The Festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Dormition of Blessed Virgin Mary from the Nave of Chora Church of the Redeemer, Istanbul

Today the Church worldwide celebrates the death of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  it is referred to as the Dormition or Assumption of the Virgin Mary.  The picture is of a mosaic in the Narthex of the ancient Byzantine Church in Istanbul, Turkey.

Mary is shown dead on her bier.  Behind her stands Christ holding her soul, represented as a baby in swaddling cloths.  Over Christ’s head hovers a six-winged seraph.  Around stand the apostles, evangelists and early bishops.

Mary accompanied Jesus during his ministry, was there at the cross as he died.  After Jesus’ ascension she is mentioned as being with the disciples as they prayed in the upper room.  Presumably too she was with them at Pentecost as described in Acts chapter two.   We know very little about her life after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, her son.

Mary may well have come to live in Ephesus, Asia Minor, in the first century with the Apostle John.  Through the ages Mary has been much revered in what is now modern day Turkey.  Mary is depicted in the ancient churches throughout Turkey.

One of the bible readings for today is from Revelation.  It is an alternative account of the birth of Jesus written by the Apostle John.

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.

​ A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.  (Rev 11:19-12:6, 10)

Collect for today
Almighty God,
who looked upon the lowliness of the Blessed Virgin Mary
and chose her to be the mother of your only Son:
grant that we who are redeemed by his blood
may share with her in the glory of your eternal kingdom;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen


15 August – The Dormition of The Blessed Virgin Mary


15 August – Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This is the day when Christians throughout the world celebrate the life of Mary the Mother of Jesus – the Theotokos[1].  Today’s festival is referred to as the Dormition or Assumption of Mary.  The mosaic shows her having ‘fallen asleep’ – which means she died.  Her Son, Jesus Christ is depicted as holding her soul, which will be taken by him up into heaven[2]. 
The bible says very little about the life of Mary.  The references to Mary in the New Testament are those parts of her life which are also about the life of Jesus.   The table at the end gives all the references to Mary in the New Testament. 
The Hebrew Scriptures seem to predict that Jesus, also known as Immanuel[3], will be born of a virgin.  This is not to suggest that Mary the Mother of Jesus was perpetually a virgin as some of the bible references above seem to suggest that Jesus had siblings[4]. 
‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel[5]
‘Hippolytus of Thebes[6], a 7th- or 8th-century author, claims in his partially preserved chronology to the New Testament that Mary lived for 11 years after the death of Jesus, dying in AD 41’.   
In Turkey there is a tradition that Mary the Mother of Jesus came to live with the Apostle John in Ephesus and that she lived in a house in the hills near Ephesus that is called ‘Meryemana’.  The site of the house was revealed in a dream to Catherine Emmerich (1775-1824) who was an invalid German nun who never left her native land.  From her description the Lazarist Fathers in Izmir managed to locate an old stone dwelling in the hills above Ephesus.  There is no proof that this structure dates from the first century when Mary the Mother of Jesus might have lived in Asia Minor.   The House of the Virgin has been designated a place of pilgrimage by the Roman Catholic Church and is visited by many Turkish and foreign visitors each year.  Mary is called Meryem by Muslims and is part of their tradition as well.  The tradition that Mary the Mother of Jesus lived in Ephesus is not in the Bible but probably arose because the Apostle John[7]was given the charge by Jesus, as he died on the cross to look after Mary, his mother[8].   Because John the Apostle travelled to Ephesus it is assumed that Mary the Mother of Jesus would have come as well and possibly also in the company of Mary of Magdalene. 
Even if Mary the Mother of Jesus never came to Asia Minor she is represented in many of the ancient churches that are found in modern day Turkey.   One of the pictures that I am including with this account is a selection of mosaic pictures of Mary that are to be found in Istanbul.  Kariye Museum, Istanbul has a wonderful mosaic series on the Life Cycle of the Blessed Virgin[9] that illustrates the life of Mary from conception to the birth of Jesus.  The mosaics are based on the Apocryphal Gospel of St James[10]. 
Mary is most closely associated with ‘The Magnificat’ the proclamation that Mary is said to have made when she met Elizabeth, her cousin[11].   And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
            and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
        for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
        for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
        His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
        He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
        He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
        he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
        He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
        according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” [12]
The Magnificat is said or sung at Evening prayer in many Christian traditions.  It is a song of praise, hope and redemption that has a vibrancy and relevance to all of us no matter what our age, gender or historic period we live in.  Mary was a woman of courage to have said yes when the angel announced to her that she was to bear the Messiah and give birth even though she was unmarried and a virgin[13].  She was a woman who committed her life to serving her God[14].    Through the faithful commitment of Mary, who was a young girl when she became pregnant with Jesus, came forth a new expression and understanding of the love of God for all nations, not just Israel.  The Christian faith is a door way to all to come to know the living God in their lives.  To receive and believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the chosen one of God, for all peoples.   
Collect for 15 August.
Almighty God,
who looked upon the lowliness of the Blessed Virgin Mary
and chose her to be the mother of your only Son:
grant that we who are redeemed by his blood
may share with her in the glory of your eternal kingdom;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen
Mary’s life
Meeting Elisabeth
Birth of Jesus
Rev 12
Jesus’ presentation in the Temple
Mary troubled
Mary tries to rescue Jesus
Woman blesses Mary
Mary at the cross
Mary at the Burial
24:1-12, 36-49
Acts 1:14

[1] Theotokos means God Bearer although some translate it as Mother of God. 
[2]There are some who would say that she didn’t die but she was taken up to heaven on the point of death or before death. 
[3]Immanuel means ‘God with us’ – an indication of the incarnation.
[4] Matt 13:55-56
[5] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Is 7:14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
[7]Also referred to as John the Theologian
[8]See John 19:25-27
[10]Also known as the Protoevangelium.  This document can be found on the internet and is as least as old as the second century. 
[11]Luke 1:39-56
[12] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Lk 1:46–55). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
[13]Luke 1:26-38. 
[14]Luke 1:38
[15]Only Mary Magdalene is mentioned as having gone to the tomb but she could have been with other women, not alone as John’s gospel seems to suggest. 



Copyright © 2018 Rev Ros Wilkinson