The Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem – August 2018
Virgin Mary (the Mother of God- Holy Theotokos) has a distinctive role in Christianity, chosen by God for her purity and faith to be the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Holy Gospel of St. John chapter 19, we read that our Lord apparently charges St. John to care for Virgin Mary. In the book of Acts 1:13-14 we read that Virgin Mary was an integrate part of the Early Church in Jerusalem. Early Church tradition gives special reverence to the Blessed Virgin and her important role.
According to early tradition, after Virgin Mary passed away, she was buried by the apostles. Of all the apostles, St. Bartholomew, however, could not arrive in Jerusalem during time for the funeral. When he finally arrived in the city, the tomb of Virgin Mary was opened, but her body was not there anymore. The empty tomb in the Early Church is the proof that Virgin Mary did not taste death, but was asleep. Choirs of singing angels were heard for three days and nights.
The Apostolic tradition tells us that Christ Himself took Virgin Mary up to heaven, upon which this important feast is based. Around the time that St. Helena, the mother of St. Constantine the Great, had churches built on various holy sites, also the Church of the Tomb of the Virgin Mary was built.
The Early Church Father St. Epiphanius of Salamis (310-403 AD) mentioned the site of the tomb of Virgin Mary. Bishop Juvenal of Jerusalem
also testified of the tomb of the Holy Mother of God, and mentioned that her grave was empty.
For long Christian faith holds reverence for Virgin Mary, and beseeches her intercession.
In the words of St. Athanasius: “It becomes you to think of us, as you stand near Him, the One Who granted you all graces, for you are the Mother of God and our Queen. Help us for the sake of the King, the Lord God Master Who was born from you”.
During the celebrations of the Feast of the Dormition of Virgin Mary, many people visit her tomb. Early in the morning, when it is still dark, a large group of clergy and faithful walks from the Armenian Monastery of St. James all the way to Virgin Mary’s tomb. Having arrived, they burn candles and pray, and participate in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
The many pilgrims pray and place their lit candles also on the sides of the stairs leading down to the tomb. They fill the Church with their prayers and devotion, and the lit candles illuminate the space, and the holiness of the Church shines on this feast day even more.
Connected to the words of Christ in Matthew 9:24, Mark 5:39 and Luke 8: 52-53, when He talked about a young girl who “was not dead, but sleeping”. In the Gospel of Mark we read the famous words ”Talitha Kumi”.