Archbishop Elpidophoros of America delivered a homily on the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos
at the Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church in Island Park, New York on August 15, 2023.
“As all of you know, the Theotokos reposed on Mount Zion, near the place where the Mystical Supper was held in the Upper Room. But she chose herself to be buried at the base of the Mount of Olives, near to her own parents, Saints Joachim and Anna, the grandparents of the Lord,” the Archbishop of America said.
“For the humanity of the Mother of God forms the substance of the Son of Man, Who came to save us from sin and from death. From her Virgin womb, the Lord of All Creation took flesh,” he stressed.
“And it was His flesh that, hanging upon the Cross, suspended between Heaven and Earth, manifested the Ladder of our Ascent to the Divine,” the Archbishop added.
Read the full homily of Archbishop of America:
Beloved in the Lord,
I rejoice in celebrating with you the feastday of your parish, the Dormition of the Most Holy Virgin Mother of God. This feast is so important in understanding the meaning of our own lives. For the Mother of God was the first to be raised to everlasting life, and to taste the fruits of her Son’s Glorious Resurrection. In doing so, she demonstrated to every generation of Christians the evidence of the promise of God.
And we have now become witnesses of and participants in this profound miracle, just as the Disciples, who gathered from afar – ἐκ περάτων – throughout these many days of Paraklesis services leading up to this particular feast.
The Garden of Gethsemane, which proved for her Son and our Lord a place of prayer that turned into a place of agony and betrayal, has been shown to be a garden of virtue and peacefulness once again. The Apostles bear the Mother’s earthly remains to a tomb that becomes a ladder to Heaven!
As all of you know, the Theotokos reposed on Mount Zion, near the place where the Mystical Supper was held in the Upper Room. But she chose herself to be buried at the base of the Mount of Olives, near to her own parents, Saints Joachim and Anna, the grandparents of the Lord.
By being buried at the base of the Mount of Olives, she plants herself as a foundation stone upon which the Mountain rises, until it finds, at its peak, the place where the Lord ascended into Heaven. Thus, she is the footing, the first rung on the Ladder to Heaven of which Jacob dreamed, as we read from the Book of Genesis tonight:
And Jacob dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to Heaven: and behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it.*
She is the source of the Ladder that the Lord promised his Disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you. From this moment on you will behold the Heavens open and the Angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man!” †
For the humanity of the Mother of God forms the substance of the Son of Man, Who came to save us from sin and from death. From her Virgin womb, the Lord of All Creation took flesh. And it was His flesh that, hanging upon the Cross, suspended between Heaven and Earth, manifested the Ladder of our Ascent to the Divine.
Now, in her Dormition, the Virgin seals her part in the Divine Drama of our salvation, by anchoring the Ladder of Divine Ascent in her tomb. Thus, we chant:
Ὢ τοῦ παραδόξου θαύματος! Ἡ πηγὴ τῆς ζωῆς, ἐν μνημείῳ τίθεται, καὶ κλῖμαξ πρὸς οὐρανόν, ὁ τάφος γίνεται.
What a strange and marvelous wonder! The well-spring of life is laid in a grave, and the tomb becomes a ladder to Heaven. ‡
She is now completely enfolded in the life of God. She has fulfilled the promise of the Resurrection. She lives in Heaven as a guarantee, a promissory commitment that we will live there, too, because we share the human nature with her, that she shares with her Son.
Therefore, my beloved Christians, let us embrace our Panagia tonight with love and devotion! Let us recognize in her, our first step to ascending the Ladder of Divine Ascent. The Lord grew within her ever-virgin womb for nine months and was born into the world. Through our Baptism, through our Chrismation, and through every Divine Eucharist, the Lord grows within our souls, yearning to be manifested in the world through our love, our compassion, our mercy and our philanthropy.
What step of devotion and love are we prepared to take?
Brothers and sisters, let us, like the Prophet Jacob, awaken from our sleep, from the slumber of sin and sloth that can overwhelm us.
When Jacob awoke from that dream of the Heavenly Ladder, he was shaken with holy awe and said:
“This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”§
Through the intercessions of the Holy Theotokos, whose Holy Dormition we embrace with love, may we know the holiness of this and every house of God, and may we be counted worthy to pass through the gate of Heaven and ascend by the Ladder made for our sake, and for the sake of the whole world. Amen.
Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America