The Gateway to the Kingdom of Heaven

Homily On the Day of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos     

When a person dies, this gives birth to sorrow in the hearts of his loved ones. It is especially sad to see the death of people who are far from the Church and God, and their relatives at the moment of parting. What senseless words are spoken at that moment, and what senseless goings on! Just as senseless and empty as that person’s life itself might have been. Just as corruptible, no matter what the person’s goals and deeds were, and to what he dedicated his whole life. Pretty words, solemn promises, what that person did in life, how his memory will live forever… Such things are uttered, but it’s all corruption, it all crumbles and turns into dust. And sorrow, unimaginable heaviness visits those who loved the one who has died. We can even observe strange and absolutely pagan customs associated with a person’s death. In some places people even clap their hands as the coffin is carried out, and there are other such rituals having no relation whatsoever to eternity. It is hard and grievous to see all this, it brings no respite or joy, these visible manifestations of sorrow. An even more onerous display is weeping and lamentation. Some people even cry out, “I don’t want to live! What will we do without you?!” This is all a manifestation of the fact that people are far from that joyful and saving power, which our Lord Jesus Christ brought to the world.

Unbelieving people can say to us today, “Why did you gather in church today, what are you celebrating, essentially? The death of the Mother of God?” But this is what people say who don’t understand anything in their lives or in the life of the Church.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, through His death, His suffering on the cross, and Resurrection conquered death itself. The Dormition of the Mother of God conveys a completely new meaning to man’s passing from this life to eternal life. Dormition is when a person falls asleep in order to meet with the Lord in the Kingdom of Heaven. Joy filled the hearts of people and angels who solemnly saw the Mother of God off on this path. Death and sorrow no longer had such power over them. And the Mother of God truly only fell asleep—on the third day her body was not found in the grave, for she was already in the Heavenly Kingdom.

Such is the power and glory that our Lord Jesus Christ brought to the world. Death has no power over us, death for the apostles was such a joyful meeting, as one of the holy fathers says, that they would greet death as a friend—because it was for them the gateway to the Kingdom of Heaven. For each of us also the passage from this life to life eternal should be joyful, peaceful, calm, and grace-filled, like the feast of the Dormition. This is truly a feast—but of course, it is for people leading a pure and sinless life.

The Mother of God is in this sense an example for us. Her guilelessness, modesty, purity, lack of envy, sinlessness—this is how the Mother of God, the Mother of all Christians, differs from us sinners. She lived such a pure life to the end that for her, the Dormition was a joyful event, and no sorrow, apart from that of the Apostles due to their human weakness at parting with the Mother of God, was present at that moment.

The main thing that distinguishes the Mother of God from us is her submission to God’s will. No murmuring, no resistance can be seen in this Handmaiden of God, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, our Intercessor.

It is precisely for this reason that the day of the Dormition, this feast, is especially honored by Christians. It would seem to be a paradox, a sorrowful event; but it is joyful for us—but unfathomable to the unbelieving.

Nevertheless, the Mother of God passed by neither the former nor the latter with her mercy; she does not abandon the human race in her prayers.

This joy fills our hearts today with joy, with meekness, and submission to God’s will; the Mother of God becomes for all of us that power and glory, which our Lord Jesus Christ, Who conquered death, brought to this world.

Hieromonk Ignaty (Shestakov)
Translation by


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