“O holy bier, bearing the holy dwelling place—greater than all the world—of the God whom no place contains!”

What a marvel! She has fallen asleep! She has fallen asleep! She who gave birth to the life and resurrection of the world has fallen asleep! By the grace that came from her, every spiritual and intellectual nature shares eternal life. Her Son is the one who has despoiled the underworld and death,14 who has “neutralized the devil” (Heb 2: 14), who will raise up by his command (cf. 2 Thess 4:16) those who have died since time began and who sleep in him—the one who is Lord, and who says, “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:24). She follows him as his Mother, the all-holy one, and says to him in a kind of prophetic address, “My heart has not grown tired following after you, and has not longed for the day of men and women” (Jer 17: 16).

Today, she who gave rest in her arms to the joy of cherubim and seraphim and all the heavenly powers has fallen asleep. He is the rest of the angels and of all things, and the holy and life-giving Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, rests in him as the Son who shares God’s very substance; he is the true rest, who says in the Gospels, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). She now closes her holy eyes, who once set the light of the world shining, who carried the maker of lights himself in the world like a golden processional torch, untouched by human hands; “he it is who planted the ear and formed the eye” (Ps 93:9 [LXX]), and who summons people from all the ends of the earth “into his marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9). Her glorious body, the receptacle of life, must be laid to rest by holy hands, for it was the source of immortality and incorruptibility, which flowed from the Holy Spirit within that mortal and corruptible nature that belongs to all of us. She clothed the Lord, who “wraps himself in light as in a robe” (Ps 103:2 [LXX]), in the fleshly garments in which he advanced in age, for he was born of her.

Then, in fact, that holy body of the Mother of God—where the single Jesus was formed, where the God who is over all came truly to be called human—was lifted up on a bier.

O holy bier, who bear that truly immaculate body, through which he who makes all things holy has come forth!
O holy bier, bearing another couch not made by hands, “where the God who laid down the heavens” has “chosen to take his rest” (Pss 17: 10; 131: 13 [LXX]).
O holy bier, bearing the holy dwelling place—greater than all the world—of the God whom no place contains!
O holy bier, bearing God’s workshop for the salvation of the universe!
O holy bier, bearing the palace of heaven’s king, built by him as the place of his real yet uncircumscribed presence—the presence of his Incarnation!
O holy bier, bearing that wonderful chariot, in which the God “who sits upon the cherubim” (Is 17: 16) came forth to ride over the earth! Having fully clothed himself with the purple robe of our nature, “he rules over the nations” (Ps 46:9 [LXX]). About him, the prophet said, “Why are your robes red, as from a winepress when the grapes have been trodden down” (Is 63:2)?
O holy bier, bearing the pure, chosen spiritual mine, from which the creator and Lord wrought anew for himself his own creation!
O holy bier, bearing the blessed tent that came from Abraham and David—the tabernacle from which the most high and incorporeal God took his living, spiritual body, which did not exist before him, but took up its very existence in him!
O holy bier, bearing the spiritual incense that fills the whole world “with the fragrance of Christ, our God” (2 Cor 2:15).
O holy bier, bearing the sacred vessel filled with the myrrh of a divinity beyond all divinity!
O holy bier, bearing the all-holy body of the most glorious Mother of God, which is carried away amid celebration by the holy angels and the divine apostles, to the praise and glory of her Son and our God!

They placed it in a tomb as in a shrine of life, in the place called Gethsemane—they who had become the eye-witnesses and servants of the Word, and those holy ones who then were in their company. Their desire in doing this was that through her, our kindly and just judge might be rendered merciful towards us—Christ our God, who came forth from her, and who will appear in glory like lightning from heaven, to take his place where the prophets have foretold, to judge the living and the dead with the divine apostles, through the ministry of the holy angels.

What mighty feat of the mind, what power of the word can grasp and give worthy voice to the many things that took place then—holy things, things beyond our comprehension, performed and sung by these witnesses to celebrate her glory? God revealed to them ineffable mysteries; a variety of blessings were bestowed on them, and they were initiated, through her power, into gifts of healing beyond number. For this reason, then, and because she is the glorious mother of Christ, our God and Savior, who bestows life and immortality, she was raised to life by him, to share his bodily incorruptibility for all ages. He raised her from the grave and took her to himself, in a way known only to him. So to him be glory and power, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and for the ages of ages! Amen.

St Modestus of Jerusalem

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1 Response to “O holy bier, bearing the holy dwelling place—greater than all the world—of the God whom no place contains!”

  1. Eugene A. Koene says:

    A house is shown at the ancient site of Ephesus which she and St. John are supposed to have occupied. How does this mesh with the tradition of Mary’s dormition in Jerusalem and burial in the tomb at Gethsemane?

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