Τρίτη, 22 Αυγούστου 2017

Christian life means forgiveness

Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi

Matthew 18:23-35
For Portuguese, Russian and Kiswahili please scroll down  

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[a] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[b] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”


Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi

Photo from here (Buramata Burundi)

Having reflected on the behavior of people in today's society, and comparing some of the behavior which has to do with one identifying himself with this world, on the one hand, with what Holy Scripture teaches, on the other, it is apparent that there is a wide gulf of separation and contradiction between the two. Although Holy Scripture focuses on how a person should relate to God, society teaches that a person should relate to the world and all its ramifications, in order to live a secure and pleasant life with all its benefits.
From the perspective of Holy Scripture, people prefer to live in darkness rather than to have the light of life which is the Lord Jesus Christ. The reason for this is that the forces of evil which emerge from Satan and his co-workers, the fallen angels, have dignified the lie as truth and truth as a lie. Saint Paul speaks on this when he writes that the days now exist wherein good shall be presented as evil, and evil for good. The people, he says, will exchange the truth for a lie.
This is why, when people use worldly knowledge, which is derived from this world, and which is contrary to the knowledge that comes from God, it is easy for them to rationalize human behavior, especially that which is not considered normal, and to give false explanations regarding its existence. Holy Scripture, saying that God's foolishness is wiser than the wisdom of the world, regards much of today's psychological and psychiatric empirical knowledge as missing the mark, and not finding the cause of many disturbances of the soul.
From the teachings of the Orthodox Church we believe that all misbehavior of one form or another is sin, meaning that it is contrary to the divine will.
For one to become godlike, if this is desired, one must attempt to live in conformity to the divine will, whether this is achieved or not. For, as Holy Scripture states, the attempt is equal to the accomplishment. This is the reason that Christ the Lord came into the world--to direct every person, who desires, to be like Him. Envy, anger, frustration, enmity, egotism, hatred of good and, especially, pride are the fruits of evil which come from Satan.
Many people have at times been sorrowful for saying and doing things which they had wished they had never done. Unfortunately, the fact is such behavior cannot be "taken back." Even if they were to die, they could not undo what was done. Time does not go backwards, except in a film or a tape. Everything moves forward.
God, knowing this, provides a way, in His wisdom, for such misbehavior to be undone. Yet, it is not that He undoes anything. What He does is to eliminate the undesired things said and done by forgetting them. We in our finite state can never forget in totality. Only God Who is infinite can "wipe the slate clean." Even though God forgave David the King of his sin, he still wrote down, "My sin is ever before me." David knew that he could never undo what he had said and done. But he believed that God and only He could do this.
It is delusionary for one to think that one can back up an event in his life, whether caused by him or another, to a previous time when the event had not occurred. If this were possible Saint Peter would not have had to break down and weep bitterly for betraying Christ three times. He could never take back or undo what he had done. But, he believed that God would "blot out all my iniquities."
How, then, does one eliminate those things in his life that weigh upon him, things said and done by him or another? Reiterating what was said above, only God can undo that which was grievous. It is God and only God Who wipes away all grievous behavior, all kinds of immorality and crime, all grievous acts which bring about sadness and tragedy. When He was dying on the Cross, the Lord Jesus Christ cried out to the Father, regarding those who had crucified Him, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." Only God forgives; only God forgets; only God wipes the slate clean for a new beginning.
In our confused and evil world, how do we, as Orthodox Christians, eliminate from our lives our shortcomings, the sins of commission and the sins of omission? How do we expunge from our minds and our hearts those things that have brought about undesired and intolerable experiences, which consequently have brought on abnormal behavior on our part? There is only one way. Since, as we have said, time can never go backward, God provides the only means to eliminate those sufferings and setbacks in our lives. Saint Peter is one model of this. Even though he had greatly sinned, he went on to become one of the greatest Apostles. He succeeded in this because he knew that Christ the Lord had forgiven him and would never again remind him of the sin. The Lord had wiped away the sin of Saint Peter, since only God can do this.
We, wrapped up with the false wisdom of this world, think that, by our own intelligence and with the assistance of the professionals who study human behavior, we can undo things that we want undone. This is the false pride that comes from the evil forces that tell us that we can perform this work. This falsehood is parallel to Satan's statement to our progenitors when he told them that they would be like God if they partook of the forbidden fruit.
Since all unnatural behavior is the result of our human imperfection, it all falls under the category of error or sin.
We know from Holy Scripture that no one can forgive sins but God. Therefore, when one goes to God and presents to Him his problems, beseeching God's correction and forgiveness, God not only forgives, but says in Holy Scripture that He "remembers our sins no more."
Consequently, how does God eliminate those things in our lives which we try to forget or to erase through drinking, drugs, or by other delusional means? He tells us to confess to Him those things in our lives which bring about our sufferings through our private prayers and especially through the sacrament of Holy Confession. In this sacrament the prayer of absolution is read by the priest, who thereafter tells the penitent, "Go in peace." The sins have all been wiped away through the prayer to God.
It is a paradox, not to say a tragedy, that when one who is sinful and does not repent, asking God's forgiveness, his sins are still with him in the eternal condition. This means that, in the eternal condition, which is called Hell, and where God's forgiveness is not requested by those there, the sins remain unforgiven into all eternity.
As long as we live, we have the opportunity of asking forgiveness for our sins, whether we blame them on others or on ourselves. All we have to do is to go to the church, seeking out the priest who sees himself as our spiritual father, and who willingly prays to God for His mercy and forgiveness, so that our lives may be renewed. When this takes place, we go forth once again into the world, fortified by God's grace to start life anew with the confidence that God Who loves us will always be with us for our continued renewal and for our salvation.


Mateus 18:23-35
A parábola do credor incompassivo

23 Por isso, o Reino dos céus pode comparar-se a um certo rei que quis fazer contas com os seus servos; 24 e, começando a fazer contas, foi-lhe apresentado um que lhe devia dez mil talentos. 25 E, não tendo ele com que pagar, o seu senhor mandou que ele, e sua mulher, e seus filhos fossem vendidos, com tudo quanto tinha, para que a dívida se lhe pagasse. 26 Então, aquele servo, prostrando-se, o reverenciava, dizendo: Senhor, sê generoso para comigo, e tudo te pagarei. 27 Então, o senhor daquele servo, movido de íntima compaixão, soltou-o e perdoou-lhe a dívida. 28 Saindo, porém, aquele servo, encontrou um dos seus conservos que lhe devia cem dinheiros e, lançando mão dele, sufocava-o, dizendo: Paga-me o que me deves. 29 Então, o seu companheiro, prostrando-se a seus pés, rogava-lhe, dizendo: Sê generoso para comigo, e tudo te pagarei. 30 Ele, porém, não quis; antes, foi encerrá-lo na prisão, até que pagasse a dívida. 31 Vendo, pois, os seus conservos o que acontecia, contristaram-se muito e foram declarar ao seu senhor tudo o que se passara. 32 Então, o seu senhor, chamando-o à sua presença, disse-lhe: Servo malvado, perdoei-te toda aquela dívida, porque me suplicaste. 33 Não devias tu, igualmente, ter compaixão do teu companheiro, como eu também tive misericórdia de ti? 34 E, indignado, o seu senhor o entregou aos atormentadores, até que pagasse tudo o que devia. 35 Assim vos fará também meu Pai celestial, se do coração não perdoardes, cada um a seu irmão, as suas ofensas.

От Матфея 18:23-35

23 Царство Небесное можно сравнить с царем, который решил рассчитаться со своими слугами. 24 Когда царь начал расчет, то первым к нему привели того, кто был должен ему десять тысяч талантов[a]. 25 Так как у должника не было чем расплатиться, то царь повелел продать для уплаты долга самого должника, его жену, детей и все их имущество. 26 Слуга пал и, поклонившись ему, стал просить: «Дай мне еще немного времени, и я все выплачу». 27 Царь пожалел слугу, простил ему весь долг и отпустил его.

28 Тот вышел и, встретив такого же слугу, который должен был ему всего сто динариев[b], схватил его и начал душить. «Верни сейчас же все, что ты мне должен», – требовал он. 29 Должник пал ему в ноги и стал умолять: «Дай мне еще немного времени, и я все выплачу». 30 Но тот не захотел ждать и бросил его в темницу, пока не будет выплачен весь его долг. 31 Другие слуги видели, что произошло, и это их возмутило. Они пошли и рассказали все царю.
32 Тогда царь позвал слугу. «Ах ты, негодный слуга, – сказал он, – я по твоей просьбе простил тебе все долги, 33 так неужели и ты не мог простить своего товарища, как и я простил тебя?» 34 Разгневавшись, царь отдал его в руки истязателей до тех пор, пока тот не выплатит весь свой долг.
35 Так и Мой Небесный Отец поступит с вами, если не простите брата от всего сердца.


Matayo 18:23-35
Mfano Wa Mdaiwa Asiyesamehe

23 “Kwa hiyo Ufalme wa mbinguni unaweza kufananishwa na mfalme aliyetaka kukamilisha hesabu zake za fedha na watumishi wake. 24 Alipoanza kukagua hesabu zake, mtu mmoja aliyekuwa na deni la mamilioni ya shilingi, aliletwa kwake. 25 Na kwa kuwa alikuwa hawezi kulipa deni hilo, bwana wake aliamuru kwamba auzwe, yeye, mke wake, watoto wake na vyote alivyo navyo, ili zipatikane fedha za kulipa deni lake.

26 “Yule mtumishi akapiga magoti, akamsihi yule bwana akisema, ‘Naomba univumilie, nitakulipa deni lako lote.’ 27 Yule bwana akamwonea huruma, akafuta deni lake lote, akamwachilia.
28 “Lakini yule mtumishi alipotoka, alikutana na mtumishi mwenzake aliyekuwa amemkopesha shilingi chache. Akamkamata, akam kaba koo akimwambia, ‘Nilipe deni langu!’
29 “Yule mtumishi mwenzake akapiga magoti akamsihi akisema, ‘Naomba univumilie, nitakulipa deni lako lote.’ 30 Lakini akaka taa. Badala yake akampeleka afungwe gerezani mpaka aweze kulipa hilo deni.
31 “Watumishi wenzake walipoona mambo haya, walisikitika sana. Wakamwendea bwana wao wakamweleza yote yaliyotokea.
32 “Yule bwana akamwita yule mtumishi akamwambia, ‘Wewe mtumishi mwovu, uliponisihi, nilikusamehe deni lako lote. 33 Je, hukupaswa kumhurumia mtumishi mwenzako kama mimi nilivyokuhuru mia?’ 34 Kwa hasira yule bwana akamkabidhi yule mtumishi kwa askari wa gereza mpaka atakapomaliza kulipa deni lote.
35 “Na hivi ndivyo Baba yangu wa mbinguni atakavyomfanyia kila mmoja wenu ambaye hatamsamehe ndugu yake kwa moyo.”

Δευτέρα, 21 Αυγούστου 2017

Own Affairs redux

Newly-illumined servants of God in procession around the font and Epitaphios (funeral shroud of Christ). One Lord, one Faith, One Baptism, One Holy people of God, black, white, coloured, Asian, Bulgarian, Greek, Russian, American.

There are lots of Internet discussions about racism going on at the moment, and one that particularly concerns me was on the “Ask an Orthodox Hipster” group on Facebook. Facebook groups are good for quick questions and simplistic answers, like soundbites, but they are not good for more nuanced discussions, so I’m writing about it here, partly in the hope that I can clarify my own thinking, and partly hoping that others may contribute useful insights.
There are several links to other sites and articles in this discussion, and I’ve included some in the texts, and put others at the end.
The core question that concerned me was this:
Maximos Williams: I think loving ones own people first and foremost is admirable.
Me: And what constitutes one’s “own” people? Surely our “own” people are our fellow-citizens of the kingdom of God who are joined with Christ and us in baptism. See 1 Peter 2:9-10. If we think that “blood is thicker than water” (the water of baptism) then we sell our heavenly birthright for the pottage of this sinful world.
I should also say where I am coming from.
I lived through the entire apartheid period in South Africa, where the concept of “own people” was at the core of government thinking and the policy of the ruling National Party. For 46 years they tried to indoctrinate the entire population with the notion expressed by Maximos Williams, and I saw the results of that policy, and the results were evil. Not only were the results evil, the thinking behind it was evil. Apartheid was not just a good idea that was badly implemented. It was a bad idea. Full Stop. Period. <EOT>
And when apartheid was crumbling, and even the National Party had agreed to negotiate for a different future without it, one group of diehards who wished to retain apartheid thinking went around putting up posters saying “Own People, Own Land.” It was probably translated from Afrikaans by people who did not realise how ambiguous it is in English (Eie Volk, Eie Land), but as Paolo Freire pointed out in his Pegagogy of the Oppressed, the oppressed internalises the image of the oppressor, and those apartheid chickens are coming home to roost in the Black First, Land First movement.
During the first 20 years of apartheid it was criticised by some Christian leaders because it was unjust and oppressive. But there was usually the underlying thought that a juster, kinder, less oppressive form of apartheid might be acceptable. But they had not really examined the presuppositions on which it was based. One of the first theological critiques of the ideological underpinnings of apartheid was from an Anglican priest, Trevor Huddleston, in his book Naught for your comfort, where he pointed out that it was incompatible with the incarnation of Christ. It was only in 1968 that a significant number of Christian leaders concluded that apartheid was worse than a heresy, it was a pseudogospel. Its premisses were not merely un-Christian, but anti-Christian. They did this in a public document called A message to the people of South Africa.
We, in this country, and at this time, are in a situation where a policy of racial separation is being deliberately effected with increasing rigidity. The effects of this are seen in a widening range of aspects of life – in political, economic, social, educational and religious life; indeed, there are few areas even of the private life of the individual which are untouched by the effects of the doctrine of racial separation. In consequence, this doctrine is being seen by many not merely as a temporary political policy but as a necessary and permanent expression of the will of God, and as the genuine form of Christian obedience for this country. But this doctrine, together with the hardships which are deriving from its implementation, forms a programme which is truly hostile to Christianity and can serve only to keep people away from the real knowledge of Christ.
There are alarming signs that this doctrine of separation has become, for many, a false faith, a novel gospel which offers happiness and peace for the community and for the individual. It holds out to men a security built not on Christ but on the theory of separation and the preservation of their racial identity. It presents separate development of our race-groups as a way for the people of South Africa to save themselves. Such a claim inevitably conflicts with the Christian Gospel, which offers salvation, both social and individual, through faith in Christ alone.
In other words, the ideology of apartheid (and not merely its implementation) was based on the premiss of a pseudogospel, a false offer of salvation, salvation by race and not by grace.
I give that explanation of where I am coming from because I am aware that I might be overreacting to Maximos Williams’s statement. The phrase “own people” may carry a lot more baggage for me than it does for him.
But nevertheless the core question remains — who are our “own people”?
And if they are anything other than our fellow-members of the Body of Christ, then where do our fellow-Christians come, if not “first and foremost”?
Do they take second, or third, or fourth place?

And if so, is this not idolatry — because if God’s people are not “first and foremost”, then surely God himself is taking second place. “You shall have no other gods before me” — but if we put God and God’s people in second or third place, or lower down, that means we have made an idol of ethnic or racial identity, and that is the very “phyletism” that was condemned by a synod in Constantinople in 1872, whether you call it a council or not.
Another contributor to the Facebook discussion said:
Christopher Dane: I understand the nuance Maximos Williams is trying to discuss. I’ve said it three times here.
I think there needs to be serious discussion about the difference between preferential and violent racism vs identity politics. I haven’t seen a single mature conversation on that topic yet.
Now I’m not sure what “identity politics” is, or how it differs from “preferential and violent racism”. I think “identity politics” may be something peculiarly American, so I’m not qualified to say much about it, or about the “maturity” needed to discuss such a topic. Perhaps that kind of maturity is peculiar to Americans, and the rest of us should back off.  But it is Americans who like talking about “American lives” and denounce the idea that “all lives matter” — and isn’t that a kind of “own people” thinking again?
So I think that, regardless of the difference between “preferential and violent racism” and “identity politics”, the core question is who one’s “own people” are.
The original question, that Maximos Williams was responding to, was “What is the Orthodox position on racism and white supremacy?
And someone responded with this cite from the Synod held in Constantinople in 1872:
We renounce, censure and condemn racism, that is racial discrimination, ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissensions within the Church of Christ, as contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers which “support the holy Church and the entire Christian world, embellish it and lead it to divine godliness.”
I don’t know whether that is an accurate quotation or translation of what the Synod said, but it seems similar in import to what South African Christian leaders came up with 96 years later in the Message to the people of South Africa.
And who are “our people”?
But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may shew forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: which in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy (I Peter 2:9-10).
Early Christians thought of themselves as a “third race”, regarding every foreign country as a homeland, and every homeland as a foreign country.


Please, see also

Saint Nickolas of Japan & the samurai Fr Paul Sawabe Takuma
The Kingdom of Heaven, where racial discrimination has no place
The Orthodox Church in the Republic of South Africa

How “White” is the Orthodox Church?  

Orthodox Mission in Tropical Africa (& the Decolonization of Africa)
Outreach to the refugees and migrants currently in Greece
The Church as the Liberated Zone: "All we Christians are terrorists..."

Πέμπτη, 17 Αυγούστου 2017

From Zambia & Malawi about Dormition of Mother of God


Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi

The feast of the Dormition or Falling-asleep of the Theotokos is celebrated on the fifteenth of August, preceded by a two-week fast. This feast, which is also sometimes called the Assumption, commemorates the death, resurrection and glorification of Christ’s mother. It proclaims that Mary has been “assumed” by God into the heavenly kingdom of Christ in the fullness of her spiritual and bodily existence.
As with the nativity of the Virgin and the feast of her entrance to the temple, there are no biblical or historical sources for this feast. The Tradition of the Church is that Mary died as all people die, not “voluntarily” as her Son, but by the necessity of her mortal human nature which is indivisibly bound up with the corruption of this world.


The Orthodox Church teaches that Mary is without personal sins. In the Gospel of the feast, however, in the liturgical services and in the Dormition icon, the Church proclaims as well that Mary truly needed to be saved by Christ as all human persons are saved from the trials, sufferings and death of this world; and that having truly died, she was raised up by her Son as the Mother of Life and participates already in the eternal life of paradise which is prepared and promised to all who “hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk11.27–28).


“In giving birth, you preserved your virginity. In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos. You were translated to life, O Mother of Life, and by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.”


“Neither the tomb, nor death, could hold the Theotokos, who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions. For being the Mother of Life, she was translated to life, by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb.”
“In you the laws of nature are defeated, O undefiled Virgin pure. In virginity childbirth was accomplished, and death introduces life. You, after bearing, are virgin, and after dying are living. Mother of God, ever save your inheritance.”

Patriarch of Alexandria & all Africa Theodoros with icon of Theotokos, feast of the Dormition of Theotokos in the Orthodox Church of Alexandria (more here)


The Holy Scriptures tell us that when our Lord was dying on the Cross, He saw His mother and His disciple John and said to the Virgin Mary, "Woman, behold your son!" and to John, "Behold your mother!" (John 19:25-27). From that hour, the Apostle took care of the Theotokos in his own home.
Along with the biblical reference in Acts 1:14 that confirms that the Virgin Mary was with the Holy Apostles on the day of Pentecost, the tradition of the Church holds that she remained in the home of the Apostle John in Jerusalem, continuing a ministry in word and deed.
At the time of her death, the disciples of our Lord who were preaching throughout the world returned to Jerusalem to see the Theotokos. Except for the Apostle Thomas, all of them including the Apostle Paul were gathered together at her bedside. At the moment of her death, Jesus Christ himself descended and carried her soul into heaven.
Following her repose, the body of the Theotokos was taken in procession and laid in a tomb near the Garden of Gethsemane. When the Apostle Thomas arrived three days after her repose and desired to see her body, the tomb was found to be empty. The bodily assumption of the Theotokos was confirmed by the message of an angel and by her appearance to the Apostles.
The Services of the Feast repeat the main theme, that the Mother of Life has “passed over into the heavenly joy, into the divine gladness and unending delight” of the Kingdom of her Son (Vesperal hymn). The Old Testament readings, as well as the Gospel readings for the Vigil and the Divine Liturgy, are exactly the same as those for the Feast of the Virgin’s Nativity and her Entrance into the Temple. Thus, at the Vigil we again hear Mary say: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1.47). At the Divine Liturgy we hear the Letter to the Philippians where Saint Paul speaks of the self-emptying of Christ who condescends to human servitude and ignoble death in order to be “highly exalted by God his Father” (Phil 2.5–11). And once again we hear in the Gospel that Mary’s blessedness belongs to all who “hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk. 11.27–28).


Feast of the Dormition of Theotokos 2017 in Alexandria (here)
Thus, the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is the celebration of the fact that all men are “highly exalted” in the blessedness of the victorious Christ, and that this high exaltation has already been accomplished in Mary the Theotokos. The Feast of the Dormition is the sign, the guarantee, and the celebration that Mary’s fate is, the destiny of all those of “low estate” whose souls magnify the Lord, whose spirits rejoice in God the Saviour, whose lives are totally dedicated to hearing and keeping the Word of God which is given to men in Mary’s child, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world.
Finally it must be stressed that, in all of the Feasts of the Virgin Mother of God in the Church, the Orthodox Christians celebrate facts of their own lives in Christ and the Holy Spirit. What happens to Mary happens to all who imitate her holy life of humility, obedience, and love. With her, all people will be “blessed” to be “more honourable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim” if they follow her example. All will have Christ born in them by the Holy Spirit. All will become temples of the living God. All will share in the eternal life of His Kingdom who live the life that Mary lived.
In this sense everything that is praised and glorified in Mary is a sign of what is offered to all persons in the life of the Church. It is for this reason that Mary, with the divine child Jesus within her, is called in the Orthodox Tradition the Image of the Church. For the assembly of the saved is those in whom Christ dwells.

Excerpt from the homily on the Dormition of the Theotokos by St. Germanos of Constantinople

“It is time, my Mother,” says the Lord, “to take you to myself. Just as you have filled the earth and all who dwell in it with joy, O you who enjoy such grace, come, and make the heavens joyful once again. Make my Father’s dwelling-place radiant; be a spiritual guide for the souls of the saints. For when they see your glorious passage here to my side, escorted by angels, they will be convinced in their faith that their own place, too, through you, will be to dwell here in my light. Come, then, in exultation; rejoice now, as you rejoiced at the angel’s greeting. In every way you now have the dignity of your title, ‘full of grace.’ As when you were about to conceive me you were invited to rejoice, so rejoice again in my desire to take you to myself. Do not be disturbed at leaving behind the corruptible world, with all its desires. Forget about its power of corruption. For you will not leave those who live in the world bereft of your protection; but just as I, who am not of the world, watch over those who live in it and take care of them, so your patronage will not be taken away from those who live in the world, until its consummation.
St Germanos (Herman) of Constantinople, the heroic patriarch, from here 

“The extravagant demands of the flesh will no longer disturb you. You are ascending to a fuller life, to joyful rest, to unconquerable peace, to an existence untroubled by cares, to delights free of passion, to permanent freedom from distraction, to unending enjoyment, to a light that never fades, to a day without evening—to me, the creator of all that is, including you. Where I am, there is eternal life, incomparable joy, a dwelling-place without parallel, an indestructible city. Where I am, then, you will be also: a mother inseparably one with her undivided Son. Where God is, there is all goodness of heart, all delight, all brilliance. No one who knows my glory wants to abandon it. No one who comes to my rest seeks again the things of the corruptible world. Ask Peter if there was any comparison or likeness between the world and Mount Tabor, when he gazed for a short time on my glory.
“When you lived in the world of corruptible things, I revealed my power to you in visions; now that you are passing from that life, I will show myself to you face to face. Give the earth what belongs to it, without anxiety. Your body belongs to me, and since the ends of the earth are in my hand, no one can take anything from me. Entrust your body to me, just as I placed my divinity trustingly in your womb. Your soul, full of divine power, will see the glory of my Father. You immaculate body will see the glory of his only Son. Your pure spirit will see the glory of the all-holy Spirit.

Feast of Dormition in Bujumbura Burundi 2017 (more here)

“Death shall make no boast at your expense, for you have given birth to life. You are my vessel; the mortal cracks caused by the fall shall not break you apart. The overshadowing gloom shall not rob you of sight. Come eagerly to the one whom you brought into the world. I want to make you happy, as a son should do—to pay you the pension due a mother’s womb, to recompense you for feeding my milk, to reward you for your nurture, to give your maternal love its full return. You begot me, Mother, as your only Son; now make the choice to come and live with me, for I know your heart is not divided by love for anther child. I revealed you as my virgin mother; now I will make you a mother who rejoices in her Son. I will show the world now to be your debtor, and when you come to me I will glorify your name still more. I shall build you into the wall of the universe, into a bridge for those who are awash in the waves, an ark of salvation, a staff for the disabled, an advocate for sinners, a ladder to heaven strong enough to bear the weight of all humanity as it climbs.
“Come, then, with joy! Open up Paradise, which your ancestor Eve, your natural sister, had locked. Enter into the joy of your Son. Let go of the Jerusalem that is below, and hasten up to the heavenly city; for the Jerusalem below, ‘lamentation will soon be multiplied,’ as Scripture has it, ‘like the lamentation for the pomegranate grove cut down in the plain’ (Zach 12:11 [LXX]). Lie down to rest, if only in appearance, in Gethsemane, the place of your tomb. I will not leave you alone there for long. I will come to you very quickly, when you have been buried in the sepulchre—not to dwell in you again by being conceived, as I once was, but rather to take you now to dwell with me. Rest your body confidently in Gethsemane, as once I rested my knees there in human prayer, before my passion. I gave you an image of your own death, bending on that very ground the knees I took from your body. As I came forth willingly, then, after that prostration, to a death on the cross that was the source of life, you, too, will pass immediately into life when your remains have been laid in the earth.
“Behold, my disciples are coming to receive you; they, my spiritual sons who are filled with my light, will bury you in all reverence and piety. I have bestowed on them the grace of adoption as sons, as you yourself can testify (see Jn 19:26f). Se when you are laid by them in the tomb, consider that it is my hands which are caring for you; for it is not fitting that'd you should be laird to rest by anyone else but my apostles, in whom the Holy Spirit makes his home and who represent my own person. Only they can do honor to your passing, O all-immaculate one!”

Most-holy Theotokos save us!

 Feast of the Dormition of Theotokos 2017 in Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (more here)

See also

Dormition of the Theotokos Resource Page 
Mother of God (Virgin Mary), Orthodox Church and African peoples (& Why the Orthodox Honor Mary)
Male and Female Created He Them
The Icon of the Theotokos

Dormição da Santíssima Mãe de Deus (15 de Agosto)  

Τρίτη, 15 Αυγούστου 2017

Dormição da Santíssima Mãe de Deus (15 de Agosto)

Arquidiocese Ortodoxa de Buenos Aires

última grande festa do ano litúrgico bizantino (que nos Minéa termina no dia 31 de agosto) é mariana: Dormição da SS. Mãe de Deus, Kóimesis no grego e Uspénie no eslavo eclesiástico, palavras que aludem justamente ao ato de dormir. E a tradicional representação iconográfica de 15 de agosto mostra a Virgem estendida no leito de morte, rodeada para o último sono pelos apóstolos, vindos prodigiosamente dos lugares onde pregavam o evangelho, tendo ao centro Jesus Cristo que acolhe a sua alma, representada como uma menina envolta em faixas e por ele sustentada.
A partir do dia 1 de agosto, o Oriente bizantino prepara-se para a festa com um jejum (do qual também fala São Teodoro Estudita, morto no ano 826) e dado que, além da pré-festa do dia 14 de agosto, os textos litúrgicos falam do trânsito de Maria SS. ao céu até o dia 23 de agosto, pode-se afirmar que este é o mês mariano dos fiéis ortodoxos e greco-católicos.

Mulher com Theotokos Dormition ícone sagrado, daqui

A celebração dessa solenidade no dia 15 de agosto foi fixada com um edito do imperador do Oriente, Maurício (582-602), confirmando uma tradição, sem dúvida, mais antiga. No Ocidente, a festa foi introduzida, juntamente com outras três festas marianas, pelo papa Sérgio I, coincidindo as datas de sua celebração. Quanto ao conteúdo, o tropário principal assim sintetiza o mistério:
Em tua maternidade conservaste a virgindade
e em tua dormição não abandonaste o mundo,
ó Mãe de Deus.
Foste levada para a vida sendo a Mãe da Vida,
e por tuas orações resgatas nossas almas da morte.
Tropário (1º tom)
Logo é posto em evidência o ministério de intercessão que a Mãe de Deus e nossa desempenha após sua entrada (também corpórea) no céu. O kondákion do dia, a segunda oração mais repetida, o confirma:
Nem o túmulo nem a morte
prevaleceram sobre a Mãe de Deus,
que, sem cessar, reza por nós
e permanece firme esperança de intercessão.
Com efeito, aquele que habitou um seio sempre virgem
assumiu para a vida aquela que é a Mãe da Vida.
Kondakion (2º tom)
Operação na Santa Igreja da Assunção da Virgem em Bujumbura (Burundi), daqui

Embora os evangelhos não falem sobre o fim da vida de Maria, existe uma antiga tradição patrística, com informações provindas outrossim dos apócrifos, e que está na base do Ofício litúrgico bizantino do dia 15 de agosto.
São Germano de Constantinopla, de cuja autoria é o hino das Vésperas que se segue:
Vinde de todos os confins do universo,
cantemos a bem-aventurada trasladação da Mãe de Deus!
Nas mãos do Filho ela depositou a sua alma sem pecado:
com a sua santa Dormição o mundo é vivificado;
e é com salmos, hinos e cânticos espirituais,
em companhia dos anjos e dos apóstolos,
que ele a celebra na alegria.
Hino das Vésperas
Como nos demais textos litúrgicos bizantinos, da maioria dos hinos, que se repetem há mais de mil anos, se desconhece o nome do autor: Eis um exemplo tirado ainda do Ofício de Vésperas:
Oh, os teus mistérios, ó Pura!
Apareceste, ó Soberana, trono do Altíssimo
e nesse dia te transferiste da terra para o céu.
A tua glória brilha com o resplendor da graça.
Virgens, subi para o alto com a Mãe do Rei.
Ó cheia de graça, salve, o Senhor é contigo:
ele que doa ao mundo,
por teu intermédio, a grande misericórdia.
Entre os lugares santos venerados em Jerusalém que se relacionam ao mistério final da vida da Mãe de Deus, não existe somente a Basílica da Dormição cuidada pelos Beneditinos católicos, mas há também o Túmulo da Virgem, que está aos cuidados dos ortodoxos, próximo ao jardim do Getsêmani e onde recentes escavações confirmam que a sepultura remonta, de fato, à época em que viveu Maria Santíssima, e pode ter sido o lugar de seu breve sepultamento.
A tradição bizantina, claramente expressa na oração, acredita na morte e no sepulcro da Virgem, mas também na sua antecipada glorificação ao céu com o corpo e a alma, à semelhança e em virtude de quanto aconteceu ao seu divino Filho. Assim começa o texto próprio das Grandes vésperas do dia 15 de agosto:
Oh maravilha inaudita!
A fonte da vida é posta no túmulo
e o sepulcro transforma-se em escada que leva ao céu.
Alegra-te, ó Getsêmani,
santuário sagrado da Mãe de Deus!...
Festa da Dormição de Theotokos na igreja da Dormição de Theotokos Igonyi por bispo Athanasius de Kisumu (Quênia), daqui
A tradição narra que o apóstolo Tomé, tendo chegado atrasado para o sepultamento da Virgem e querendo rever seu amado semblante, fez reabrir o túmulo, mas este foi achado vazio e a mesma Mãe de Deus anunciou, numa visão, que havia ressuscitado e subido ao céu junto do seu Filho divino.
Se nos textos litúrgicos da festa encontramos várias alusões à tristeza dos Apóstolos que não verão mais junto deles a Mãe de Jesus, predomina, porém, a alegria pelo triunfo da Theotókos.
Diz um hino das Laudes:
A tua gloriosa Dormição
alegra os céus, faz exultar a multidão dos anjos:
a terra toda exulta de alegria
elevando a ti um canto de adeus,
ó Mãe do Senhor de todas as coisas,
Virgem santíssima desconhecedora de núpcias,
que libertaste o gênero humano da antiga condenação.
A festa da Dormição da Santíssima Mãe de Deus - este nome, como também a representação iconográfica permaneceu comum no Oriente e no Ocidente por mais de um milênio.
Com esta citação de um teólogo russo ortodoxo concluímos, retomando do Ofício das Vésperas bizantinas uma última invocação:
Oh imaculada Mãe de Deus,
sempre vivente com o Rei da vida e Filho teu,
reza sem cessar para que seja conservada
e salva de toda insídia do adversário
a multidão de teus filhos,
pois nós estamos debaixo da tua proteção
e te glorificamos por todos os séculos.
Crianças na Serra Leoa com ícones sagrados do Senhor e Theotokos (daqui)

Fonte: «O ANO LITÚRGICO BIZANTINO», Madre Maria Donadeo

Veja também

Foto daqui
Male and Female Created He Them
The Icon of the Theotokos

Dormitiaanse van Theotokos