We read in various accounts how Christ hastened to grant the requests of His mother. In His first miracle in Cana, the Virgin asked Christ to, “show that Thou canst do all things, Thou Who has in wisdom created all things.” And Christ replied, “Woman (My Lady), what is it to Me and thee?” (John 2:4)
First I want to point out that the term “woman” is inaccurate. The Greek word that was used is Gynai which in those days translated to a term usually reserved for royalty meaning madame or my lady. So contrary to explanations used in many non-Orthodox circles, Christ was in no way disrespecting or degrading His own mother (which doesn’t make sense to me anyway and I don’t see how someone can believe He would do such a thing. But that’s a whole ‘nother post. :))
Near the end of Theotokos’ life she prayed for three things:
- To not see the vile and wicked faces of the demons.
- To be told 3 days before she was to repose in order to prepare. (If she needed 3 days to prepare I truly need a lifetime!)
- For the apostles to be present at her departure.
The Theotokos’ lived in the house of St. John the Theologian ever since the Crucifixion when Christ appointed St. John to be her caretaker. It is written that he never left her side except for short periods of time. St. Mary Magdalene also lived with them. The apostles would seek counsel from her often and she offered words of comfort to them and thus they had a very close relationship with her.
As usual Christ did not let His mother’s prayers go unanswered and three days before she was to depart this life, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her while she was praying on the Mount of Olives. He told her, “Thy Son and our God, with the Angels, Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim, and all the heavenly spirits and the souls of the righteous will receive thee, His Mother, into the heavenly Kingdom that thou mayest live and reign with Him forever.”
Tradition has is that this occured on a Friday. The Archangel then told her the hour of her death and as a sign of all this he gave her a date palm branch from Paradise, which shone with the light of heavenly grace. It signified that bodily death would not have power over her. She would merely fall asleep for a short time and, then, as if waking from sleep, would rise and shake off death like sleep from the eyes. The Archangel told her that the branch was to be carried before the bier of her most honorable and pure body.”
The Theotokos hastened quickly to her home where she gave the news of her impending departure to the rest of the household which included, St. Mary Magdalene, Sepphora, Abigail and Jael, who began to mourn their orphanhood. But she consoled them promising to interceded for them and all the world. She then ordered that her bed and room should be decorated and incense and and many lamps as possible be lit in it. She then changed her clothes and basically made all necessary preparations for her burial.
While the Theotokos was making all of these arrangements, all of a sudden a noise was heard, similar to a clap of thunder. A cloud then encircled the home of St. John the Theologian. By the command of God, angels had seized the apostles that were scattered to the ends of the world and brought them on clouds to Jerusalem. All, save the Apostle Thomas, were then placed on Sion before the door of the house where the Theotokos dwelt.
Upon seeing one another, the holy Apostles rejoiced, but at the same time they wondered, saying, “Why has the Lord gathered us together in this place?” St. John then informed them of the speedy departure of the most holy Mother of God. Then the holy Apostles understood that the Lord had gathered them from to be present at the blessed end of His immaculate Mother, and for the honorable burial of her body. Nevertheless, her departure from among them brought intense sorrow to their hearts.
The Apostles then greeted her with these words, “Blessed art thou of the Lord Who made Heaven and Earth!” She then responded, “Peace to you, brethren, chosen by the Lord Himself.”
They told her of all that occured, that Peter came from Rome, Mark from Alexandria, Matthew on a boat, and where the others were carried from. Paul fell at her feet, praising and blessing her and saying, “Rejoice, Mother of my life and my preaching! Gazing on thee now, I think that I see thy Son.” Already the divine Paul’s close disciples had arrived, that is, St. Dionysios the Areopagite, St. Hierotheos, Apostle Timothey and other godly-wise hierarchs. Also present were the rest of the Seventy Apostles.
The Theotokos then called each apostle by name to herself to bid them farewell and she praised their faith and labors in the preaching of Jesus Christ. After much lamenting, she said to them, “Watch and pray with me, that when the Lord comes to receive my soul, He may find you watching. Then all promised and prayed the whole night with psalms and chants.” *This occurs at the death of monastics to this day.
Then the Apostle John said, “My Lady Mother of God and my Mother, they beloved Son had left thee as a consolation; and now thou shalt leave us? In all the world what will we humble apostles have as our consolation? Who will teach us and who will guide us? What else shall we have on earth to encourage us if thou should leave us?”
This, too, caused the Theotokos to weep, and she promised to be a ready help and intercessor for them and all who call upon her name with faith. She also promised that if the Lord willed, they would see her after her departure.