Life of Jesus
The Feast of the Assumption (Shounoyo) of Virgin MaryAugust,14 2015
“For behold, all generation will call me blessed”
According to our Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch; this feast, which is called Shounoyo (the Assumption), commemorates the death, resurrection and glorification of the Lord's mother. It proclaims that Mary has been "assumed" by God into the heavenly kingdom of Christ in the fullness of her spiritual and bodily existence. the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (Theotokos-Yoldath Aaloho-God Bearer), which is celebrated on August 15; also called in old liturgical books: the Feast of Virgin Mary of the Vine and always preceded by a fast.
According to Orthodox Tradition, Mary died like all humanity, "falling asleep," so to speak, as the name of the feast indicates. She died as all people die, not "voluntarily" as her Son, but by the necessity of her mortal human nature, which is indivisibly bound up with the corruption of this world.
This Feast has dual objects: (1) the happy departure of Mary from this earthly life; (2) the assumption of her body into heaven after her death. It is the principal feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The fact of the assumption
Regarding the day, year, and manner of the Virgin Mary's death, nothing certain is known. The earliest known literary reference to the Assumption is found in the Syriac account of St. Thomas. Church faith, however, has always been derived from our knowledge of this mystery from the Apostolic Tradition. The date of the Assumption varies between three and fifteen years after Christ's Ascension into heaven. Two cities claim to be the place of her departure: Jerusalem and Ephesus. Common consent favors Jerusalem where her tomb is shown; but some argue in favor of Ephesus, which is assumed to be the Virgin Mary’s home with St. John the Evangelist for a while.
Other than that, the belief in the corporeal assumption of Virgin Mary is founded on the apocryphal treatise bearing the name of St. John, which belongs however to the fourth or fifth century. It is also found in a spurious letter attributed to St. Dionysius the Areopagite (d. 95) bishop of Athena. If we check the genuine writings in the East, it is mentioned in the poems of St. Jacob of Sarug (d. 521) and in the sermons of St. Andrew of Crete, and others.
Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcianos and Pulcheria who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas the Apostle, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.
The feast of the assumption
According to the tradition of the Syriac Orthodox Church, after witnessing her Son’s ascension into heaven, St. Mary accompanied the disciples to the upper room, the site of our St. Mark Monastery in Jerusalem. There she lived constantly praying with the faithful until few days of her departure, the Holy Spirit informed all Apostles of the Lord as well as Virgin Mary of her forthcoming departure from this vain world. When the time drew near, the disciples and the virgins of the Mt. of Olives came and St. Mary was lying on her bed in the upper room in Jerusalem. Our Lord, surrounded by thousands of angels, appeared to her. She was happy, and she stretched out her hand, blessed the Disciples, and the Virgins. Then, she delivered up her pure soul in the hands of her Son and God, Jesus Christ, Who ascended her to the higher habitations. The Apostles and the disciples carried her body to Gethsemane where they entombed her.
According to the tradition of the Apostolic Church, three days after her death, the Angles came and carried her to heaven. In those moments, St. Thomas arrived in Jerusalem from India where he was preaching. He saw the heavenly procession and the baffling view of Virgin Mary with angels. He hesitated and was confused. He then asked her for a sign, and he saw the girdle (belt) of the Virgin coming down from above and falling into his hands. When he met with the disciples, they informed him about St. Mary's departure. He told them, "I will not believe unless I see her body" They took him to the tomb to uncover and show the body but they found the tomb empty. They were perplexed and amazed. St. Thomas told them how he saw the pure body ascending into heaven, carried by angels, he showed them her belt, which was known to them, as a sign, and they believed him. St. Thomas took the girdle with him to India where he blessed the faithful with. The belt was later taken to Urhoy-Edessa, and then to Homs where it is kept up to the present day in our Church called “the Church of the Mother of the Girdle.”
The relics of the saints and martyrs and their veneration in the Holy Church of Antioch is a long established tradition. Throughout the centuries, faithful Christians have looked upon the relics and lives of saints as a source of healing and inspiration. This tradition is still alive in the Church and continues to play an important and significant role in the spiritual life of the faithful. Among the sacred relics, we have the belt of the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God, which is in the possession of our Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is a leading a true example of Motherhood both for our Mother Church of Antioch and all mothers.
Let us ask our mother Virgin Mary, saying:
“O, you who are the pride of the faithful, offer, on our behalf supplications to the only Begotten Son who sprang forth from you that He may have mercy upon us”.
We entreat her, as the human being who was most intimate with Christ on earth, to intercede with her Son on our behalf.
By your intercession O Mother of God, may Christian faithful live at ease.
By your prayers, may the virtuous women be protected under the wings of your holiness, the faithful departed be absolved and the Church and her children lead a life of harmony, love and faith.
By virtue of your petition, may our Patriarch and all prelates, be protected, with them, we who are weak, together with all the deacons and the faithful who are serving the church whole over the world, live a life of peace and tranquility, Amen.
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