Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Assumption . . . Dormition . . . of Our Lady

Now, THIS is a bit different! It is a Late Renaissance fresco of Our Lady's Assumption by Antonio Correggio on the inside of the dome of Parma Cathedral in Italy. Unlike other well-known paintings of the Assumption, Antonio Allegri da Correggio (1489-1534) shows Mary cramped between a lot of human figures, reminding us that Mary is highly exalted, sharing already in the victory of Jesus over death, but as ONE OF US, the "Mother of all her Son's people" and our "Sister in Christ." She shares his glory now, even as she prays for the pilgrim Church which will one day fully share that same victory and glory. 

And here is something else equally unusual, and very beautiful. It is A Poem for the Feast of Mary's Dormition - the Orthodox name for today - by Dr Virginia M. Kimball, an Orthodox theologian and adjunct Professor at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. 

Death is swallowed up [1 Corinthians 15:54]
Mother of Christ at the crisp
autumn of her earthly life,
like a leaf floated, drifted, passed
into her final day, awaiting
death to joyful lifting,
to waiting Jesus …
on a mournful bier,
like in the birthing cave,
now surrounded by beloved sons –
Peter, Paul, and loving ones
who wept, singing solemn
hymns, clutching lamps
that flickered soft lights
of hope.

She slept a quiet, death-filled sleep,
silent, at peace, motionless …
like us when we breathe our last,
when loved ones peer into a casket
and kiss our cold, bony hand
that once caressed and kissed
their newborn tenderness.

Death we know will come,
harsh as it oddly steals
a last breath, the sign of life
that looks now hopeless
and gone, "dead" they call us
and we don’t respond.

In utter terror is my soul –
And you, LORD, how long?
Turn to me LORD,
And save my life,
In mercy rescue me! [Psalm 6:4-5]

We remember her dormition,
a story handed down,
a promise from ancient days,
Mary’s son cradling her
amidst the chant and myrrh,
and lifted her away.
And so they say,
angels sang, a sash on her dress
suddenly came down,
captured in doubtfulness
by dear and tardy Thomas.

We can almost hear her song,
again this time magnifying
all our deaths in time, passing
in faith from time, to seeing,
to being forever,
in and with the eternal Being.
Return my soul to your rest,
for my soul has been freed,
freed from death,
my eyes freed from tears,
and my feet freed from life’s stumbling. [Psalm 116:7-8]

And joyous in the clouds
of a fathomless heaven,
we know she knew:
I shall work before my LORD
in the land of the living. [Psalm 116:9]

In the ancient darkened church,
alive with festive birthing
thoughts about the mother’s
death day rising to her Son,
we see the mother lying quiet,
in an icon above the door,
a door to the rest when we have rest
in our very own days.
We sing to the mystical ways
of our LORD, that while we sleep
in death no one should weep
for we sleep a sleep of life
having passed through all earth’s strife.

I shall not die but live,
and cry magnificent deeds of my LORD,
a loving LORD who had to chastise me harshly,
but does not hand me
over to a deathly death. [Psalm 118:18]


Post a Comment