Monday, August 19, 2013

Patriarch John X's Sermon for the Feast of the Dormition

This translation is unofficial, but I have not come across any official translation. Arabic original here.

Brothers and loved ones,

The Virgin, whose assumption into heaven we celebrate today, never imagined that she would one day enter into the chamber of everlasting glory in this manner. It never crossed the mind of the daughter of Joachim and Anna that from the threshold of the temple she would cross the threshold of Paradise and have mastery over the angels of heaven. She never once thought from behind the temple veil that the veil of the heavens would be rent at her merely saying, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord." When Mary entered the Lord's temple as a young girl, it never occurred to her that she would rise above the shoulders of the seraphim with just three words, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord." The angel came to her to bring news that she would give birth to Emmanuel, so she asked him, "How can this be when I have not known a man?" There was no hint of doubt in her question and no opposition. The angel said to her, "The power of the Most High will overshadow you and the one to be born of you is the Son of God." She responded, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me as you say." This means, "May it be God's will and not my will." It is as though she anticipates the prayer of her son Jesus, who after thirty years would teach us the same thing: "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done." At this time, the Virgin did not know that with her three words she would knock at the gate of divine compassion and the spring of divine mercy would stream forth for humankind. In a manger in Bethlehem, the Virgin laid her child as a storehouse of love for all humankind. In Bethlehem, the Virgin caused the noetic sun of righteousness to shine forth to the world and from there she followed that sun at every stage of His earthly life until His ascension to the Heavenly Father. The Virgin Mary is the daughter of this human clay that was kneaded with humility and purity, so she provided a blameless dwelling-place for the Word.

The Lord's resurrection is also our resurrection. The Lord's resurrection is the storing-up of virtue and effacement in humility. This is the condition of the Virgin Mary, who did not know that by her saying "Behold the handmaid of the Lord" she would be the first of those who follow the way of resurrection and victory. How could she know this, when she was a simple girl, robed in shyness, who avoided glories and triumphs as much as she could? However, she was never ignorant of the fact that the Lord is generous and inundates from the well of His goodness and benevolence. Mary opened to us the path of the resurrection and so her Son did not leave her to be a prisoner of death. From the temple of Jerusalem to the manger of Bethlehem, to the wedding at Cana of Galilee and thence to the passion, resurrection, and ascension, Mary knew the essence of the true resurrection. She knew that the way of the resurrection is seized by imitating God's will, purifying the soul, and protecting it from the clutches of temptation and vice. The Lord's resurrection is within her, the first person that He made worthy to be a witness to the resurrection of her Son. Thenceforth, from the empty tomb, Mary became the model for fallen humanity to learn from her that humbleness of soul and her following the will of the Most High Lord, leaving aside her own will, is what raises her above the ranks of everlasting glory and adorns her with the true resurrection. Because Mary is the firstborn daughter of the resurrection, the Lord God transported her, soul and body, to be with Him. How not, when she is the one who caused Him to shine forth, light unto light, life unto life, a flash of radiance to enlighten those floundering in utter darkness?

We ask you, O holy Virgin, who was transported by your Son to the chamber of His eternal glory on this day, from this church that has born your name over the ages, to protect all the souls that have basked in the shade of your holy protection. We ask you to intercede before your Son and our God to look down from upon His cross and have pity on your children in Syria and all the world. We ask you to ask Him as you asked Him in Cana of Galilee to fill the vessels of our souls with the wine of His divine consolation. We ask you to wipe away the tears of the sorrowful, to return our country to her original splendor, and to envelop her in the shadow of your protection that never falters. We ask you from within the Maryamiyya Church to entreat the compassion of your Son who hangs upon His cross of glory, that He may anoint with the balm of His divine love souls whose eyes are burdened with tears and a country whose limbs have been torn apart by violence. We ask you to heal sorrowful hearts and return the captives, first among them Metropolitans Boulos and Youhanna. We ask you to embrace our departed with your warm bosom and to bring them near with motherly boldness to the bosom of your Son. We ask you to enter into the cave of our souls, just as you entered into the cave in Bethlehem, and place there an outpouring of the light of your Child, so that he may change our souls into a niche of light for the entire inhabited world. We ask you to place in the manger of our faltering souls a glimmer of divine consolation, just as you placed in the manger of Bethlehem the bottomless well of solace and mercy, Jesus. We ask you to pray from the height of your glory just as you prayed with Jesus' disciples and heal the hearts of those who are called after His name with the sweet balm of your consolation. We ask you, by the Church of John of Damascus, chief of those who compose praises to you, to envelope the children of Damascus with the abundance of your protection and to provide this good country with a breath of your Son's peace. To Him be glory and exaltation forever, amen.

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