Let’s analyze the dormition icon writings to see what the story behind the story really is.
The New Testament does not mention any reference to the death and assumption of the Mother of Jesus, and there is no historical documentation for the death of Mary. There is no authentic tradition dating back to the apostles commemorating how the Mother of God left this earth.
The orthodox dormition icon writings depicts her as having fallen asleep while Christ comes to collect her soul. From the apocryphal traditions, we have writings called the Transitus Sanctae Mariae (Latin: “The Crossing Over of Mary”). It is a non-canonical writing from the fifth century. Dormition icon writings describe her passage into heavenly life and relate the death of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem, with the solemnity of the Apostles surrounding her. The Orthodox Church celebrates the assumption with the Dormition icon writings of the Mother of God on August 15th.
Another Dimension given by the Mother of God in The Dormition Icon Writings
Assumption and Dormition Icon writings celebrate our belief that there is another dimension beyond our flesh and bones. Her funeral is interrupted by the return of her son Jesus, who has become the energetic Christ. He stands in radiant white, holding the soul of Mary in his arms. She is wrapped in white cloth and being taken to heaven for “adoption.” The Orthodox Church believes her divine being died the same death we all die. Yet, to illustrate her divinity is different from ours, her death is called “sleep.” I am captivated by the icon’s concept that the love shared in this life is collected at our departure; by love we will awaken again. Our souls are like small cocoons, new life comes with metamorphosis.
The Dormition icon writings express a ceaseless love expressed in their relationship outside of time and space. Mary holds Jesus at His birth; Christ holds Mary’s soul at her death. The transition between life and death is not like being almost born or almost dead. I prefer to think the human soul falls asleep in the divine, a return form where it has come. Life itself is a continuous cycle of spiritual transition.
The theology of the Dormition Icon Writings of Mary, the Mother of God, is extraordinary.
The Roman Catholic church embraces Mary’s Assumption. Her body is often positioned o a cloud in the sky with God and Jesus. The Orthodox Church maintains that Mary rests in the “great sleep” and her soul is gathered on the last day by Christ. Either way, there is an upward movement of the soul towards heaven. We gather around our departed loved ones and commend their souls into the realm of spirit. Our friends and family are linked and bound to a life after death we have yet to see. Life is love and we are spiritual beings made of love.
The apostles gather around Mary. Three men have red crosses on their vestments indicative of the priestly beginnings of the church. These three special disciples will be the first gospel writers. As I write this post I am dreaming of a new version of this icon. How about, Mary Sleeps surrounded by the women who have supported her since the birth of her son, and to his death on the cross and after. The women unmentioned in the biblical account have a story to write. Some of them would be best be portrayed in priestly vestments along with their counterpart.
If we admit she is dead – the question arises: what became of her body?
Christian theologians had to find an answer. Mary’s body did not corrupt in the grave, hers was a perfect balance between body and spirit. The Assumption is a catholic dogma proclaimed on November 1, 1950 by Pius XII. He proclaimed a mysterious end for her earthly life, Mary was “taken up body and soul” to heaven. This is the reason we find no relics of Mary’s bones or hair in churches. I believe that the spirit gives life to the body and that the human soul is everlasting. It is an extraordinary thing to say, but many of the dormition icon writings show this.
Author Bio. Mary Jane Miller is a self-taught Byzantine style iconographer with over 28 years of experience living in Mexico. Her collection of sacred art is contemporary, unique, and unorthodox at times. She teaches 4 courses annually, 5 day immersion workshops throughout the US and Mexico. website http://sacrediconretreat.com/ FACEBOOK Conversations about prayer and iconography.
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