with
five Turks, who were obliged to testify that the Christian had
blasphemed the Moslem religion.
Sava of Krypetsk was tonsured at Athos, and from there he came to
Pskov. He began to struggle on Mount Snetna at the monastery of Mother
of God near Pskov, and then he went to a more remote spot along the
River Tolva, at the monastery of St Euphrosyne (May 15). Finally, he
withdrew for complete solitude to the Krypetsk wilderness, 15 versts
from the Tolva, and he settled alone in a small cave in the impenetrable
His food was bread and water, and on Wednesdays and Fridays he ate
nothing. Living the life of a hermit he was assailed by unclean spirits,
but always he prevailed over them through prayer. After several years
in the solitary life, those zealous for wilderness life began to gather
around St Sava. They asked him to form a monastery and build a church in
honor of the Apostle John the Theologian. The monk refused to be igumen
of the monastery and entrusted its guidance to the monk Cassian. Many
came out from Pskov to the austere Elder, and he healed and admonished
them, but never did he accept gifts from them.
One time the Pskov prince Yaroslav Vasilievich Obolensky, who frequently
visited at the monastery, journeyed with his sick wife to see the
saint. St Sava sent him a message saying, "The Elder, the sinner Sava,
tells you, Prince, not to enter the monastery with the princess. Our
rule here states that women are not to enter the monastery. If you
transgress this fatherly command, your princess will not receive
The prince asked forgiveness, since it was through ignorance that he was
on the point of violating the rule. St Sava came out through the
monastery gates with the brethren, and served a Molieben there. The
princess was healed. In 1487, through the mediation of the prince, Pskov
received a deed to the lands for the monastery.
The monk taught the laity to guard their purity, reminding them of the
injunction of the Apostle against the defilers of the body (I Cor.
6:9-10). He told the rich and the judges not to make their living at the
expense of the poor and to preserve righteous truth. He frequently
reminded everyone to avoid quarrels and enmity, to preserve love and
peace and to overlook the faults of others by courtesy, even as they in
turn have forgiven us.
At the monastery, a strict cenobitic life had been introduced from the
very beginning. Then, when sufficient brethren and means had been
gathered, there was nothing in the cell of the monk except for two
icons, his monk's garb and the cot upon which he lay down to take his
Through such poverty he taught the brethren. The monk commanded them to
work the land with their own hands. He said, "How can we call the
ancient ascetics our Fathers, when we do not live their way of life? How
can we be counted as their children? They were homeless and poor, they
spent their time in caves and in the wilderness, and for the Lord with
all their strength they subjected their flesh to the spirit. They knew
no respite by day, or by night. We should love the good Lord, children,
and show our love for Him not only by words, nor by our manner of
attire, but by deeds: by love one for another, by tears, by fasting, by
every manner of temperance, just as the ancient Fathers did."
The grateful prince built a bridge to the monastery through the fens and
the swamps 1400 sazhen [1 sazhen = 7 feet] in length. After his death
(August 28, 1495), St Sava did not forsake the monastery, and many times
came to its defense.
Once, robbers approached the monastery at night, and they saw an august
Elder who held a staff in his hand and threateningly ordered them to
repent. In the morning, they learned that there was no such Elder at the
monastery, and they realized that it had been St Sava himself. The
leader of the robbers repented before the igumen and remained at the
St Sava was tall of stature, with a beard grey as snow, roundish and
thick and not very long. In this form he appeared to the monk Isaiah in
the mid-sixteenth century, and showed him where to find his incorrupt
relics. Later, in the year 1555, the Pskov priest Basil compiled the
Life of St Sava at the request of the Krypetsk brethren, and his
Feastday was established.
Liberius the Confessor, Bishop of Rome, became Bishop of Rome in the
year 352, after the death of Pope Julius. St Liberius was a fervent
proponent of Orthodoxy against the Arian heresy and a defender of St
Athanasius of Alexandria (May 2). The emperor Constantius (337-361) was
inclined to side with the Arians, but was not able to compel St Liberius
to condemn St Athanasius. For such intransigence he was sent off to
prison in Beroea (Thrace), but was soon returned to his see on the
insistent petitions of the Roman people.
Before his return, they summoned St Liberius to the Semi-Arian Council
of Sirmium, where they forced him to sign the acts of the Council. St
Liberius deeply repented of this later, and labored much at Rome on
behalf of Orthodoxy. He died peacefully in the year 366.
Adrian of Uglich was one of the first ten disciples of St Paisius of
Uglich (June 6), for whom he was the closest cell-attendant, disciple
and co-ascetic. Together with St Paisius, St Adrian was accounted
worthy of a vision of the Most Holy Theotokos in 1472. St Paisius was
in one of the cells together with St Cassian of Uglich (October 2), and
Sts Gerasimus and Adrian.
They were singing an Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos. Suddenly,
throughout all the monastery there shone an extraordinary light, and the
monks heard a voice calling them to come out of the cell. The ascetics
came out in fear and in confusion, and an angel showed them the Mother
of God, sitting on an airy throne and holding the Divine Infant in Her
arms. The ascetics fell frightened to the ground, but the angel raised
them up and related to St Paisius the command of the Mother of God to
build on this place a church in honor of the Protection of the Most Holy
Theotokos. The vision ended, and the monks spent the whole night in
vigil and praise.
In 1482, St Adrian participated in the building of the stone church in
honor of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos at the place
indicated by the angel. Afterwards, an icon of the Protection of the
Most Holy Mother of God was found. In 1489, St Adrian assisted St
Paisius in building a monastery dedicated to St Nicholas, near the
Grekhova stream, on the right bank of the Volga.
As an experienced and virtuous Elder, St Adrian was put there as its
Superior and was made a hieromonk. He was at the funeral of St Paisius
on June 6, 1504 and later, according to his last wishes, he was himself
buried near the grave. The memory of St Adrian is celebrated on August
26 (because of his namesake, the holy Martyr Adrian), and also on
Martyr Tation lived in Bythnia and suffered under the emperor
Diocletian (284-305). When the persecutors of Christians learned that he
believed in Christ, they arrested him and took him to the city of
Claudiopolis to the governor, Urban.
Many times they urged the saint to deny Christ, and they locked him in
prison and gave him over to various tortures. They beat him with sticks
and dragged him beyond the city for execution. The holy martyr, after
making the Sign of the Cross, died along the way.
Leavetaking of the Feast of the Dormition falls on August 23. The
office of the Feast is repeated, except for the entrance, readings, and
Litya at Vespers; and the polyeleos and Gospel of the Feast at Matins.
In giving birth you preserved your virginity,
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.
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.
Don Icon of the Mother of God was painted by Theophanes the Greek. On
the day of the Kulikovo Battle (September 8, 1380, the Feast of the
Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos), the Icon was with the Russian
army, giving it help, but after the victory it was passed on by the Don
Cossacks as a gift to their commander, Great Prince Demetrius of the Don
(1363-1389), who then transferred it to Moscow.
The Icon at first was at the Kremlin's Dormition Cathedral, and later at
the Annuniciation Cathedral (the Icon is now in the Tretiakov State
Gallery). In commemoration of the victory on the banks of the River Don
it was called the Don Icon.
In the year 1591, the Crimean Khan Nuradin and his brother Murat-Girei
invaded Russia with a numerous army. Advancing on Moscow, they
positioned themselves on the Vorobiev hills. A church procession was
made around Moscow with the Don Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos in order
to guard the city from the enemy.
On the day of battle it was in the military chapel in the ranks of the
soldiers, and set the Tatars to flight. In thanksgiving to the Most Holy
Theotokos for Her mercy, manifest through the Don Icon, in 1592, the
Don monastery was founded at the very place where it stood amid the
soldiers. The wonderworking icon was placed in this monastery, and its
feastday was established as August 19.
By established custom, once every four years His Holiness the Patriarch
of Moscow and All Russia performs the rite of the preparation of Holy
Chrism in the small cathedral in honor of the Don Icon of the Mother of
martyrs Hermes, Serapion, and Polyaenus were Romans who suffered for
Christ in the second century. They were thrown into prison, and under
interrogation they firmly confessed their faith in Christ and refused to
offer sacrifice to idols. The martyrs were dragged through crowds and
impassable places. Pelted with stones and other material, they died,
receiving their heavenly crowns.
August 16 we commemorate the miraculous finding of the Icon of the Most
Holy Theotokos of St Theodore. According to Tradition, the Theodore
Icon of the Mother of God was painted by the Evangelist Luke, and
resembles the famous Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.
This icon received its name from St Alexander Nevsky's father Great
Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich (+ 1246), who in holy Baptism was named
Theodore in honor of St Theodore Stratelates (February 8).
According to Tradition, his elder brother, St George (February 4), had
found the icon in an old wooden chapel near the city of Gorodets. Later,
the Gorodets monastery of St Theodore was built on this spot. When the
citizens of Gorodets fled the city at the approach of Khan they did not
have time to take the Icon with them.
In 1239 the residents of Kostroma saw the Icon being carried through
their city by a radiant figure who resembed St Theodore Stratelates. The
next day the Icon was found in a tree by Prince Basil of Kostroma, St
Alexander Nevsky's younger brother while he was hunting in the forest.
The Icon was placed in the church of St Theodore Stratelates, and many
miracles took place before it.
Prince Yaroslav-Theodore became the Great Prince of Vladimir after his
brother St George perished in battle with the Mongols at the Sita River.
He gave the icon which he inherited from his brother to his own son, St
The wonderworking Theodore Icon of the Mother of God was constantly with
St Alexander, and he often prayed before it. After St Alexander Nevsky
died on November 14, 1263 at the monastery founded by his father, the
icon was taken by his younger brother Basil.
Numerous copies of the Kostroma Theodore Icon were made, and one of the
first was commissioned and brought to Moscow by Tsar Michael's mother,
the nun Martha. From the second half of the seventeenth century, various
copies of the Theodore Icon were enlarged with scenes depicting events
from the history of the wonderworking icon.
The Theodore Icon is two-sided. On the reverse side is the image of the
holy Great Martyr Paraskeva, depicted in the splendid attire of a
princess. It is believed that the image of Paraskeva on the reverse of
the icon is connected with the wife of St Alexander Nevsky.
The first Romanov tsar was acclaimed as sovereign before the Theodore Icon in 1613.
The Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of St Theodore is also commemorated on March 14.
Dormition of our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary: After
the Ascension of the Lord, the Mother of God remained in the care of the
Apostle John the Theologian, and during his journeys She lived at the
home of his parents, near the Mount of Olives. She was a source of
consolation and edification both for the Apostles and for all the
believers. Conversing with them, She told them about miraculous events:
the Annunciation, the seedless and undefiled Conception of Christ born
of Her, about His early childhood, and about His earthly life. Like the
Apostles, She helped plant and strengthen the Christian Church by Her
presence, Her discourse and Her prayers.
The reverence of the Apostles for the Most Holy Virgin was
extraordinary. After the receiving of the Holy Spirit on the day of
Pentecost, the Apostles remained at Jerusalem for about ten years
attending to the salvation of the Jews, and wanting moreover to see the
Mother of God and hear Her holy discourse. Many of the newly-enlightened
in the Faith even came from faraway lands to Jerusalem, to see and to
hear the All-Pure Mother of God.
During the persecution initiated by King Herod against the young Church
of Christ (Acts 12:1-3), the Most Holy Virgin and the Apostle John the
Theologian withdrew to Ephesus in the year 43. The preaching of the
Gospel there had fallen by lot to the Apostle John the Theologian. The
Mother of God was on Cyprus with St Lazarus the Four-Days-Dead, where he
was bishop. She was also on Holy Mount Athos. St Stephen of the Holy
Mountain says that the Mother of God prophetically spoke of it: "Let
this place be my lot, given to me by my Son and my God. I will be the
Patroness of this place and intercede with God for it."
The respect of ancient Christians for the Mother of God was so great
that they preserved what they could about Her life, what they could take
note of concerning Her sayings and deeds, and they even passed down to
us a description of Her outward appearance.
According to Tradition, based on the words of the Hieromartyrs Dionysius
the Areopagite (October 3), Ignatius the God-Bearer (December 20), St
Ambrose of Milan (December 7) had occasion to write in his work "On
Virgins" concerning the Mother of God: "She was a Virgin not only in
body, but also in soul, humble of heart, circumspect in word, wise in
mind, not overly given to speaking, a lover of reading and of work, and
prudent in speech. Her rule of life was to offend no one, to intend good
for everyone, to respect the aged, not envy others, avoid bragging, be
healthy of mind, and to love virtue."
When did She ever hurl the least insult in the face of Her parents? When
was She at discord with Her kin? When did She ever puff up with pride
before a modest person, or laugh at the weak, or shun the destitute?
With Her there was nothing of glaring eyes, nothing of unseemly words,
nor of improper conduct. She was modest in the movement of Her body, Her
step was quiet, and Her voice straightforward; so that Her face was an
expression of soul. She was the personification of purity.
All Her days She was concerned with fasting: She slept only when
necessary, and even then, when Her body was at rest, She was still alert
in spirit, repeating in Her dreams what She had read, or the
implementation of proposed intentions, or those planned yet anew. She
was out of Her house only for church, and then only in the company of
relatives. Otherwise, She seldom appeared outside Her house in the
company of others, and She was Her own best overseer. Others could
protect Her only in body, but She Herself guarded Her character."
According to Tradition, that from the compiler of Church history
Nicephorus Callistus (fourteenth century), the Mother of God "was of
average stature, or as others suggest, slightly more than average; Her
hair golden in appearance; Her eyes bright with pupils like shiny
olives; Her eyebrows strong in character and moderately dark, Her nose
pronounced and Her mouth vibrant bespeaking sweet speech; Her face was
neither round nor angular, but somewhat oblong; the palm of Her hands
and fingers were longish...
In conversation with others She preserved decorum, neither becoming
silly nor agitated, and indeed especially never angry; without artifice,
and direct, She was not overly concerned about Herself, and far from
pampering Herself, She was distinctly full of humility. Regarding the
clothing which She wore, She was satisfied to have natural colors, which
even now is evidenced by Her holy head-covering. Suffice it to say, a
special grace attended all Her actions." (Nicephoros Callistus borrowed
his description from St Epiphanius of Cyprus (May 12), from the "Letter
to Theophilus Concerning Icons."
The circumstances of the Dormition of the Mother of God were known in
the Orthodox Church from apostolic times. Already in the first century,
the Hieromartyr Dionysius the Areopagite wrote about Her
"Falling-Asleep." In the second century, the account of the bodily
ascent of the Most Holy Virgin Mary to Heaven is found in the works of
Meliton, Bishop of Sardis. In the fourth century, St Epiphanius of
Cyprus refers to the tradition about the "Falling Asleep" of the Mother
of God. In the fifth century, St Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem, told
the holy Byzantine Empress Pulcheria: "Although there is no account of
the circumstances of Her death in Holy Scripture, we know about them
from the most ancient and credible Tradition." This tradition was
gathered and expounded in the Church History of Nicephorus Callistus
during the fourteenth century.
At the time of Her blessed Falling Asleep, the Most Holy Virgin Mary was
again at Jerusalem. Her fame as the Mother of God had already spread
throughout the land and had aroused many of the envious and the spiteful
against Her. They wanted to make attempts on Her life; but God
preserved Her from enemies.
Day and night She spent her time in prayer. The Most Holy Theotokos went
often to the Holy Sepulchre of the Lord, and here She offered up fervent
prayer. More than once, enemies of the Savior sought to hinder Her from
visiting her holy place, and they asked the High Priest for a guard to
watch over the Grave of the Lord. The Holy Virgin continued to pray
right in front of them, yet unseen by anyone.
In one such visit to Golgotha, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Her and
announced Her approaching departure from this life to eternal life. In
pledge of this, the Archangel gave Her a palm branch. With these
heavenly tidings the Mother of God returned to Bethlehem with the three
girls attending Her (Sepphora, Abigail, and Jael). She summoned
Righteous Joseph of Arimathea and other disciples of the Lord, and told
them of Her impending Repose.
The Most Holy Virgin prayed also that the Lord would have the Apostle
John come to Her. The Holy Spirit transported him from Ephesus, setting
him in that very place where the Mother of God lay. After the prayer,
the Most Holy Virgin offered incense, and John heard a voice from
Heaven, closing Her prayer with the word "Amen." The Mother of God took
it that the voice meant the speedy arrival of the Apostles and the
Disciples and the holy Bodiless Powers.
The faithful, whose number by then was impossible to count, gathered
together, says St John of Damascus, like clouds and eagles, to listen
to the Mother of God. Seeing one another, the Disciples rejoiced, but in
their confusion they asked each other why the Lord had gathered them
together in one place. St John the Theologian, greeting them with tears
of joy, said that the time of the Virgin's repose was at hand.
Going in to the Mother of God, they beheld Her lying upon the bed, and
filled with spiritual joy. The Disciples greeted Her, and then they told
her how they had been carried miraculously from their places of
preaching. The Most Holy Virgin Mary glorified God, because He had heard
Her prayer and fulfilled Her heart's desire, and She began speaking
about Her imminent end.
During this conversation the Apostle Paul also appeared in a miraculous
manner together with his disciples Dionysius the Areopagite, St
Hierotheus, St Timothy and others of the Seventy Apostles. The Holy
Spirit had gathered them all together so that they might be granted the
blessing of the All-Pure Virgin Mary, and more fittingly to see to the
burial of the Mother of the Lord. She called each of them to Herself by
name, She blessed them and extolled them for their faith and the
hardships they endured in preaching the Gospel of Christ. To each She
wished eternal bliss, and prayed with them for the peace and welfare of
the whole world.
Then came the third hour (9 A.M.), when the Dormition of the Mother of
God was to occur. A number of candles were burning. The holy Disciples
surrounded her beautifully adorned bed, offering praise to God. She
prayed in anticipation of Her demise and of the arrival of Her
longed-for Son and Lord. Suddenly, the inexpressible Light of Divine
Glory shone forth, before which the blazing candles paled in comparison.
All who it saw took fright. Descending from Heaven was Christ, the King
of Glory, surrounded by hosts of Angels and Archangels and other
Heavenly Powers, together with the souls of the Forefathers and the
Prophets, who had prophesied in ages past concerning the Most Holy
Seeing Her Son, the Mother of God exclaimed: "My soul doth magnify the
Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God My Savior, for He hath regarded
the low estate of His Handmaiden" (Luke 1:46-48) and, rising from Her
bed to meet the Lord, She bowed down to Him, and the Lord bid Her enter
into Life Eternal. Without any bodily suffering, as though in a happy
sleep, the Most Holy Virgin Mary gave Her soul into the hands of Her Son
Then began a joyous angelic song. Accompanying the pure soul of the
God-betrothed and with reverent awe for the Queen of Heaven, the angels
exclaimed: "Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee, blessed art Thou
among women! For lo, the Queen, God's Maiden comes, lift up the gates,
and with the Ever-Existing One, take up the Mother of Light; for through
Her salvation has come to all the human race. It is impossible to gaze
upon Her, and it is impossible to render Her due honor" (Stikherion on
"Lord, I Have Cried"). The Heavenly gates were raised, and meeting the
soul of the Most Holy Mother of God, the Cherubim and the Seraphim
glorified Her with joy. The face of the Mother of God was radiant with
the glory of Divine virginity, and from Her body there came a sweet
Miraculous was the life of the All-Pure Virgin, and wondrous was Her
Repose, as the Holy Church sings: "In Thee, O Queen, the God of all hath
given thee as thy portion the things that are above nature. Just as in
the Birth-Giving He did preserve Thine virginity, so also in the grave
He did preserve Thy body from decay" (Canon 1, Ode 6, Troparion 1).
Kissing the all-pure body with reverence and in awe, the Disciples in
turn were blessed by it and filled with grace and spiritual joy. Through
the great glorification of the Most Holy Theotokos, the almighty power
of God healed the sick, who with faith and love touched the holy bed.
Bewailing their separation from the Mother of God, the Apostles prepared
to bury Her all-pure body. The holy Apostles Peter, Paul, James and
others of the Twelve Apostles carried the funeral bier upon their
shoulders, and upon it lay the body of the Ever-Virgin Mary. St John the
Theologian went at the head with the resplendent palm-branch from
Paradise. The other saints and a multitude of the faithful accompanied
the funeral bier with candles and censers, singing sacred songs. This
solemn procession went from Sion through Jerusalem to the Garden of
With the start of the procession there suddenly appeared over the
all-pure body of the Mother of God and all those accompanying Her a
resplendent circular cloud, like a crown. There was heard the singing of
the Heavenly Powers, glorifying the Mother of God, which echoed that of
the worldly voices. This circle of Heavenly singers and radiance
accompanied the procession to the very place of burial.
Unbelieving inhabitants of Jerusalem, taken aback by the extraordinarily
grand funeral procession and vexed at the honor accorded the Mother of
Jesus, complained of this to the High Priest and scribes. Burning with
envy and vengefulness toward everything that reminded them of Christ,
they sent out their own servants to disrupt the procession and to set
the body of the Mother of God afire.
An angry crowd and soldiers set off against the Christians, but the
circular cloud accompanying the procession descended and surrounded them
like a wall. The pursuers heard the footsteps and the singing, but
could not see any of those accompanying the procession. Indeed, many of
them were struck blind.
The Jewish priest Athonios, out of spite and hatred for the Mother of
Jesus of Nazareth, wanted to topple the funeral bier on which lay the
body of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, but an angel of God invisibly cut off
his hands, which had touched the bier. Seeing such a wonder, Athonios
repented and with faith confessed the majesty of the Mother of God. He
received healing and joined the crowd accompanying the body of the
Mother of God, and he became a zealous follower of Christ.
When the procession reached the Garden of Gethsemane, then amidst the
weeping and the wailing began the last kiss to the all-pure body. Only
towards evening were the Apostles able to place it in the tomb and seal
the entrance to the cave with a large stone.
For three days they did not depart from the place of burial, praying and
chanting Psalms. Through the wise providence of God, the Apostle Thomas
was not to be present at the burial of the Mother of God. Arriving late
on the third day at Gethsemane, he lay down at the tomb and with bitter
tears asked that l he might be permitted to look once more upon the
Mother of God and bid her farewell. The Apostles out of heartfelt pity
for him decided to open the grave and permit him the comfort of
venerating the holy relics of the Ever-Virgin Mary. Having opened the
grave, they found in it only the grave wrappings and were thus convinced
of the bodily ascent of the Most Holy Virgin Mary to Heaven.
On the evening of the same day, when the Apostles had gathered at a
house to strengthen themselves with food, the Mother of God appeared to
them and said: "Rejoice! I am with you all the days of your lives." This
so gladdened the Apostles and everyone with them, that they took a
portion of the bread, set aside at the meal in memory of the Savior
("the Lord's Portion"), and they exclaimed : "Most Holy Theotokos, save
us". (This marks the beginning of the rite of offering up the "Panagia"
("All-Holy"), a portion of bread in honor of the Mother of God, which is
done at monasteries to the present day).
The sash of the Mother of God, and Her holy garb, preserved with
reverence and distributed over the face of the earth in pieces, have
worked miracles both in the past and at present. Her numerous icons
everywhere pour forth signs and healings, and Her holy body, taken up to
Heaven, bears witness to our own future life there. Her body was not
left to the vicissitudes of the transitory world, but was incomparably
exalted by its glorious ascent to Heaven.
The Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is celebrated with
special solemnity at Gethsemane, the place of Her burial. Nowhere else
is there such sorrow of heart at the separation from the Mother of God,
and nowhere else such joy, because of Her intercession for the world.
The holy city of Jerusalem is separated from the Mount of Olives by the
valley of Kedron on Josaphat. At the foot of the Mount of Olives is the
Garden of Gethsemane, where olive trees bear fruit even now.
The holy Ancestor-of-God Joachim had himself reposed at 80 years of age,
several years after the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the
Temple (November 21). St Anna, having been left a widow, moved from
Nazareth to Jerusalem, and lived near the Temple. At Jerusalem she
bought two pieces of property: the first at the gates of Gethsemane, and
the second in the valley of Josaphat. At the second locale she built a
tomb for the members of her family, and where also she herself was
buried with Joachim. It was there in the Garden of Gethsemane that the
Savior often prayed with His disciples.
The most-pure body of the Mother of God was buried in the family tomb.
Christians honored the sepulchre of the Mother of God, and they built a
church on this spot. Within the church was preserved the precious
funeral cloth, which covered Her all-pure and fragrant body.
The holy Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem (420-458) testified before the
emperor Marcian (450-457) as to the authenticity of the tradition about
the miraculous ascent of the Mother of God to Heaven, and he sent to the
empress, St Pulcheria (September 10), the grave wrappings of the Mother
of God from Her tomb. St Pulcheria then placed these grave-wrappings
within the Blachernae church.
Accounts have been preserved, that at the end of the seventh century a
church had been built atop the underground church of the Dormition of
the Most Holy Theotokos, and that from its high bell-tower could be seen
the dome of the Church of the Resurrection of the Lord. Traces of this
church are no longer to be seen. And in the ninth century near the
subterranean Gethsemane church a monastery was built, in which more than
30 monks struggled.
Great destruction was done the Church in the year 1009 by the despoiler
of the holy places, Hakim. Radical changes, the traces of which remain
at present, also took place under the crusaders in the year 1130. During
the eleventh to twelfth centuries the piece of excavated stone, at
which the Savior had prayed on the night of His betrayal disappeared
from Jerusalem. This piece of stone had been in the Gethsemane basilica
from the sixth century.
But in spite of the destruction and the changes, the overall original
cruciform (cross-shaped) plan of the church has been preserved. At the
entrance to the church along the sides of the iron gates stand four
marble columns. To enter the church, it is necessary to go down a
stairway of 48 steps. At the 23rd step on the right side is a chapel in
honor of the holy Ancestors-of-God Joachim and Anna together with their
graves, and on the left side opposite, the chapel of St Joseph the
Betrothed with his grave. The right chapel belongs to the Orthodox
Church, and the left to the Armenian Church (since 1814).
The church of the Dormition of the Theotokos has the following
dimensions: in length it is 48 arshin, and in breadth 8 arshin [1 arshin
= 28 inches]. At an earlier time the church had also windows beside the
doors. The whole temple was adorned with a multitude of lampadas and
offerings. Two small entrances lead into the burial-chamber of the
Mother of God. One enters through the western doors, and exits at the
northern doors. The burial-chamber of the All-Pure Virgin Mary is veiled
with precious curtains. The burial place was hewn out of stone in the
manner of the ancient Jewish graves and is very similar to the Sepulchre
of the Lord. Beyond the burial-chamber is the altar of the church, in
which Divine Liturgy is celebrated each day in the Greek language.
The olive woods on the eastern and northern sides of the temple was
acquired from the Turks by the Orthodox during the seventh and eighth
centuries. The Catholics acquired the olive woods on the east and south
sides in 1803, and the Armenians on the west side in 1821.
On August 12, at Little Gethsemane, at the second hour of the night, the
head of the Gethsemane church celebrates Divine Liturgy. With the end
of Liturgy, at the fourth hour of the morning, he serves a short
Molieben before the resplendent burial shroud, lifts it in his hands and
solemnly carries it beyond the church to Gethsemane proper where the
holy sepulchre of the Mother of God is situated. All the members of the
Russian Spiritual Mission in Jerusalem, with the head of the Mission
presiding, participate each year in the procession (called the
"Litania") with the holy burial shroud of the Mother of God..
The rite of the Burial of the Mother of God at Gethsemane begins
customarily on the morning of August 14. A multitude of people with
hierarchs and clergy at the head set off from the Jerusalem Patriarchate
(nearby the Church of the Resurrection of Christ) in sorrowful
procession. Along the narrow alley-ways of the Holy City the funeral
procession makes its way to Gethsemane. Toward the front of the
procession an icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is
carried. Along the way, pilgrims meet the icon, kissing the image of the
All-Pure Virgin Mary and lift children of various ages to the icon.
After the clergy, in two rows walk the black-robed monks and nuns of the
Holy City: Greeks, Roumanians, Arabs, Russians. The procession, going
along for about two hours, concludes with Lamentations at the Gethsemane
church. In front the altar, beyond the burial chamber of the Mother of
God, is a raised-up spot, upon which rests the burial shroud of the Most
Holy Mother of God among fragrant flowers and myrtle, with precious
"O marvelous wonder! The Fount of Life is placed in the grave, and the
grave doth become the ladder to Heaven..." Here at the grave of the
All-Pure Virgin, these words strike deep with their original sense and
grief is dispelled by joy: "Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee,
granting the world, through Thee, great mercy!"
Numerous pilgrims, having kissed the icon of the Dormition of the Most
Holy Theotokos, following an ancient custom, then stoop down and go
On the day of the Leave-taking of the feast (August 23), another solemn
procession is made. On the return path, the holy burial shroud is
carried by clergy led by the Archimandrite of Gethsemane.
There is an article in the "Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate", 1979,
No. 3 regarding the rite of the litany and Feast of the Dormition of the
Mother of God in the Holy Land.
Today flowers are blessed in church, and people keep them in their
homes. During times of family strife or illness, the flower petals are
placed in the censer with the incense, and the whole house is censed.
See the Prayer at the Sanctification of any Fragrant Herbage.
In giving birth you preserved your virginity,
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.
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.
"Converser" Icon of the Mother of God is so named since it depicts the
Mother of God and St Nicholas of Myra conversing with the sacristan
George. This event occurred soon after the appearance of the Tikhvin
Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos in 1383, when the Most Holy Theotokos
Herself commanded sacristan George to say that they should replace the
metal cross on the newly-constructed temple in Her honor at Tikhvin with
a wooden one. At the place of this vision a chapel was built in honor
of St Nicholas the Wonderworker. The chapel burned several times (the
first time was in 1390 at the same time as the church of the Tikhvin
Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos). In 1515, a wooden church was built and
a monastery founded in honor of this holy icon.
The divine Maximus, who was from Constantinople, sprang
from an illustrious family. He was a lover of wisdom and an eminent
theologian. At first, he was the chief private secretary of the Emperor
Heraclius and his grandson Constans. But when the Monothelite heresy
became predominant in the royal court, out of hatred for this error the
Saint departed for the Monastery at Chrysopolis (Scutari), of which he
later became the abbot. When Constans tried to constrain him either to
accept the Monothelite teaching, or to stop speaking and writing against
it - neither of which the Saint accepted to do - his tongue was
uprooted and his right hand was cut off, and he was sent into exile,
where he reposed in 662. At the time only he and his few disciples were
Orthodox in the East. See also January 21.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
You are a guide of Orthodoxy, a teacher of piety and modesty, a
luminary of the world, the God inspired pride of monastics. O wise
Maximos , you have enlightened everyone by your teachings. You are the
harp of the Spirit. Intercede to Christ our God for the salvation of our
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Let us the faithful praise with fitting hymns that lover of the
Holy Trinity, great Maximus, who clearly taught the divinely-given
Faith: that we should give glory unto Christ our God, Who, though but
one hypostasis, hath in very truth two natures, wills, and energies. Let
us cry to him: Rejoice, divine herald of the Faith.
the 18th and 19th centuries the Dagestanis were continually raiding and
pillaging the Davit-Gareji Wilderness. They destroyed churches and
monasteries, stole sacred objects, and tortured and killed many of the
monks who labored there.
A Dagestani army invaded the Davit-Gareji Wilderness in the summer of
1851. They looted the Davit-Gareji Lavra and carried off many of the
monastery’s sacred treasures and books. Then they took many of the monks
captive and tortured a few of the most pious.
First they stabbed Hierodeacon Otar to death, then they beheaded
Hieromonk Gerontius. The unbelievers battered Hieromonk Serapion to
death with their swords. Monk Herman was stabbed in the stomach, then
beheaded Monk. Besarion was also beheaded. The eighteen-year-old Simeon
tried to flee on foot but was shot at with bows and arrows, then caught
and beheaded. Monk Michael, the most outstanding among the brothers in
humility and silence, was subjected to
the harshest tortures.
After their martyrdom the bodies of these holy men were illumined with a divine light.
The martyrdom of the holy fathers of the Davit-Gareji Monastery was
described in 1853 by Hieromonk Isaac of Gaenati, who witnessed the
tragedy. Hieromonk Isaac himself was captured and led away to Dagestan
by the merciless bandits. He was later freed through the mediation of
Tsar Nicholas I (1825–1855).
Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople, was a native of Greece, and
accepted monasticism at Epidauros. After the death of his Elder Anthony,
he went to Athos, where he occupied himself by the copying of books.
The saint was later chosen Metropolitan of Thessalonica, and still later
occupied the Patriarchal throne in Constantinople and was primate of
Banished under accusation, the saint went to Athos, at first to the
Vaptopedi monastery, and then to the monastery of St John the Forerunner
(Dionysiou). He concealed his rank and held the lowest position. By
God's providence, his rank was revealed to the brethren of the
monastery. Once, when the saint was returning from the forest where he
had gone for firewood, all the brethren went out towards him on the way
and solemnly greeted him as Patriarch. But even after this, the saint
shared various tasks with the brethren. He died on August 11, 1460 at 90
years of age.
This Saint, who was born in Spain, was the Archdeacon of
the Church of Rome, caring for the sacred vessels of the Church and
distributing money to the needy. About the year 257, a harsh persecution
was raised up against the Christians by Valerian. Pope Sixtus, who was
from Athens, was commanded to worship the idols, and refused; before his
martyrdom by beheading, he committed to Laurence all the sacred vessels
of the Church. When Laurence was arrested and brought before the
Prefect, he was questioned concerning the treasures of the Church; he
asked for three days' time to prepare them. He then proceeded to gather
all the poor and needy, and presented them to the Prefect and said,
"Behold the treasures of the Church." The Prefect became enraged at this
and gave command that Laurence be racked, then scourged with scorpions
(a whip furnished with sharp iron points - compare II Chron. 10:11),
then stretched out on a red-hot iron grill. But the courageous athlete
of Christ endured without groaning. After he had been burned on one
side, he said, "My body is done on one side; turn me over on the other."
And when this had taken place, the Martyr said to the tyrants, "My
flesh is now well done, you may taste of it." And when he had said this,
and had prayed for his slayers in imitation of Christ, he gave up his
spirit on August 10, 258.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received
the prize of the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal
God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and
wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God,
by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Aflame in thy heart, O Laurence, with the fire divine, thou
burntest away the fire of passions utterly, O firm staff of athletes, O
thou God-bearing Martyr; and thou in truth while contesting didst cry
with faith: Nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ.
Martyrs Julian, Marcian, John, James, Alexius, Demetrius, Photius,
Peter, Leontius, Maria the Patrician, the Protospatharios
("Sword-Captain") Gregory and Others suffered for holy icons in the year
730 under the Iconoclast emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-741). The
emperor deposed the holy Patriarch Germanus (715-730) from the
patriarchal throne and sent him off to prison, raising up onto the
patriarchal throne the iconoclast Athanasius (730-753).
By decree of the emperor, all icons were to be confiscated from homes
and churches and then destroyed. At Constantinople from the time of the
holy Emperor Constantine the Great (324-337) there was over the
so-called "Copper Gates" a wonderworking icon of the Savior, made of
The emperor and heretical Patriarch Anastasius gave orders to seize this
icon. The gathered crowd became outraged at this sacrilege. In the
crowd was the Patrician Maria, a woman of illustrious family, who with
many others rushed to the ladder and pulled it from the wall to keep the
soldier from touching the icon. The ladder came down, and the soldier
standing on it fell to his death. This occurred on January 19, 730. The
Protospatherios ("Sword-Captain") Gregory and the nun St Theodosia (May
29) also took part in the defense of the icon.
Learning of this, the emperor executed a multitude of the faithful, the
names of whom are known only to the Lord. The Protospatherios Gregory
also received a martyr's death. Some of the Orthodox are known, however:
Julian, Marcian, John, James, Alexius, Demetrius, Leontius, Photius and
Peter, who were locked up in prison and kept there for about eight
months, each day receiving 500 blows. In these torments they remained
alive by the power of Christ and bravely endured their sufferings.
By order of the emperor they were burned with a red-hot iron and their
heads cut off. St Maria the Patrician, who had not been locked up in
prison, learning about the executions, voluntarily accepted a martyr's
death. The bodies of the martyrs were buried in a coastal area near the
church of the holy Martyr Theodore, and were discovered incorrupt 139
Myron, Bishop of Crete, a wonderworker, in his youth was a family man,
and worked as a farmer. He was known for his goodness, and he assisted
everyone who turned to him for help. Once, thieves burst in upon his
threshing floor, and St Myron himself helped them lift a sack of grain
upon their shoulders. By his generosity the saint so shamed the thieves,
that in future they began to lead honorable lives.
Out of profound respect for the saint, the Cretan people urged him to
accept ordination to the priesthood in his native city of Raucia, and
afterwards they chose him Bishop of Crete.
Wisely ruling his flock, St Myron received from the Lord the gift of
wonderworking. At the time of a flood on the River Triton, the saint
stopped its flow and went upon it as upon dry land, and then he sent a
man back to the river with his staff to command the river to resume its
course. St Myron fell asleep in the Lord at the age of 100, around the
Pimen, Faster of the Caves, labored in the Far Caves. His abstinence was
such that he ate food only once a day, and only in the most necessary
quantity. His outward fasting corresponded to an inward abstemiousness
from any actions, thoughts or feelings, displeasing to God. St Pimen was
igumen of the Kiev Caves monastery from 1132 to 1141. A second
commemoration of the saint occurs on August 28.
Our Lord had spoken to His disciples many times not only
concerning His Passion, Cross, and Death, but also concerning the coming
persecutions and afflictions that they themselves would endure. Since
all these evils were near at hand, but the enjoyment of good things
which they hoped to receive in their stead was yet to come, our Savior
desired to give them full assurance, evidently and openly, concerning
that glory which is prepared for those who endure to the end. Therefore,
fulfilling that which He had promised shortly before, that "there be
some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son
of man coming in His Kingdom" (Matt. 16:28), He took His three foremost
disciples and ascended Mount Tabor, where He was transfigured before
them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as the
light. Suddenly, together with this dread and marvelous effulgence of
light, there appeared those pinnacles of the Prophets, Moses and Elias,
who spoke with the Lord Jesus concerning His saving Passion which was
about to take place. Standing before Him as reverent servants, they
showed that He is the Lord of both the living and the dead, for Moses
came forth from Hades, having died many centuries before, and Elias, as
it were from heaven, whither he had been taken up while yet alive. After
a little while a radiant cloud overshadowed them and out of the cloud
they heard that same voice which had been heard at the Jordan at the
Baptism of Christ, testifying to the Divinity of Jesus and saying: "This
is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased; hear ye Him" (Matt. 17:
Such are the marvels, truly worthy of God, celebrated in this
present feast, which is an image and prefiguring of the future state of
the righteous, whose splendor the Lord spoke of, saying: "Then shall the
righteous shine forth as the sun" (Matt. 13:43). It is because of this
that the Kontakion of this Feast is said daily (when there is not a
great feast) in the Service of the Typica in perpetual commemoration of
the glory that will be the lot of the Saints. According to tradition,
the Lord's Transfiguration came to pass forty days before His
Crucifixion; this is why the Transfiguration is celebrated forty days
before the Exaltation of the Cross.
Apolytikion in the Grave Tone
You were transfigured on the Mount, Christ God revealing Your
glory to Your disciples, insofar as they could comprehend. Illuminate us
sinners also with Your everlasting light, through the intercessions of
the Theotokos. Giver of light, glory to You.
Kontakion in the Grave Tone
You were transfigured upon the mount, O Christ our God, and Your
disciples, in so far as they could bear, beheld Your glory. Thus, when
they see You crucified, they may understand Your voluntary passion, and
proclaim to the world that You are truly the effulgence of the Father.