Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ascension and Assumption

Fr. Blake has a few interesting observations about the connection between the Ascension of our Lord and the Assumption/Dormition of His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. One important thing to add to his thoughts about the icon of the Dormition is the size of Mary in the Byzantine representation. Here we see Mary, having died in Jerusalem, surrounded by the Apostles (as recorded by St. Dionysius the pseudo-Areopagite and St. John of Damascus), being take in soul by Christ while her body temporarily remains on earth, only assumed into heaven after it was sealed in the tomb. In iconographic depictions Mary is almost never shown apart from Christ. Commonly icons depict the Virgin holding young Jesus, wrapped in clothing that shapes the painted (or "written" to use the Greek term) Son of God as a peanut. Regardless of whether the young Christ is written as an infant or as an older child, as is often the case in the apse of Byzantine churches, the Lord is always in front of the Virgin. The Virgin shows us the Lord, Who is due glory in His own right. All honor of Mary descends through him (the opposite of the co-Redemptrix?), 

The Dormition icon reverses this. Mary, although fully grown at the time of her death, is now the size of an infant and shown in the same peanut-like shape as the infant Jesus of the Nativity icon. Christ holds His mother in front of Himself for the faithful to see.

Here the iconographic tradition shows the spiritual realm. Icons spiritually interpret God's action in the physical world. But, as Fr. Blake asserts, there are two planes of reality in this icon: what the Apostles saw, Mary deceased and heralded by angelic song, and the spiritual realm, the taking of her soul into heaven by her Divine Son. In the physical realm Mary was larger than Christ probably for 10 or 12 years and not much smaller for the next 20. In the spiritual realm the Blessed Mother is "more honorably than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim," but menial compared to God-made-Man, Christ. Mary, great as she was and is among Man, is still small in contrast to the One Who made her. With the Assumption of the Virgin, the Divine plan for the Incarnation is now complete.

The Dormition fittingly marks the end of the liturgical year in the Byzantine rite. The year re-starts on September 8th, the feast of Mary's Nativity.

1 comment:

  1. What is actually the co-Redemption doctrine? I know most traddies love it, but I have never learned what does it exactly teach.

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