In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
Dear brothers, and sisters! Today the whole Christian world triumphantly celebrates the day of the most radiant repose of the Mother of God. It would seem that this celebrated event would be sad and filled with tears, because we are encountering death; however the holy Church is today adorned in garments of triumph, rejoices and exalts, and calls us to do the same. Why should we rejoice on this day of the Dormition of the Mother of God? Because the word “dormition” alone shows that the death of the Mother of God was unusual. It was sleep, which was soon followed by joyful wakening.
For several days before the Dormition of the Most Pure Virgin, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her with tidings of her nearing departure from this life. Filled with deep faith in the future blessed life, she accepted these tidings not with fear and sadness but with a feeling of vibrant joy and great gratitude to God. At the same time, the almighty power of God gathered the apostles from all over the world to Jerusalem, so that they might render honor to the Mother of God and bury her. In the very same hour of her repose an extraordinary light illuminated the house of the Most Holy Virgin, and through the opening to the heavens all present beheld the Lord of Glory Himself with the angels and saints, descending to meet His mother. The apostle Thomas, by God’s special dispensation, appeared after the Most Pure One’s burial. He desired to venerate her and therefore opened her tomb, but the body of the Mother of God was not to be found…
In such a wondrous manner did the Most Blessed Virgin Mary repose, to the consolation of all Christians, especially triumphantly manifesting the power and grandeur of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who by His death and Resurrection destroyed the sting of death, and from something terrible and painful made it, for His faithful followers, something joyful and blessed.
Before the coming of Christ on earth, death was very frightening for man, because it snatched him away like a ferocious animal does its prey—irretrievably—and there were no means to escape it, for sin reigned over people. But after the Lord’s appearance in the flesh and His victory over sin and death, the horror of death disappeared; it became as if a peaceful sleep, after which dawns the joyous morning of the general Resurrection. To the measure that each of us conquers the sin that still lives in us, the fear of death disappears, so that triumphant conquerors of sin meet it with joy, and no longer die but verily fall peacefully asleep. We see the clearest example of this triumph over death in the Dormition of the Most Pure Virgin Mary. She reclined in her grave only for a brief rest. Following after the Mother of God we see the apostles, martyrs, and all the saints, meeting death with joy like their greatest friend, who trades the fleeting good things of this world with its sorrows and sadness for eternal blessedness.
The Holy Church strives to instill also in us this same fearlessness of death, exhorting us to drive away fear by the gradual uprooting in ourselves of sins; and the Church calls our dead loved ones “reposed”, that is, as if fallen asleep, because the Christian is so assured of deathless life in the future that he truly looks at death as no more than sleep.