The Crown of Christ's Work - A Sermon for the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos (2021)
“God became Man, that man might become God!” Today, this epitome of our whole Orthodox Faith is fulfilled.
Truly, this saying was fulfilled by Christ when He became incarnate, suffered, died, was buried, rose again, and ascended to sit with our human nature upon His Father’s throne far above all the heavens of angels. Since that time, man has become God by grace, but only in potential. Today, these words find their fulfillment in actuality; the Mother of God is translated also to that throne!
Christ revealed to His beloved Apostle: “To him that overcometh I will grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne!” Christ’s saving work, which was worked on behalf of all mankind, is encompassed in the words: “I overcame and am set down with My Father in His throne;” but the words: “I will grant to sit with Me in My throne” are fulfilled today, the Dormition and Translation of the Mother of Christ God!
The perfection and completion of the great work of Christ is both fulfilled today, and foreshadowed. It is fulfilled, because not only does the God-Man sit upon the throne of the Divinity, but a human person has also been brought to sit there in glory. And this itself is a foreshadowing of what will take place when Christ comes again at the end of the world to glorify His saints.
We see fulfilled today the end of Christ’s work, its perfection and crown: the Mother of God is glorified, and according to our Tradition, she is now—not only beyond death, but also—beyond the general Resurrection, having already been resurrected in body. She is also beyond the Second Coming and the Last Judgment, for she now sits—mysteriously—co-enthroned with her Son, “ever reigning as Queen with her God” as the hymns explain. She is the embodiment of our Orthodox Faith! Today, through her, we experience tangibly the great grace of God which over-fills her.
This Feast is the crown of the Church year. This Feast is, and is rightfully called, a Second Pascha. We enter into the Church on this glorious day, feeling ourselves partaking of the glory and grace of the Mother of God who pours her grace out upon us all, making us sharers in her glory.
We who now celebrate this Holy Feast truly experience the great reality of these things; we have come to understand that this Feast is the natural outcome and fulfillment of Christ’s glorious work for all mankind—that human nature should be fully deified, body and soul! His Mother has become our Mother, and we praise her as our Queen, together with all the angels, apostles and saints.
St. Gregory Palamas—echoing the divine Damascene, “the slave of the Virgin”—reveals to us that it is only through the Mother of God that angels and men partake of any gift from Christ God, whether temporal or eternal, whether in this life or that to come. The saints glorify and praise her as the divine treasury of God through whom God bestows His many divine and eternal gifts.
Truly, this mystery is explained by that great hymn of the Virgin herself: “My soul doth magnify the Lord!” She does not detract from the glory of God, but rather magnifies and multiplies it, just as a prism does not take away the beautiful rays of the sun, but rather shows it forth to be more beautiful by refracting its light into a many-colored rainbow. In the Virgin, God is glorified and seen more clearly! And by His exalting her, we perceive even more the greatness of His love which seeks to give us the all of Himself. Let us respond in love to this great love of God, Who is Himself Love, Three Persons in One Nature, Who has united our one nature of many persons to Himself forever through the mediation of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos!
Let one weep for their failings and sins in their icon corner, begging mercy from God. Let another zealously serve others in love. Let another give alms as much as they are able. Let another offer hospitality according to their abilities. Let the priests serve the divine services in reverence, and not complain when called to sacrifice themselves for the flock, for they have been given the grace to absolve sins and to guide the portion of Christ. Let parents exert all their effort in the loving care of their children, teaching them faith, piety, and love for Christ. Let spouses lay down their lives for one another.
Let those who are freed from material cares rejoice, exerting themselves in acquiring ever greater interior stillness. Let those who have tasted the love of God, beg Him for more of it, and manifest it in all their being to all whom they encounter. Let the laborer labor. Let the humble increase their humility. Let the proud humble themselves. Let those who enjoy the grace of God’s peace seek from Him to be ever over-filled with it. Let those who are more mild-tempered seek to understand the bloody struggle of those who are more hot-tempered. Let those who battle with rage reverence the meek.
Let the one who has much give to the impoverished. Let the one who has only a word of encouragement give it, and not restrain it. Let those who know how to pray in attentiveness not become puffed up. Let those who fast offer their sacrifice without judging others. Let those who eat well not condemn the ascetic as a proud zealot. Let all of us offer what we have, beg of the Lord more grace, and seek to build each other up, not tearing down the House of God, which we are; for we, Orthodox Christians, are called to be the holy habitation of the Most Holy God—Trinity-in-Unity. If we do this, then we will all come into the great unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which has been poured out upon us through the Most Pure and Most Holy Mother of God, our Sweetest Lady, Protectress, Intercession and Salvation, our Mother and Helper!
Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior, save us! Amen!
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