15 Days for Panagia {day 14}

That which took place when the Theotokos surrendered her soul to the Lord is absolutely amazing. I wish that I could relate all of it to you but it is quite long so you will have to order the book that I have taken most of the information used in the 15 Days for Panagia posts to read it.

We’ll continue at the point when the Lord took her soul into his hands…

St. Kosmas describes the scene in this manner. The angelic powers were amazed as they looked in Sion upon their own Master, bearing in his hands the soul of a woman: for as befitted a Son, He said to her who without spot had borne Him, “Come, honored among women, and be glorified together with they Son and God.”

The apostles surrounded her bed weeping and the face of the Theotokos shone like the sun and a splendid and sweet perfume emitted from her most pure body. They venerated her and were sanctified from contact with it.

In the midst of these events, they began the solemn procession to inter her most honorable body. The Apostles bore her bier aloft on their shoulders; towards the head were St. John the Theologian who carried the branch from Paradise which shone brightly, and St. Peter next to him and St. James and St. Paul on the opposite them. The other Apostles and hierarchs were chanting while the rest of the faithful, with lights and censers, walked close by surrounding the bed.

All sang funeral prayers. Then at the command of the Saviour, the pre-eminent Apostle Peter began chanting one of the Psalms of David (Psalm 113), together with the rest of the Apostles. The procession conveyed the sacred body of the Theotokos from Sion through Jerusalem to Gethsemane. Hovering over the bier and accompanying the procession there appeared a circular cloud reminiscent of a crown which shone with a bright radiance. In the hearing of all, there resounded ceaseless angelic singing from out of the could that filled the air.

Many of the Jews who did not believe in Christ, on hearing the unusual chanting and witnessing the triumphant procession, left their homes and joined the multitude. They too, went along, and followed the procession out of the city, astonished at the glory and honor that was given to the most honorable body of the Theotokos. When the chief priests and scribes learned of this, they burned with the heaviest hatred and began to reason frivolously. Indeed, they would become inflamed at anything that reminded them of Christ. They stirred up many of the people and sent temple servants and soldiers to overtake the procession and disperse it. They also ordered them to slay the disciples of Christ and to burn the body of Mary, for they claimed that the nation of Jews was ruined by this woman.

Then satan entered and incited the mob. They began to arm themselves as for battle and furiously hastened to overtake the procession. Then the cloud that was hovering above descended and surrounded the procession so that only the voices and chanting could be heard but no one could see behind the wall of the cloud. Then the holy angels, invisibly hovering over the sacred relics and the Christians, struck the malicious persecutors with blindness. Being struck with blindness they began striking their heads on the walls and then struck one another.

At that time, a Jewish priest named Athonios (some texts give his name as Jephonias) was out on the road. When the cloud had lifted he beheld the multitude of Christians who, with lights, were chanting around the bier of the Mother of Jesus. No tongue of clay could adequately describe the joyful procession. But Athonios was filled with envy and had a storm of evil thoughts. Then with great malice in his heart, he blurted out, “Look what honor surrounds the body of her who bore the imposter Who destroyed the law of our fathers!”

Being a strong man by nature, he rushed with mad fury through the crowd of Christians and, running up towards the bier, he attempted to cast the Virgin’s body to the ground. When the audacious hands of the priest barely touched the bier, an invisible angel at once struck them off at the elbows with the immaterial sword of divine vengeance. Thus Athonosios‘ hands clung fast to the bed, while he collapsed to the ground wailing, “Woe is me!” The Jews that beheld this sight of their priest, then cried out, “Verily, He that was brought forth by thee is the true God, O Mother of God, Ever-Virgin Mary.”

Acknowledging his sin, Athonios repented and turned to the holy Apostles and said, “Have mercy on me, servants of Christ!” The Apostle Peter then ordered the procession to stop. He then said to Athonios, “Now thou hast received thy just fruits. Know that ‘the Lord is the God of vengeance; the God of vengeance hath spoken openly’ [Psalm 93:1], and, thus, we cannot heal thee of thy wounds. Only our Lord Himself can do this, Whom you had unjustly rose against, seized and killed. Even He will not bestow healing upon thee till thou wilt believe in Him with all thy heart and confess with thy mouth that Jesus is the true Messiah, the Son of God.”

Then Athonios cried aloud, “I believe that He is the Saviour of the world foretold by the prophets–He is the Christ. From the very first we saw that He was the Son of God but, being darkened by malicious envy, we did not acknowledge the greatness of God openly, but delivered Him to death, though he was guiltless. But by the power of His divinity He rose on the third day, putting us all to shame. We attempted to conceal His resurrection by bribing the soldiers, but we could do nothing, as the glory of the Resurrection was manifest and spread abroad.”

When Athonios uttered this confession and repented of his sin, the holy Apostles rejoiced with the joy of the angels over a penitent sinner. The holy Apostle Peter then ordered Athonios to put the wounds of his severed arms to the limbs still hanging on the bier. He then told him to call upon the most holy Mother of God with faith. He did as he was instructed and, at once, the severed arms were joined at the mark where they had been severed; only a red line remained about his elbows for the remainder of his life.

He then fell before the bier and worshipped Christ God who was born of the Virgin Mary. He began to recite prophesies from scripture that testified both to the Virgin Mary and to Christ. All were amazed and he joined the procession. Many of the other Jews who had been struck with blindness also acknowledged their sin and penitently approached the honorable bier. When the Apostles touched their faces with the heavenly palm branch they regained their bodily sight together with the eyes of their soul.

When they finally reached the garden of Gethsemane, they laid the Theotokos‘ pure body in the tomb. They were laid with the greatest honor, while chanting and weeping took place. When the Apostles stepped before her bier to bid her farewell, each according to the Holy Spirit, they uttered psalms of triumph and thanksgiving and chanted prayers.