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On Holy Virginity: Encyclical Letter Of His Holiness Pope Pius XII

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Please allow additional time for delivery to your address. On one of these visitations to Golgotha, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and told her that she would soon be moving on from this life to the heavenly life, eternal and blessed. The Angel gave her a palm branch as a token of this promise. The Mother of God returned to Bethlehem with this heavenly tidings, along with three virgins who served her Sepphora, Evigea, and Zoila.

Patristic Nectar Publications - Marriage: The Great Sacrament

Then she called for the righteous Joseph of Arimathea and the disciples of the Lord, to whom she announced her nearing Dormition. After praying, the Most Holy Virgin burned incense, and St. Countless Apostles flew in, says St. John Damascene, like clouds and eagles, in order to serve the Mother of God.

The Dormition, or "Falling Asleep."

Seeing each other, the Apostles rejoiced, but asked each other in their perplexity why the Lord had thus gathered them into one place. John the Theologian greeted them with tears of joy, saying that the time has come for the Mother of God to depart to the Lord. Going in to the Mother of God, they saw her seated magnificently on her couch, filled with spiritual joy. The Apostles greeted her, and then told her about their miraculous transport from the places of their ministry. The Most Holy Virgin glorified God that He had heard her prayer and fulfilled the desire of her heart, and began to discuss her coming end.

During this discussion, the Apostle Paul appeared with his disciples: Dionysius the Aeropagite, the wondrous Hierotheus, the divine Timothy, and others of the seventy Apostles. The Holy Spirit had gathered them all together, so that they would be vouchsafed the blessing of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, and arrange her burial in all magnificence.

She wished for each of them eternal blessedness, and prayed with them for the peace and well-being of the whole world. The third hour came, when the Dormition of the Mother of God should occur. Many candles were burning. The holy Apostles with hymns surrounded the magnificently adorned bier on which the Most Holy Virgin Theotokos rested.

She prayed in expectation of her departure and the arrival of her beloved Son and Lord. Suddenly, there was a flash of unspeakable Light of Divine glory, before which the light of the burning candles paled. Those who saw it were in fear. The ceiling of the room as if disappeared in rays of incomprehensible Light, and the King of Glory Himself, Christ, descended, surrounded by a multitude of Angels, Archangels, and other Heavenly Powers, with the righteous souls of the forefathers and prophets, who had once foretold the coming of a Most Pure Virgin.

The Lord called her to the habitations of Eternal Life. Without the least bodily suffering, as if in a pleasant dream, the Most Holy Virgin gave her soul into the hands of her Son and God.

The Mirror of Holy Virginity

Then began joyous angelic singing. The Queen and Handmaiden of God has come; receive her ye gates, and fittingly raise the Ever Virgin Mother of the Light; through her has the race of men been saved. We cannot look upon her, nor are we able to render unto her the honor that is meet. The grace-filled face of the Mother of God shone with the divine glory of virginity, and a fragrance poured from her body. In giving birth, He hast preserved thy virginity, and in the grave, he preserved thy body incorrupt. To the greater glorification of the Most Holy Theotokos, the omnipotent power of God healed the sick who touched her bier with faith and love.

Having wept over their separation from the Mother of God on earth, the Apostles set about burying her most pure body.

Of Holy Virginity: (De virginitate)

The holy Apostles Peter, Paul, and James, with others of the twelve Apostles, carried on their shoulders the bier that held the body of the Most Pure Virgin. John the Theologian walked at the fore carrying the heavenly, radiant palm branch, and the other saints and a multitude of the faithful walked alongside the bier with candles and lamps, singing sacred hymns. This solemn procession began at Mt.

Zion and went through all of Jerusalem to Gethsemane. At the first movement, a wide and luminous circle of cloud appeared suddenly over the most pure body of the Mother of God like a wreath, and a host of angels joined together with the host of Apostles. The singing of the heavenly powers could be heard glorifying the Mother of God, and this singing was repeated by earthly voices.

This circle of heavenly chanters and luminosity moved along in the air, accompanying the procession to the very place of burial. The unbelieving people of Jerusalem, stunned by the extraordinary magnificence of the burial procession and enraged at the honor rendered to the Mother of Jesus, sent word about it to the high priests and scribes. Enflamed with envy and vengefulness for everything that reminded them of Christ, they sent their servants to disperse the procession, and to burn the body of the Mother of God.

The angry crowd and soldiers headed wrathfully toward the Christians, but the cloud-like wreath that followed in the air above the procession lowered down to the earth and as if guarded them like a wall. Their pursuers heard steps and singing, but could not see any of those processing. Many of them were struck with blindness. The Jewish priest Aphthoniah, out of his envy and hatred for the Mother of Jesus of Nazareth, wanted to overturn the bier on which lay the body of the Most Pure Virgin, but an Angel of God invisibly severed his hands that touched the bier. Seeing such a miracle, Aphthoniah repented and confessed with faith the greatness of the Mother of God.

He received healing and joined the host of those accompanying her body, becoming a zealous follower of Christ. When the procession had reached Gethsemane, the final kissing veneration of her most pure body began. Only in the evening could the holy Apostles place her in the grave and close the entrance to the cave with a large stone. They did not leave the place of burial for three days, praying and singing psalms continually.


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By the wise providence of God, the Apostle Thomas was not fated to be present at the burial of the Mother of the Lord. Arriving on the third day in Gethsemane, he fell down before the burial cave with bitter tears and loudly expressed his regret that he had not been worthy to receive a final blessing from the Mother of God, or to bid her farewell.

The Apostles out of heartfelt pity for him decided to open the cave and give him the consolation of reverencing the holy remains of the Ever Virgin. But when they opened the grave, they found there only her winding sheets, and were thus convinced that the body of the Most Holy Virgin had been miraculously taken up into heaven. I am with you always. This was the origin of the rite of the Panagia—a tradition of raising a portion of bread in honor of the Mother of God, which is still observed in monasteries.

The cincture of the Mother of God and her sacred garments, preserved with reverence and divided over the face of the world, have and still do work miracles.

The Holy Names of Jesus and Mary

Her many icons pour forth everywhere streams of healing and wonders, and her sacred body, taken up into Heaven, witnesses to our future abiding there with it. It was not left to the chance transitions of a transitory world, but was incomparably more exalted by a most glorious ascension into the heavens. The feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is celebrated with particular solemnity in Gethsemane, at the place of her burial. Nowhere else does the heart so grieve at its separation from the Mother of God, and nowhere else does it so exalt, convinced of her intercession for the world.

At the foot of the Mount of Olives is the garden of Gethsemane, the olive trees of which continue to bear fruit to this day. The holy forefather of God Joachim reposed as an eighty-year-old elder a few years after the Entrance of the Most Holy Virgin into the temple. The widowed St.