Transfiguration of Christ and the Falling Asleep (Успение) or Dormition of the Theotokos

The Transfiguration of Christ is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, celebrated on August 6 and August 19 (according to Old Calendarists), using the Gregorian Calendar, Julian Calendar, and Revised Julian Calendar.

Jesus had gone with his disciples Peter, James, and John to Mount Tabor. Christ’s appearance was changed while they watched into a glorious radiant figure. There appeared Elijah and Moses, speaking with Jesus. The disciples were amazed and terribly afraid.

This event shows forth the divinity of Christ, so that the disciples would understand after his Ascension that He was truly the radiant splendor of the Father, and that his Passion was voluntary (Mark 9:2-9). It also shows the possibility of our own theosis.

This event was the subject of some debates between Gregory Palamas and Barlaam of Calabria. Barlaam believed that the light shining from Jesus was created light, while Gregory maintained the disciples were given grace to perceive the uncreated light of God. This supported Gregory’s larger argument that although we cannot know God in His essence, we can know Him in his energies, as He reveals Himself.

Accounts of the Transfiguration are found in the Bible: Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-9, Luke 9:28-36, and II Peter 1:16-19.

The Feast of the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is celebrated on August 15 each year. The Feast commemorates the repose (dormition and in the Greek kimisis) or “falling-asleep” of the Mother of Jesus Christ, our Lord. The Feast also commemorates the translation or assumption into heaven of the body of the Theotokos.

The Holy Scriptures tell us that when our Lord was dying on the Cross, He saw His mother and His disciple John and said to the Virgin Mary, “Woman, behold your son!” and to John, “Behold your mother!” (John 19:25-27). From that hour, the Apostle took care of the Theotokos in his own home.

Along with the biblical reference in Acts 1:14 that confirms that the Virgin Mary was with the Holy Apostles on the day of Pentecost, the tradition of the Church holds that she remained in the home of the Apostle John in Jerusalem, continuing a ministry in word and deed.

At the time of her death, the disciples of our Lord who were preaching throughout the world returned to Jerusalem to see the Theotokos. Except for the Apostle Thomas, all of them including the Apostle Paul were gathered together at her bedside. At the moment of her death, Jesus Christ himself descended and carried her soul into heaven.

Following her repose, the body of the Theotokos was taken in procession and laid in a tomb near the Garden of Gethsemane. When the Apostle Thomas arrived three days after her repose and desired to see her body, the tomb was found to be empty. The bodily assumption of the Theotokos was confirmed by the message of an angel and by her appearance to the Apostles.

The Icon of the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos shows her on her deathbed surrounded by the Apostles. Christ is standing in the center (1.) looking at His mother. He is holding a small child clothed in white representing the soul of the Virgin Mary. With His golden garments, the angels above His head, and the mandorla surrounding Him, Christ is depicted in His divine glory.

5 thoughts on “Transfiguration of Christ and the Falling Asleep (Успение) or Dormition of the Theotokos

  1. Mary wasn’t a lifelong virgin. She had sex with her husband Joseph after Jesus was born. She had other children. The Bible names them. James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude. She was a sinner in need of a savior just like anyone else. She didn’t ascend to Heaven like Christ. People shouldn’t pray to her or worship her. When it comes to heresy the Russian Orthodox Church is even more off the wall than the Roman Catholic Church.


    • There was no term for ‘cousin’ in the historical context of the gospels. Who we would call ‘cousin’ today would be referred to as ‘brother’.


      • Bill,
        Regarding the original 1st century Aramaic and the Greek language of that time that the Holy Gospels were written in throughout the Roman Empire, Nick is correct. ‘Brother’ and ‘sister’ were terms used for first or even second cousins living in close proximity to one another, so that the ‘are not His brothers here?’ (Matt. 13:15) is a reference to Joseph’s extended clan, about which we know less from the traditions of the Holy Fathers than Mary’s. But as that passage of Scripture makes clear, Jesus is known in Nazareth as the carpenter Joseph’s son and through Joseph’s clan.
        Second, both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches maintain the ever virginity of Mary dating back to the pre-schism, pre-Muslim ecumenical councils of the 7th century. Orthodoxy does not accept the 19th century Papal innovation/dogma of Mary herself being the result of a virgin birth.
        Third, to your point that Mary was a sinner in need of salvation like the rest of us, this is undoubtedly true, but it is also true that she is indeed ‘blessed among women, and blessed is the fruit of her womb Jesus’. To not affirm this, or the sanctity of her extraordinary example of obedience even unto her Son’s death on the Cross, is to devaluae one of the supreme examples of sainthood from the start of the Church. This is where I as a Protestant in studying the charge of Maryology found it to be false, before becoming Orthodox.


      • Fourth, regarding the position of Sola Scriptura and only interpreting Scripture by Scripture, what of the apocryphal books that did not make it into the Bible themselves but are clearly referenced as inspired but not Scripture, such as the Book of Enoch that both the Apostles Peter and Paul referenced in their Epistles? And why do Christians meet on Sundays at all, if Christ did not explicitly state that according to the Scriptures as the day for his followers to meet? Or did Jesus even tell His followers to call themselves Christians, which only came about in the first generation of Apostles at Antioch? Clearly Sola Scriptura cannot stand even such minimal scrutiny and Protestants, and most Evangelicals, accept some Apostolic succession, but differ on how it works through the grace of the visible body of Christ on Earth as well as the meaning of the Gates of Hell not prevailing against her (which even some Catholics debate, see TradCat for more as I do not speak for Papal doctrines or Catholics).


      • Fifth, if we affirm as the Church has since all of the Ecumenical Councils that Christ is fully God and fully man, being of both essences, and represents the perfection of man as The Son of Man (the title He used for Himself), then why would we deny His tender treatment of the woman who bore Him in her womb for nine months? If God took Enoch and Elijah up to Heaven without them experiencing the full sting of death, then why not His dear mother? Furthermore, if we deny the testimony of the disciples or their apostolic successors, then how do we know the Book of Acts or subsequent traditions concerning the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul are true at all? The same witnesses to these were the witnesses to the Dormition of our Mother. Therefore that is the conclusion of my arguments on the subject.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s