The Birth and Death of Mary

Saved Between the Birth and Death of Mary

Salvation is a journey from birth to death—and then to birth again.

The calendar of our Church begins and ends with the story of salvation through Jesus Christ. And in that salvation story, the gateway—from birth to death—is the life of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.

The ecclesiastical year begins on indiction, or September 1st, following the calendar established for the Christian Roman Empire. There are twelve Great Feasts of the Church year, plus Pascha (Easter). The first Great Feast of the year is the Nativity of Mary (Sept. 8). Our year in the Lord begins with the birth of the Theotokos to her faithful parents Joachim and Anna, by which we understand how God was working with his people in the smallest of ways to help bring about our reunion with him in Christ. And by design, the year concludes with her death—her “dormition” or “falling asleep,” commemorated on August 15th.

The Dormition commemoration (preceded by 14 days of fasting) has been likened to a “Summer Pascha,” and there are many similarities between the death of Christ and the death of his holy mother.

According to tradition, the Mother of God reposed at 3 pm on August 13th, at the very hour her own son died on the cross. She spent three days in Hades, and was assumed or received bodily into Paradise when her time was complete—just as with her son. The apostle Thomas is late-arriving to the funeral for the Mother of God, and goes in despair to see her tomb. When he examines the tomb, he is both delighted and astonished, along with the rest of the apostles, to find her body missing—just as the myrrh-bearing women had discovered with Christ.

If the birth of Mary teaches us about the careful providence and orchestration of the Lord in the restoration of creation through the second person of the Trinity, then her death and assumption teaches us about the promise of salvation given to us in him.

Mary is the first Christian, the first bodily temple of the Holy Spirit, the new ark of the covenant, and the first-fruit of the resurrection after Christ. She is an example both for individual Christians and the Church as a whole. As many references as are found in the Scriptures to the Church (whether in typology, prophecy, apocalypse, or epistle), just as many can be rightly applied and understood as a reference to the Mother of God. Rather than being either/or, it is a clear case of both/and.

By following Mary’s example—saying “yes” to God and receiving his Spirit within us—we are led through the doorway of salvation. She is Jacob’s ladder, to be sure, but she is also our mother, our guide, and our heavenly intercessor. She is the woman and the new Eve, and—just as with the wedding at Cana—Jesus listens to her prayers.

In birth, you preserved your virginity; in death, you did not abandon the world, O Theotokos. As mother of life, you departed to the source of life, delivering our souls from death by your intercessions.

Dormition Apolytikion

By book-ending our liturgical commemorations with her birth and death, the Church has given us a clear picture of how we are to be saved.

It is between her birth and death that we may find salvation; it is between her birth and death that we may find Christ. She is the true mother of life, and has departed this world in death to seek out true life for all who call upon both her and her son.

And so, we rightly cry out: “Most holy Theotokos, save us.”

3 comments:

  1. Please forgive me if i am wrong, and correct me if need be correction. In Acts 1:13-14, St. Luke gives account of everyone in the upper room where they came to pray. In verse 14 it reads, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. According to your blog, “the Mother of God reposed at 3 pm on August 13th, at the very hour her own son died on the cross.” If she had died the very same day Jesus had “given up the ghost”, how then would she be with the apostles 50 days after Christs resurrection to receive the Holy Ghost with the apostles?

  2. Hello!
    I’m a Christian, and been reading, learning and closely following Orthodox faith for my own understanding and walk of faith, since last year.

    As you can guess, the doctine of Theotokos is something I admittedly struggle with. I pray and rely on God’s leading through His Spirit. Could I please seek clarification on your last sentence where you mention the prayer to Theotokos to save us. Isn’t Christ who alone can save? What does “save” in this context mean? And what about the “brethren ” mentioned in the passage cited by bro Jeremy above?

    Thank you very much for your willingness to respond to this query.

    In Him,
    Irene M.

    Ps. Please ignore my previous comment. It got posted sooner by mistake.

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