The Dormition of the Mother of God


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.
Troparion of the Feast – Tone 1

It is easy to be put off by Orthodox devotion to the Mother of God when coming at Orthodoxy from a Protestant background. Both because of a fear that anything should compete with God (she does not) and because of erroneous interpretation of Scripture by Protestants on the subject of Mary.

I cannot begin tonight to write an in-depth explanation and defense of Orthodox teaching regarding Mary, other than to say that her place in theology is a seamless garment with the doctrine of Christ’s incarnation and the proper reading of both Old and New Testaments. She is accorded the unique place she holds in the Church’s piety precisely because she holds a unique place in the economy of our salvation.

St. Maximus the Confessor correctly stated that the Incarnation is the Cause of Everything (this follows from Colossians 1:16 where it is stated that “all things were created for Him [Christ].” St. Maximus’ interpretation is the only possible correct one in light of Scripture’s teaching that the “lamb was slain before the foundations of the earth” (Rev. 13:8). The world was created for the Incarnate God, the Second Adam. It is also true that there is no Incarnate God apart from Mary. The Orthodox devotion to her stands precisely at that moment. She is united, bone of bone and flesh of flesh, with the very Cause of the universe.

The other side of our devotion to her, is, quite frankly, personal. We know her. She is the mother of the Church. How can we not love her who was given to us at the Cross itself? How can we not love the Mother of our Savior and God? How is it possible for Christians to ignore her?

“The Queen stood at Thy right hand, arrayed in golden robes, all glorious” (Psalm 44:9 LXX).

But today is not a day to argue such matters, but a day of feasting and celebration. It is her feast day.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.



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15 responses to “The Dormition of the Mother of God”

  1. fatherstephen Avatar

    In the Orthodox feast of the Dormition, we mark the death of the Mother of God. In the icon Christ is shown holding a child – which represents the soul of his mother. Tradition holds that three days after her burial, her tomb was found empty. Orthodox piety believes that God did not allow His mother to lie corrupt in the earth, but assumed her body into heaven, where she now knows the fullness of resurrection, as shall all who believe in Christ.

  2. David_Bryan Avatar

    Sprazdnikom, Father.

  3. Ian Avatar

    A blessed Feast Day to you, your family and your parish Father.

  4. Meg Lark Avatar
    Meg Lark

    С праздником!

    This will probably sound ridiculous coming from an ex-Catholic, but — it was precisely *because* of the Catholic adulation of her that for many, many years, I would have nothing to do with the Theotokos. It certainly did come across as not only competing with God, but even, in most instances, *replacing* God (though that was always firmly denied). Yet I credit her completely with introducing me to the Orthodox Church, and over the years, I actually have come to love her — reading the Stavrotheotokia of the Church helped greatly. May she guide us all to a level of devotion to her Son that will be pleasing to her, as His Mom.

  5. Mike L. Avatar
    Mike L.

    Fr. Stephen:

    I would very much like to read an in-depth explanation of the Church’s devotion to the Theotokos. I’m a recent convert to Orthodoxy (this March), following 27 years of Evangelicalism, so honoring the Theotokos in this way is a difficult concept for me to get used to. My wife and I have been attending the evening Paraclesis services, and she is attending today’s Liturgy, for the express purpose of better understanding the Theotokos’ role in the Church. But, I would still appreciate any thoughts on this topic that would help a converted Orthodox. Instead of imposing on your time to write something, I would be very satisfied with any reading recommendations you might have regarding this topic. On the other hand, I can tell you enjoy writing, so if the time permits….

    Your blog has been a source of encouragement, and the recent one-story/two-story articles were very good in explaining the Orthodox view of what “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” really means.

  6. Mike L. Avatar
    Mike L.

    Fr. Stephen

    When I looked up the two Bible references, Rev. 12:8 and Ps. 44:9, they did not jibe with the references in my (admitingly Protestant) Bible.

  7. Lost and Found Avatar
    Lost and Found

    As an ex-protestant, the verse that converted me to the veneration of the theotokos was the fifth commandment. Of course, Christ would honor His mother! Of course, we ought to imitate him!

    Now I cherish the words of our veneration: More honorable than the cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, WITHOUT DEFILEMENT YOU GAVE BIRTH TO GOD THE WORD!

    No angel ever did that! And in our beloved and venerable mother, we see the promise of what our Lord intends for us all: glorification in Him.

    Thank you for providing these warm and insightful blogposts.

  8. fatherstephen Avatar

    Mike, I wrote down the Rev. reference wrong – should have been 13:8

    Also the Septuagint Psalms (LXX) are numbered differently than the ones in a Protestant bible, and this particular verse is slightly different in the LXX text.

  9. Mimi Avatar

    Father, bless.

    Happy Feast Day.

  10. […] The Dormition of the Mother of God [image] In giving birth you preserved your virginity, In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos. You […] […]

  11. Stephen Avatar

    a great little book on the Theotokos to read is ” Mary the Birthgiver of God” by St. John Maximovitch, translated by Seraphim Rose. A smal but dynamic book that helps explain the verneration of the Theotokos. A great help to those who are coming out or have come out of protestantism and it’s fear of misplacing Christ with a human.

  12. Dolly Avatar

    “Yes” to Stephen’s recommendation. A chewier reading is George Gabriel’s “Mary: The Untrodden Portal of God.”

  13. Martha Avatar

    Father, bless — I have always wondered why the Gospel reading on the Theotokos’ feast days is Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28, juxtaposing 2 scenes from our Lord’s life . . .

    Any clarity on why this stands as the reading (in the Greek tradition at least) and why we’re suddenly thrust from the house in Bethany to a group/crowd setting would be most helpful.

    Thank you, many years!
    Martha (DealingWithEaling)

  14. fatherstephen Avatar


    It is interesting that this is the gospel reading on all feasts of the Theotokos, at the Divine Liturgy (Russian as well). It’s emphasis is on the verses: “Mary has chosen the better part” and “…my mother… is she who does the will of my father in heaven…”

    Instead of focusing on the purely historical character of the role of the Theotokos (which is not neglected in the readings for Vespers and Matins), instead her role as faithful Christian is emphasized. It’s not an either or, but it is necessary to look at all the services of a feast in order to get the entire picture. Too often this is not possible or not done in parish life.

  15. Martha Avatar

    Many, many thanks Father.

    Continued inspiration & success with your site!

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