St John of Damascus on the Dormition


This great Saint of our Church gave three homilies on the Dormition, which are believed to have been given at the all-night vigils held at the Church of the Theotokos’ tomb in Gethsemane.

The first homily delves into the life of Panagia and her role in the Incarnation. After going through her connection to the Old Testament and her life, it ends on a description of her tomb as a place of life and healing.

The second homily is the longest. It covers in greater detail the death, funeral and glorious assumption of the Theotokos. A key focus here is on the tomb being unable to contain the birth-giver of the Source of Life.

The third homily focuses more heavily on the importance for all of humanity of the Theotokos being the first human to rise from her tomb to share in the eternal life of her Son.

What comes through more than anything else in these homilies is the great love of St John for the Theotokos. We can see this through the many titles he gives her, such as “lady” and “queen”, as well as when he asks, “But what is sweeter than the Mother of my God? She has captivated my mind; she has kidnapped my tongue!”

It is for this reason that St John begs his listeners to flee from sin by describing the revulsion the Theotokos has for evil and the great love she has for virtue. The way for us to “make our own remembrance of her into a rich monument,” is to adopt purity as a way of life in the same way that she did.

These homilies and many others can be found in On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies published in the Popular Patristics Series by St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.


Source: Lychnos August–September 2020