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The Dormition of the Mother of God
“She is a breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; hence nothing impure can find a way into her. She is a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, image of his goodness... She is indeed more splendid than the sun, she outshines all the constellations; compared with light, she takes first place, for light must yield to night, but over Wisdom evil can never triumph.”
Wisdom 7: 25-26, 29-30 (Jerusalem Bible)
Today is August 14, and I am remembering, contemplating, meeting St John Paul II, on this day in 1993, World Youth Day in Denver. Some people you can touch into, or step into their spiritual light and it changes you forever.
True holiness has that power of re-creation. Many times we are unaware of these people in everyday life, but sometimes their deep suffering illuminates their holiness. Today we are all aware of the true holiness of every caregiver and all those on the frontlines of this most recent pandemic.
When I met John Paul carrying the icon of Mary I was commissioned to do for him, (Our Lady of the New Advent: the Burning Bush) I felt completely known and loved by him, almost instantly. I honestly don’t know how that happens, because I felt very dim inside his light, and still do. In every picture taken that afternoon, he has his hand on my shoulder or he is touching my hand. In some ways I compare it to an apparition which does forever change you. I heard friends and relatives say, that even in that giant arena, they could see the mutual love from a distance. So, today, 27 years later, I still feel bathed in that love. Mary, the Blessed Mother, “surrounds” John Paul and I had a religious Sister, who died not long after, tell me that Mary arranged our meeting for reasons I would not understand until much later.
In virtually every single icon of the Mother of God, even those of her alone, you sense her son’s presence. She cradles him or pleads, appears,prays, cries,grieves and shines with his presence. To look at her is to see her love for him. The essence of the icon of the Dormition for me, is the love of the Son for his Mother. This is also an icon of the joyful promise of Christian death. Here Christ’s love gives life to the body of the one who loved him so well as Mother and true disciple. Here he becomes mother as he carefully cradles her infant-like soul and carries her home. The change of the feast of the Coronation of the Mother of God, from May 31 to August 22, is liturgically more meaningful. It now comes just a week after the Assumption/Dormition. I tried to express in the poem below, just what Mary’s Queenship means according to the Gospels.
In this version of the Dormition, John the elderly Beloved Disciple, weeps and hovers over the body of the Mother given to him with the Lord’s halting, broken words from the Cross. He does not yet see Christ in the radiant mandorla of light. The Archangel Gabriel bows low in loving recognition, once again, of the one who became Mother of the Incarnate Word and Mother of all Christ’s offspring; whom, the Book of Revelation says, will be pursued by the devil (Revelation 12:17) until Christ returns as Christ the King. And then we will (hopefully) all reign with him for eternity.
This icon was commissioned in the early 90’s by the Jesuit Magazine, America. I wrote this prayer/ poem at the same time.
She sleeps who
knew no rest here.
Promised early on
a knife in her soul...
watching relatives, neighbors,
multitudes, dividing,deciding and
finally calling for the blood of the
Word clothed in her own flesh.
Stabat Mater Dolorosa,
all through the grisly passion
a helpless harmony,
tears that would not stop,
then all life leaving
from her eyes
from his wounds.
Now he returns to take
her soul and body.
She of the abused and powerless,
She of the stifled and wordless,
She of the empty and outcast.
She is crowned forever
Queen of All Heaven
in the kingdom of reversals.
And we her children
are assured such an ending,
after dust, we too shall be
carried Home in the mandorla
of the Rising Son.
Fr Bill McNichols ⚜️14 August 2020