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Theotokos and resurrection?


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#1 A.C. Lumsden

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 03:48 AM

From the earliest times, we read in the Christian literature of antiquity, conflicting accounts of what happened to the Theotokos: 1. John of Damascus, (Patrologia Graeca, 96) states that at Chalcedon (451AD), the Bishop of Jerusalem proclaimed that Mary died in the presence of the Apostles. However, upon the Emperor Marcian and Pulcherian's demand for Her body (a prized relic now!), they found the tomb empty. 2. Then, there is the older De Obitu S. Dominae, which is very mysterious. Like Elijah, the Theotokos was 'caught up into heaven'. Roman Catholics use the phrase 'assumed into heaven' (which is more in keeping with #2 in the above).

My question is, as I am a Roman Catholic, what do the Ancient Patriarchal Sees of the East (Jerusalem, Antioch, Syria and Alexandria), teach on this matter today- do you chaps speak of the 'resurrection' of the Theotokos (as the first of the Glorified)?

In Domino Iesv Christe


#2 Olga

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 04:31 AM

My question is, as I am a Roman Catholic, what do the Ancient Patriarchal Sees of the East (Jerusalem, Antioch, Syria and Alexandria), teach on this matter today- do you chaps speak of the 'resurrection' of the Theotokos (as the first of the Glorified)?


No, they do not, and neither do any of the Orthodox churches under Patriarchates of more recent origin :-) . The service for the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, sung in every Orthodox church the world over, clearly and repeatedly states that she died, in the presence of the Apostles (except Thomas), and that she was buried at Gethsemane. When St Thomas did arrive, three days later, he entered her tomb and found it empty. This "translation" is also mentioned frequently in the hymnody, as is her new and eternal life with her Son and God. Nowhere is this expressed as a "resurrection" in the way that Christ was raised from the dead.

Some selections from this loveliest of Marian feasts:

In giving birth you retained your virginity; in falling asleep, O Mother of God, you did not abandon the world. You passed over into life, you, the Mother of life; and by your prayers you deliver our souls from death. (Troparion of the feast)


It was fitting for the eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word to see the Falling Asleep of His Mother according to the flesh, the final mystery concerning her, that they might not only see the Ascension of the Saviour from the earth, but also be witnesses to the Translation from earth of her who bore Him. Therefore, carried over from all parts by divine power, they came to Zion and escorted her, as she who is higher than the Cherubim hastened towards heaven. With them we venerate her as she intercedes for our souls.

When you departed, Virgin Mother of God, to Him who was born ineffably from you, James, God’s brother and first Hierarch, was present with Peter, the most honoured high summit of the Theologians, and all the godly choir of the Apostles; in teachings that revealed the things of God they sang in praise of the divine and amazing mystery of Christ’s dispensation; and as they buried your body, the source of life and which had received God, O all-praised Lady, they rejoiced. From above the all-holy and most venerable of the Angelic Powers, amazed at the wonder, bowed and said to one another: ‘Raise your gates and receive her who gave birth to the Maker of heaven and earth. And let us praise with hymns of glory the revered and holy body which contained the Lord on whom we may not look’. Therefore we too, as we celebrate your memory, cry out to you, all-praised: ‘Exalt the horn of Christians and save our souls’.


Pure Virgin, sprung from mortal loins, your final departure was in conformity with nature; but, as you gave birth to the true life, you have passed over to the one who is the divine life in person.


Death has become for you, pure Virgin, a crossing to an eternal and better life, translating you from one which perishes to one which is truly divine and without change, to gaze in joy upon your Son and Lord.

O you Apostles, assembled here from the ends of the earth, bury my body in Gethsemane; and You, my Son, receive my spirit.
(Exaposteilarion of the feast)

#3 Brian Rowlands

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 08:09 AM



O you Apostles, assembled here from the ends of the earth, bury my body in Gethsemane; and You, my Son, receive my spirit.
(Exaposteilarion of the feast)


There is a small omission:

..........and You, my son AND MY GOD, receive my spirit.

#4 A.C. Lumsden

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 02:03 PM

Thanks Olga and Dr Rowlands. I had a an idea that the East, like the West (Rome), did not believe and or use the word 'resurrection' with regard to the Theotokos. However, being Roman Catholic, the polite and correct protocol was to ask you chaps. Thanks again.

Now, you seem to have taken the first account, i.e. that of John of Damascus, the Theotokos died, and that when the body was asked for, the tomb was found empty, etc. What accounts for the disappearence of the body?

#5 Brian Rowlands

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 03:55 PM

Tradition holds that the apostle Thomas arrived later than the other apostles, who had gathered at the death of the Theotokos and who had performed her funeral. As Thomas neared Gethsemane he saw the Mother of God rising up towards heaven (presumably he was not aware that she had died) and called out to her; she passed to him her girdle, which is currently to be found on Mount Athos (at the monastery of Vatopedi?).

When Thomas met the other apostles he would not believe their report that Mary had died and was buried and insisted that the tomb be opened. When the tomb was opened it was found to contain nothing but fragrant roses and lilies. Of the body there was no trace, nor has there ever been any claim that a body or part(s) thereof could be produced.

Thereafter the apostles no doubt came to the conclusion that, having died and there being no body in the tomb, the Theotokos' soul and body have been reunited and are now in heaven with Jesus.

#6 Antonios

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 08:05 PM

Tradition holds that the apostle Thomas arrived later than the other apostles, who had gathered at the death of the Theotokos and who had performed her funeral. As Thomas neared Gethsemane he saw the Mother of God rising up towards heaven (presumably he was not aware that she had died) and called out to her; she passed to him her girdle, which is currently to be found on Mount Athos (at the monastery of Vatopedi?).

When Thomas met the other apostles he would not believe their report that Mary had died and was buried and insisted that the tomb be opened. When the tomb was opened it was found to contain nothing but fragrant roses and lilies. Of the body there was no trace, nor has there ever been any claim that a body or part(s) thereof could be produced.

Thereafter the apostles no doubt came to the conclusion that, having died and there being no body in the tomb, the Theotokos' soul and body have been reunited and are now in heaven with Jesus.


This is the account I am familiar with.

It is also my understanding that the Theotokos is (after Christ, of course), the only person in their glorified resurrected body. Is this correct? This, a special dispensation by the Lord because she is His mother?

#7 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 02:57 PM

My understanding is that Olga is correct. Here is a quote from St John of Damascus' Homily I On the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God:

But even though your holy and blessed soul was separated from your privileged, immaculate body, and your body was committed to burial, as custom demanded, still it did not remain in death, nor was it dissolved by corruption. For she whose virginity remained undamaged in childbirth also kept her body undamaged in her passage through death.



In other words the Mother of God was not held by death. And that is why according to the developed tradition her body was not found in the tomb. However the Church is careful not to describe this reuniting of body & soul as a resurrection in which case she would have come forth from the tomb incorrupt but rather as a free gift from her Son which allows her to live now in heaven in anticipation of the fullness of the resurrected state of all to come.

In other words the tradition of the body of the Mother of God passing through death is carefully placed within the present dispensation of the Church whereby she intercedes for all. It is not meant to represent the final restoration of all things- which is likely what the Church was trying to avoid when it portrayed the Mother of God in the tradition of her dormition.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#8 A.C. Lumsden

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 01:13 PM

Thank you Fr Raphael. I understand the Orthodox view on this matter so much clearer now. The Roman and Greeks are similar in theology here, we just seem to use different words and terms.

In Domino Iesv Christe
ACLumsden




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