On The Dormition: Part 2—Mar Jacob of Serug

icon Mar Jacob Of SarugHymns, canons & homilies commemorating the Theotokos are numerous, literally filling volumes. One of the earliest writers about the Dormition was Mar Jacob of Serug (451-521AD) who produced 760 poetic works not counting other numerous hymns, letters & homilies. Barely half have survived to our time & very few that have exist in English. Below is his hymn commemorating the Dormition of the Most-Holy Theotokos.** While the text this was taken from has the following titled as a homily, however it is written in a metrical & melodic style; it thus reads more like a hymn or even poetry following the Syrian style of that era. I personally recommend chanting it aloud as you read through it.

Homily Concerning The Burial, That Is To Say, The Death Of The Holy Virgin Mother Of God, Mary, & How She Was Buried By The Apostles

Son, who in Your love inclined heaven & descended to earth; & put on a body & became man from the daughter of David!

Mystical Offspring from whom the heights & depths are filled, fill me with your mystical instruction which brought about two worlds.

Only-begotten Son, who fashioned man from nothing, restore the discourse in my weary mind that I may sing to You.

Son, who firmly fixed ten mortal senses & the mortal body, stay my thoughts & bring them to the place of your Father.

Christ, who have given the Spirit of life to man whom You created, pour into me your living discernment, filled with wonder.

Hidden-One, who were concealed even from the watchers & they do not see You, shine upon me in stillness so that I may proclaim openly about your Mother.

O You, who healed the unclean man who had been brought near to You, restore & heal the body & soul of those who await You.

Light of Christ, which illumines the eyes that are darkened, let your light shine forth on my frailty, & I will be enlightened by You.

Lord of mankind, who wanted to become human in the flesh, & rested upon an dwelt within the pure mother, the daughter of lights.

O You, who dwelt with her for nine months & came to birth, may my mind produce gifts of praise at your mystical Nativity.

O You, who were cherish with well abides by the pure mother, they my tongue pour forth all praise of your sweetness.

Son, who have visited us & fulfill the whole Economy, grant me to speak of the burial of the faithful one.

Your Mother endured many sufferings for your sake; every grief encompassed her at your Crucifixion.

How much sighing & sorrowful tears did her eyes shed, when they enshrouded You & brought You to rest within the tomb.

How much terror the Mother of mercy felt at your burial, when the guards of the sepulchre seized her lest she draw near to You.

She endured sufferings when she saw that You were hung on the cross, that with a spear they had pierced your side on Golgotha;

& when the Jews had sealed the sepulchre in which had been placed your living body which gives life & remits debts.

The Way Of All Generations

And to this Mother, who endured these things for You, the end had come to depart to the world which is full of blessings.

The time came to proceed on the way of all the generations who have gone & come to the end with great quaking.

Prior to all generations, Adam journeyed on that way, & get Seth & the generations of his just sons of former times.

The pure & innocent generation of righteous Noah traveled on it, & that of Shem & of Japheth & of Ham, the sons who were on the earth.

Abraham & Isaac, the good workers, followed them, & also the righteous who were on the earth from generation to generation.

Jacob, the just & humble one, went in that way, & after him the twelve patriarchs, his beautiful sons.

Joseph traveled there in the sons of Ephraim & Judah, & with them that humble Moses & the glorious Hur.

After him came Joshua, son of Nun, an admirable man, & Aaron the priest & all the tribes of Levi.

David the king & the generations of his kingdom, also Daniel of Babylonia, a man most pleasing, & with him the three innocent children in the furnace.

Jephtha, the just, & Gideon, the great, who divided a people, & Samson, the chosen one, who lost his life because of a woman.

The twelve prophets who departed & went with those of former times; also there generations with their times were consumed by death.

Samuel, the pure one, with Jeremiah of great renown, also Ezekiel, wondrous in prophetic visions.

Those of former times departed, & the time of the wicked sons came; the Lord descended to redeem them from error.

The Life & Death Of Our Lord

He rested upon & dwelt in her pure womb, full of grace, this Virgin who behold her story is being told by us.

He dwelt in her & settled for nine months unimpeded, & proceeding in order, the time came for the birth.

He will & was born, & in the Jordan received Baptism; he performed miracles, healed the sick & purified lepers.

He endured the temptations of the accuser, trampled him, conquered him; the children lauded him, even the infants with their palm branches.

He chose for himself a company of twelve, full of light, & Judas, the crafty evil spirit, sprang up from there.

He betrayed his master & destroyed his soul & became a reproach; he had fallen from that position of apostleship because he had consented.

Then our Lord to near to death, as we have said; He died in delivered us, & He rose from the sepulchre & took us up with Him.

The Death & Burial Of The Mother Of God

icon dormitionUnto the Mother of this Jesus Christ, Son of God, death came that she might taste his cup.

The Lord commanded the exalted hosts above in the flaming legions, the seraphim of light.

Choirs of watchers descended in their raiment; with a loud voice they sang their psalms.

All the righteous of every generation came & gathered together, behold also the righteous & the patriarchs from of old!

The sound of that choir of prophets sings praise, this one to that one, as seers of truth.

The priests of old & all the company of the sons of Levi, with their sacrifices & their oblations & their offerings.

That company of the twelve chosen apostles stands & prepares the virginal body of the blessed one for burial.

John, as a steward of truth true near & enshrouded the glorious body of the blessed one.

Two illustrious apostles, chosen of the Testaments, were entrusted with that treasure of truth.

The righteous Nicodemus prepared the body of her Son for burial, & the body of this Virgin, that chosen son of thunder.

The pastors & their flocks came to the top of the mountain, reverend priests & ministers with their thuribles.

The winds struck the great dome of the heavens in gusts; the heights & the depths chanted praise with their harps.

A light shone forth on that place where men & watchers were waiting to prepare the most fair one for burial.

As the Lord had descended & prepared his servant Moses for burial, so together with them He buried the Mother, according to the flesh.

On a mountaintop within luminous clouds, Moses, the prophet, was buried by God.

And even Mary herself, on that mountain in Galilee, was buried by the watchers & also by the angels, together with God.

John, the youthful virgin, true near & embraced the pure mother who had been committed to him by our Savior.

He was a mediator between God & men while the watchers descended with great ineffable solemnity.

In a cave of stone, & the new sepulchre of Nicodemus, they introduced & placed the Son of this blessed one.

And again this pure mother of the Son of God, they introduced & placed her in a cave, in a sepulchre from a cave of stone.

All that company of the apostles gathered together & stood by, while in truth, their Master (together) with them laid her in the grave.

Ranks & companies, also choirs of the sons of light; a clamor of watchers & a multitude of burning flames.

Fiery seraphim with wings closely covered by flames, with legions & their heavenly divisions.

Mighty cherubim who were yoked beneath his throne are moved by wonder to give praise with their Hosannas.

Followers of Gabriel, a glowing fiery multitude, & variously transformed in their natures.

Followers of Michael full of movement in their dissent, feasting, rejoicing, making merry this day with their Alleluias.

Heaven & the air of glory were filled with celestials who journeyed & came down to the place of earth.

A sweet & pure fragrance blew from the thuribles of the exalted multitude when they met to descend to earth.

The demons fled in the host of darkness; also all the souls that were afflicted were again assuaged.

The demons fled the souls in which they were; there was rest for those who were being tempted by their cruelty.

The evil demons were disturbed & agitated, for they saw the sign which only happened because of our Lord.

They saw heaven discharging multitudes of hosts; the air was utterly sanctified with sweet fragrance.

New sounds were heard from all the birds; which were chanting in ranks according to their natures.

All living creatures made a joyful sound of praise in their places; all the earth was stirred by their shouts of joy.

The heavens & the mountains & all the plains which were adorned, broke forth in praise when the virginal body was being laid in the grave.

All living creatures made a joyful sound of praise in their places; all the earth was stirred by their shouts of joy.

All trees with their fruits & produce were sprinkled with dew, the sweet fragrance of their gladness.

All the flowers which were beautiful in their variety, set forth perfume like sweet spices sending forth fragrance.

The waters & the fish & all creeping things within the sea, were aware of this day & were moved to praise.

All creatures silent eloquent, according to their natures rendered the praise which was due.

The Glorification Of The Mother Of God

On this day added rejoices & Eve his wife, because their daughter rests in the place where they are gathered.

On this day the righteous Noah & Abraham rejoiced that their daughter has visited them in their dwelling-place.

On this day Jacob, the honorable old man, rejoices that the daughter who sprouted from his root has called him into life.

On this day the twelve just sons of the lame <one> rejoiced greatly & are glad in that she visited them.

On this day let also Judah rejoiced greatly, for behold the daughter who has given life, went forth from his loins.

On this day let Joseph rejoice in the great Moses, for one young maiden has called all mankind to life.

On this day let Aaron rejoice in Eliezar & all the tribes of the sons of Levi with their priesthood.

On this day let David the renowned forefather rejoice, because the daughter who was from him, has placed a glorious crown on his head.

On this day let Samuel rejoice with Jeremiah, because the daughter of Judah dropped dew on their bones.

Come Ezekiel, trained in prophetic revelation, if the thing that has occurred is described in your prophecy!

On this day let also Isaiah the prophet rejoice, because she whom he prophesied, behold she visits him in the place of the dead.

On this day all the prophets lifted their heads from their graves, because they saw the light which shone forth on them.

They saw that death is disquieted & flees from within them; & <that> the gates of heaven are opened again & the depths of the earth.

The prophets, the apostles, the martyrs & the priests who were gathered together, also the teachers & the patriarchs & the righteous ones of old!

In heaven, the watchers; & the depths, man; in the air, glory: when the Virgin Mary was buried as one deceased.

A light shone on that company of disciples, also on her neighbors & her relations & her kindred.

The heavenly company performed their “Holy, Holy, Holy,” unto the glorious soul of this Mother of the Son of God.

Fiery seraphim surrounded the soul of the departed & raised the loud sound of their joyful shouts.

They shouted & said: “Lift up, O gates, all your heads, because the Mother of the King seeks to enter the bridal chamber of light.”

Heaven was full of the sweet music of the angels, but the depths were troubled, together with the disciples who were filled with grief.

The Church on high & that below cried out with one hand, for neither those above nor those below could suffice to tell of her.

The ranks of that exalted assembly cried out from this one to that one, that they might shout their praises.

The air dropped living rain on the bones of the sons of the Church, daughter of the Arameans, who did not deny her.

She wove a beautiful crown & set it on her sublime head on which valuable pearls were laid.

The name of Christ the King who was crucified on Golgotha, grants life & sheds forth mercy on the one who invokes Him.

And also on me a sinner who is not capable of praising her, the Mother of mercy, who brought You forth in the flesh.

O Son of God, by her prayers make your peace to dwell in heaven, in the depths, & among all the counsels of her sons.

Make wars to cease, & remove trials & plague; bestow calm & tranquility on seafarers.

Heal the infirm, cure the sick, filled the hungry; be a Father to orphans whom death has left destitute.

In your pity, drive out devils who harass mankind, & exalt your Church to the four quarters of the globe, that it may sing your praise.

Watch over priests & purify ministers; be a guardian of old age & youth.

O Bridegroom Christ, to UB praise from every mouth, & on us be mercy at all times. Amen, Amen.

End Of The Discourse Of Mar Jacob Concerning The Death Of The Holy Mother Of God

**  Jacob of Serug: On the Mother of God (Popular Patristics Series #19), Mary Hansbury, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1998, pp. 89-100.

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