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Exaltation of Cross


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The Eastern Church refers to this feast day and icon as the Dormition, meaning passage into death while in the Western Church it is called the Assumption meaning ascension into heaven. The icon is based on apocryphal writings of John the Divine, Cosmos of Jerusalem, John of Damascus and John of Theossolonica, as well as early church hymns and homilies of St. John The Archbishop of Thessolonica. The Mother of God is on her death bed with The Apostles gathered around the funeral bier. Some variations of this icon include weeping women and four bishops of Jerusalem wearing there Episcopal vestments. St. James (The brother of The Lord), Hierotheus of Athens, Timothy of Ephesus and St.. Dionysius the Areopagite the first four Bishops of the church were said to be eye witnesses to this event. The presence of the witnesses symbolizes the consensus of the church in the veneration that is to be accorded to The Mother of God. In the center of the icon Christ is seen receiving The Soul of The Mother of God. The Mandorla above Christ symbolizes the celestial world to which The Virgin now belongs. The Mother of God’s residence in Zion is seen in the background. Sometimes at the foot of the bier you will find a pair of shoes, a jug or most often a lighted candle or lamp. Tradition said that when The Virgin saw Her Life coming to and end she commanded a candle to be lit. Most prototypes also represent the miracle of Athonius from the writings of St.. John The Theologian. The Judaic priest Athonius tormented by his hatred for The Mother of the crucified Christ wants to overturn the bed. An Angel of God severs the hand of Athonius. After Athonius repented and praised The Virgin his hand became healed. In some prototypes the Apostles are seen being brought by angels in the clouds from all corners of the earth to witness this event. According to a legend attributed to Joseph of Arimathea, St.. Thomas arrived late as The Mother of God was ascending into heaven and St.. Thomas received directly from The Virgin Her girdle. This event is sometimes depicted in this icon. From John19:26-27, Jesus spoke the following words to his Mother: “Woman there is your Son.” In turn Christ turned to John and said, “There is your Mother.” According to the tradition of The Church: Theotokos after Christ’s death went with Christ’s beloved disciple, St. John to Ephesus. She returned with Saint John to Jerusalem and while praying at Golgotha, Gabriel appeared and informed The Virgin of Her passing from death into the life of the kingdom. Apostles came from all corners of the earth to be with her at her burial in Gethsemae garden. Church teaches that The Mother of God after three days ascended bodily into heaven. The feast day of the Dormition is August 15 and is the last major feast day in the liturgical year.

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