Fathers of the Church
The Book of John Concerning the Falling Asleep of Mary
by Unknown in Late fourth - early fifth century. | translated by Unknown
GREEK FORM: THE ACCOUNT OF ST. JOHN THE THEOLOGIAN OF THE FALLING ASLEEP OF THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD.
As the all-holy glorious mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, as was her wont, was going to the holy tomb of our Lord to burn incense, and bending her holy knees, she was importunate that Christ our God who had been born of her should return to her. And the Jews, seeing her lingering by the divine sepulchre, came to the chief priests, saying: Mary goes every day to the tomb. And the chief priests, having summoned the guards set by them not to allow any one to pray at the holy sepulchre, inquired about her, whether in truth it were so. And the guards answered and said that they had seen no such thing, God having not allowed them to see her when there. And on one of the days, it being the preparation, the holy Mary, as was her wont, came to the sepulchre; and while she was praying, it came to pass that the heavens were opened, and the archangel Gabriel came down to her and said: Hail, thou that didst bring forth Christ our God! Thy prayer having come through to the heavens to Him who was born of thee, has been accepted; and from this time, according to thy request, thou having left the world, shall go to the heavenly places to thy Son, into the true and everlasting life.
And having heard this from the holy archangel, she returned to holy Bethlehem, having along with her three virgins who ministered unto her. And after having rested a short time, she sat up and said to the virgins: Bring me a censer, that I may pray. And they brought it, as they had been commanded. And she prayed, saying: My Lord Jesus Christ, who didst deign through Thy supreme goodness to be born of me, hear my voice, and send me Thy apostle John, in order that, seeing him, I may partake of joy; and send me also the rest of Thy apostles, both those who have already gone to Thee, and those in the world that now is, in whatever country they may be, through Thy holy commandment, in order that, having beheld them, I may bless Thy name much to be praised; for I am confident that Thou hearest Thy servant in everything.
And while she was praying, I John came, the Holy Spirit having snatched me up by a cloud from Ephesus, and set me in the place where the mother of my Lord was lying. And having gone in beside her, and glorified Him who had been born of her, I said: Hail, mother of my Lord, who didst bring forth Christ our God, rejoice that in great glory thou art going out of this life. And the holy mother of God glorified God, because I John had come to her, remembering the voice of the Lord, saying: Behold thy mother, and, Behold thy son. And the three virgins came and worshipped. And the holy mother of God says to me: Pray, and cast incense. And I prayed thus: Lord Jesus Christ, who hast done wonderful things, now also do wonderful things before her who brought Thee forth; and let Thy mother depart from this life; and let those who crucified Thee, and who have not believed in Thee, be confounded. And after I had ended the prayer, holy Mary said to me: Bring me the censer. And having cast incense, she said, Glory to Thee, my God and my Lord, because there has been fulfilled in me whatsoever Thou didst promise to me before thou didst ascend into the heavens, that when I should depart from this world Thou wouldst come to me, and the multitude of Thine angels, with glory. And I John say to her: Jesus Christ our Lord and our God is coming, and thou seest Him, as He promised to thee. And the holy mother of God answered and said to me: The Jews have sworn that after I have died they will burn my body. And I answered and said to her: Thy holy and precious body will by no means see corruption. And she answered and said to me: Bring a censer, and cast incense, and pray. And there came a voice out of the heavens saying the Amen. And I John heard this voice; and the Holy Spirit said to me: John, hast thou heard this voice that spoke in the heaven after the prayer was ended? And I answered and said: Yes, I heard. And the Holy Spirit said to me: This voice which thou didst hear denotes that the appearance of thy brethren the apostles is at hand, and of the holy powers that they are coming hither to-day. And at this I John prayed.
And the Holy Spirit said to the apostles: Let all of you together, having come by the clouds from the ends of the world, be assembled to holy Bethlehem by a whirlwind, on account of the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ; Peter from Rome, Paul from Tiberia, Thomas from Hither India, James from Jerusalem. Andrew, Peter's brother, and Philip, Luke, and Simon the Cananaean, and Thaddaeus who had fallen asleep, were raised by the Holy Spirit out of their tombs; to whom the Holy Spirit said: Do not think that it is now the resurrection; but on this account you have risen out of your tombs, that you may go to give greeting to the honour and wonder-working of the mother of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, because the day of her departure is at hand, of her going up into the heavens. And Mark likewise coming round, was present from Alexandria; he also with the rest, as has been said before, from each country. And Peter being lifted up by a cloud, stood between heaven and earth, the Holy Spirit keeping him steady. And at the same time, the rest of the apostles also, having been snatched up in clouds, were found along with Peter. And thus by the Holy Spirit, as has been said, they all came together.
And having gone in beside the mother of our Lord and God, and having adored, we said: Fear not, nor grieve; God the Lord, who was born of thee, will take thee out of this world with glory. And rejoicing in God her Saviour, she sat up in the bed, and says to the apostles: Now have I believed that our Master and God is coming from heaven, and I shall behold Him, and thus depart from this life, as I have seen that you have come. And I wish you to tell me how you knew that I was departing and came to me, and from what countries and through what distance you have come hither, that you have thus made haste to visit me. For neither has He who was born of me, our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of the universe, concealed it; for I am persuaded even now that He is the Son of the Most High.
And Peter answered and said to the apostles: Let us each, according to what the Holy Spirit announced and commanded us, give full information to the mother of our Lord. And I John answered and said: Just as I was going in to the holy altar in Ephesus to perform divine service, the Holy Spirit says to me, The time of the departure of the mother of thy Lord is at hand; go to Bethlehem to salute her. And a cloud of light snatched me up, and set me down in the door where thou art lying. Peter also answered: And I, living in Rome, about dawn heard a voice through the Holy Spirit saying to me, The mother of thy Lord is to depart, as the time is at hand; go to Bethlehem to salute her. And, behold, a cloud of light snatched me up; and I beheld also the other apostles coming to me on clouds, and a voice saying to me, Go all to Bethlehem. And Paul also answered and said: And I, living in a city at no great distance from Rome, called the country of Tiberia, heard the Holy Spirit saying to me, The mother of thy Lord, having left this world, is making her course to the celestial regions through her departure; but go thou also to Bethlehem to salute her. And, behold, a cloud of light having snatched me up, set me down in the same place as you. And Thomas also answered and said: And I, traversing the country of the Indians, when the preaching was prevailing by the grace of Christ, and the king's sister's son Labdanus by name, was about to be sealed by me in the palace, on a sudden the Holy Spirit says to me, Do thou also, Thomas, go to Bethlehem to salute the mother of thy Lord, because she is taking her departure to the heavens. And a cloud of light having snatched me up, set me down beside you. And Mark also answered and said: And when I was finishing the canon of the third day in the city of Alexandria, just as I was praying, the Holy Spirit snatched me up, and brought me to you. And James also answered and said: While I was in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit commanded me, saying, Go to Bethlehem, because the mother of thy Lord is taking her departure. And, behold, a cloud of light having snatched me up, set me beside you. And Matthew also answered and said: I have glorified and do glorify God, because when I was in a boat and overtaken by a storm, the sea raging with its waves, on a sudden a cloud of light overshadowing the stormy billow, changed it to a calm, and having snatched me up, set me down beside you. And those who had come before likewise answered, and gave an account of how they had come. And Bartholomew said: I was in the Thebais proclaiming the word, and behold the Holy Spirit says to me, The mother of thy Lord is taking her departure; go, then, to salute her in Bethlehem. And, behold, a cloud of light having snatched me up, brought me to you.
The apostles said all these things to the holy mother of God, why they had come, and in what way; and she stretched her hands to heaven and prayed, saying: I adore, and praise, and glorify Thy much to he praised name, O Lord, because Thou hast looked upon the lowliness of Thine handmaiden, and because Thou that art mighty hast done great things for me; and, behold, all generations shall count me blessed. And after the prayer she said to the apostles: Cast incense, and pray. And when they had prayed, there was thunder from heaven, and there came a fearful voice, as if of chariots; and, behold, a multitude of a host of angels and powers, and a voice, as if of the Son of man, was heard, and the seraphim in a circle round the house where the holy, spotless mother of God and virgin was lying, so that all who were in Bethlehem beheld all the wonderful things, and came to Jerusalem and reported all the wonderful things that had come to pass. And it came to pass, when the voice was heard, that the sun and the moon suddenly appeared about the house; and an assembly of the first-born saints stood beside the house where the mother of the Lord was lying, for her honour and glory. And I beheld also that many signs came to pass, the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the lame walking, lepers cleansed, and those possessed by unclean spirits cured; and every one who was under disease and sickness, touching the outside of the wall of the house where she was lying, cried out: Holy Mary, who didst bring forth Christ our God, have mercy upon us. And they were straightway cured. And great multitudes out of every country living in Jerusalem for the sake of prayer, having heard of the signs that had come to pass in Bethlehem through the mother of the Lord, came to the place seeking the cure of various diseases, which also they obtained. And there was joy unspeakable on that day among the multitude of those who had been cured, as well as of those who looked on, glorifying Christ our God and His mother. And all Jerusalem from Bethlehem kept festival with psalms and spiritual songs.
And the priests of the Jews, along with their people, were astonished at the things which had come to pass; and being moved with the heaviest hatred, and again with frivolous reasoning, having made an assembly, they determine to send against the holy mother of God and the holy apostles who were there in Bethlehem. And accordingly the multitude of the Jews, having directed their course to Bethlehem, when at the distance of one mile it came to pass that they beheld a frightful vision, and their feet were held fast; and after this they returned to their fellow-countrymen, and reported all the frightful vision to the chief priests. And they, still more boiling with rage, go to the procurator, crying out and saying: The nation of the Jews has been ruined by this woman; chase her from Bethlehem and the province of Jerusalem. And the procurator, astonished at the wonderful things, said to them: I will chase her neither from Bethlehem nor from any other place. And the Jews continued crying out, and adjuring him by the health of Tiberius Caesar to bring the apostles out of Bethlehem. And if you do not do so, we shall report it to the Caesar. Accordingly, being compelled, he sends a tribune of the soldiers against the apostles to Bethlehem. And the Holy Spirit says to the apostles and the mother of the Lord: Behold, the procurator has sent a tribune against you, the Jews having made an uproar. Go forth therefore from Bethlehem, and fear not: for, behold, by a cloud I shall bring you to Jerusalem; for the power of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit is with you. The apostles therefore rose up immediately, and went forth from the house, carrying the bed of the Lady the mother of God, and directed their course to Jerusalem; and immediately, as the Holy Spirit had said, being lifted up by a cloud, they were found in Jerusalem in the house of the Lady. And they stood up, and for five days made an unceasing singing of praise. And when the tribune came to Bethlehem, and found there neither the mother of the Lord nor the apostles, he laid hold of the Bethlehemites, saying to them: Did you not come telling the procurator and the priests all the signs and wonders that had come to pass, and how the apostles had come out of every country? Where are they, then? Come, go to the procurator at Jerusalem. For the tribune did not know of the departure of the apostles and the Lord's mother to Jerusalem. The tribune then, having taken the Bethlehemites, went in to the procurator, saying that he had found no one. And after five days it was known to the procurator, and the priests, and all the city, that the Lord's mother was in her own house in Jerusalem, along with the apostles, from the signs and wonders that came to pass there. And a multitude of men and women and virgins came together, and cried out: Holy virgin, that didst bring forth Christ our God, do not forget the generation of men. And when these things came to pass, the people of the Jews, with the priests also, being the more moved with hatred, took wood and fire, and came up, wishing to burn the house where the Lord's mother was living with the apostles. And the procurator stood looking at the sight from afar off. And when the people of the Jews came to the door of the house, behold, suddenly a power of fire coming forth from within, by means of an angel, burnt up a great multitude of the Jews. And there was great fear throughout all the city; and they glorified God, who had been born of her. And when the procurator saw what had come to pass, he cried out to all the people, saying: Truly he who was born of the virgin, whom you have thought of driving away, is the Son of God; for these signs are those of the true God. And there was a division among the Jews; and many believed in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in consequence of the signs that had come to pass.
And after all these wonderful things had come to pass through the mother of God, and ever-virgin Mary the mother of the Lord, while we the apostles were with her in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit said to us: You know that on the Lord's day the good news was brought to the Virgin Mary by the archangel Gabriel; and on the Lord's day the Saviour was born in Bethlehem; and on the Lord's day the children of Jerusalem came forth with palm branches to meet him, saying, Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; and on the Lord's day He rose from the dead; and on the Lord's day He will come to judge the living and the dead; and on the Lord's day He will come out of heaven, to the glory and honour of the departure of the holy glorious virgin who brought Him forth. And on the same Lord's day the mother of the Lord says to the apostles: Cast incense, because Christ is coming with a host of angels; and, behold, Christ is at hand, sitting on a throne of cherubim. And while we were all praying, there appeared innumerable multitudes of angels, and the Lord mounted upon cherubim in great power; and, behold, a stream of light coming to the holy virgin, because of the presence of her only-begotten Son, and all the powers of the heavens fell down and adored Him. And the Lord, speaking to His mother, said: Mary. And she answered and said: Here am I, Lord. And the Lord said to her: Grieve not, but let thy heart rejoice and be glad; for thou hast found grace to behold the glory given to me by my Father. And the holy mother of God looked up, and saw in Him a glory which it is impossible for the mouth of man to speak of, or to apprehend. And the Lord remained beside her, saying: Behold, from the present time thy precious body will be transferred to paradise, and thy holy soul to the heavens to the treasures of my Father in exceeding brightness, where there is peace and joy of the holy angels,—and other things besides. And the mother of the Lord answered and said to him: Lay Thy right hand upon me, O Lord, and bless me. And the Lord stretched forth His undefiled right hand, and blessed her. And she laid hold of His undefiled right hand, and kissed it, saying: I adore this right hand, which created the heaven and the earth; and I call upon Thy much to be praised name Christ, O God, the King of the ages, the only-begotten of the Father, to receive Thine handmaid, Thou who didst deign to be brought forth by me, in a low estate, to save the race of men through Thine ineffable dispensation; do Thou bestow Thine aid upon every man calling upon, or praying to, or naming the the name of, Thine handmaid. And while she is saying this, the apostles, having gone up to her feet and adored, say: O mother of the Lord, leave a blessing to the world, since thou art going away from it. For thou hast blessed it, and raised it up when it was ruined, by bringing forth the Light of the world. And the mother of the Lord prayed, and in her prayer spoke thus: O God, who through Thy great goodness hast sent from the heavens Thine only-begotten Son to dwell in my humble body, who hast deigned to be born of me, humble as I am, have mercy upon the world, and every soul that calls upon Thy name. And again she prayed, and said: O Lord, King of the heavens, Son of the living God, accept every man who calls upon Thy name, that Thy birth may be glorified. And again she prayed, and said: O Lord Jesus Christ, who art all-powerful in heaven and on earth, in this appeal I implore Thy holy name; in every time and place where there is made mention of my name, make that place holy, and glorify those that glorify Thee through my name, accepting of such persons all their offering, and all their supplication, and all their prayer. And when she had thus prayed, the Lord said to His mother: Let thy heart rejoice and be glad; for every favour and every gift has been given to thee from my Father in heaven, and from me, and from the Holy Spirit: every soul that calls upon thy name shall not be ashamed, but shall find mercy, and comfort, and support, and confidence, both in the world that now is, and in that which is to come, in the presence of my Father in the heavens. And the Lord turned and said to Peter: The time has come to begin the singing of the hymn. And Peter having begun the singing of the hymn, all the powers of the heavens responded with the Alleluiah. And then the face of the mother of the Lord shone brighter than the light, and she rose up and blessed each of the apostles with her own hand, and all gave glory to God; and the Lord stretched forth His undefiled hands, and received her holy and blameless soul. And with the departure of her blameless soul the place was filled with perfume and ineffable light; and, behold, a voice out of the heaven was heard, saying: Blessed art thou among women. And Peter, and I John, and Paul, and Thomas, ran and wrapped up her precious feet for the consecration; and the twelve apostles put her precious and holy body upon a couch, and carried it. And, behold, while they were carrying her, a certain well-born Hebrew, Jephonias by name, running against the body, put his hands upon the couch; and, behold, an angel of the Lord by invisible power, with a sword of fire, cut off his two hands from his shoulders, and made them hang about the couch, lifted up in the air. And at this miracle which had come to pass all the people of the Jews who beheld it cried out: Verily, He that was brought forth by thee is the true God, O mother of God, ever-virgin Mary. And Jephonias himself, when Peter ordered him, that the wonderful things of God might be showed forth, stood up behind the couch, and cried out: Holy Mary, who broughtest forth Christ who is God, have mercy upon me. And Peter turned and said to him: In the name of Him who was born of her, thy hands which have been taken away from thee, will be fixed on again. And immediately, at the word of Peter, the hands hanging by the couch of the Lady came, and were fixed on Jephonias. And he believed, and glorified Christ, God who had been born of her.
And when this miracle had been done, the apostles carried the couch, and laid down her precious and holy body in Gethsemane in a new tomb. And, behold, a perfume of sweet savour came forth out of the holy sepulchre of our Lady the mother of God; and for three days the voices of invisible angels were heard glorifying Christ our God, who had been born of her. And when the third day was ended, the voices were no longer heard; and from that time forth all knew that her spotless and precious body had been transferred to paradise.
And after it had been transferred, behold, we see Elisabeth the mother of St. John the Baptist, and Anna the mother of the Lady, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and David, singing the Alleluiah, and all the choirs of the saints adoring the holy relics of the mother of the Lord, and the place full of light, than which light nothing could be more brilliant, and an abundance of perfume in that place to which her precious and holy body had been transferred in paradise, and the melody of those praising Him who had been born of her—sweet melody, of which there is no satiety, such as is given to virgins, and them only, to hear. We apostles, therefore, having beheld the sudden precious translation of her holy body, glorified God, who had shown us His wonders at the departure of the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose prayers and good offices may we all be deemed worthy to receive. under her shelter, and support, and protection, both in the world that now is and in that which is to come, glorifying in every time and place her only-begotten Son, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
CONCERNING THE PASSING OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY.
In that time before the Lord came to His passion, and among many words which the mother asked of the Son, she began to ask Him about her own departure, addressing Him as follows:—O most dear Son, I pray Thy holiness, that when my soul goes out of my body, Thou let me know on the third day before; and do Thou, beloved Son, with Thy angels, receive it. Then He received the prayer of His beloved mother, and said to her: O palace and temple of the living God, O blessed mother, O queen of all saints, and blessed above all women, before thou carriedst me in thy womb, I always guarded thee, and caused thee to be fed daily with my angelic food, as thou knowest: how can I desert thee, after thou hast carried me, and nourished me, and brought me down in flight into Egypt, and endured many hardships for me? Know, then, that my angels have always guarded thee, and will guard thee even until thy departure. But after I undergo suffering for men, as it is written, and rise again on the third day, and after forty days ascend into heaven, when thou shall see me coming to thee with angels and archangels, with saints and with virgins, and with my disciples, know for certain that thy soul will be separated from the body, and I shall carry it into heaven, where it shall never at all have tribulation or anguish. Then she joyed and gloried, and kissed the knees of her Son, and blessed the Creator of heaven and earth, who gave her such a gift through Jesus Christ her Son.
In the second year, therefore, after the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, the most blessed Virgin Mary continued always in prayer day and night. And on the third day before she passed away, an angel of the Lord came to her, and saluted her, saying: Hail, Mary, full of grace! the Lord be with thee. And she answered, saying: Thanks to God. Again he said to her: Receive this palm which the Lord promised to thee. And she, giving thanks to God, with great joy received from the hand of the angel the palm sent to her. The angel of the Lord said to her: Thy assumption will be after three days. And she answered: Thanks to God.
Then she called Joseph of the city of Arimathaea, and the other disciples of the Lord; and when they, both relations and acquaintances, were assembled, she announced her departure to all standing there. Then the blessed Mary washed herself, and dressed herself like a queen, and waited the advent of her Son, as He had promised to her. And she asked all her relations to keep beside her, and give her comfort. And she had along with her three virgins, Sepphora, Abigea, and Zael; but the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ had been already dispersed throughout the whole world to preach to the people of God.
Then at the third hour there were great thunders, and rains, and lightnings, and tribulation, and an earthquake, while queen Mary was standing in her chamber. John the evangelist and apostle was suddenly brought from Ephesus, and entered the chamber of the blessed Mary, and saluted her, and said to her: Hail, Mary, full of grace! the Lord be with thee. And she answered: Thanks to God. And raising herself up, she kissed Saint John. And the blessed Mary said to him: O my dearest son, why hast thou left me at such a time, and hast not paid heed to the commands of thy Master, to take care of me, as He commanded thee while He was hanging on the cross? And he asked pardon with bended knee. Then the blessed Mary gave him her benediction, and again kissed him. And when she meant to ask him whence he came, and for what reason he had come to Jerusalem, behold, all the disciples of the Lord, except Thomas who is called Didymus, were brought by a cloud to the door of the chamber of the blessed Mary. They stood and went in, and saluted the queen with the following words, and adored her: Hail, Mary, full of grace! the Lord be with thee. And she eagerly rose quickly, and bowed herself, and kissed them, and gave thanks to God. These are the names of the disciples of the Lord who were brought thither in the cloud: John the evangelist and James his brother, Peter and Paul, Andrew, Philip, Luke, Barnabas, Bartholomew and Matthew, Matthias who is called Justus, Simon the Chananaean, Judas and his brother, Nicodemus and Maximianus, and many others who cannot be numbered. Then the blessed Mary said to her brethren: What is this, that you have all come to Jerusalem? Peter, answering, said to her: We had need to ask this of thee, and dost thou question us? Certainly, as I think, none of us knows why we have come here to-day with such rapidity. I was at Antioch, and now I am here. All declared plainly the place where they had been that day. And they all wondered that they were there when they heard these things. The blessed Mary said to them: I asked my Son, before He endured the passion, that He and you should be at my death; and He granted me this gift. Whence you may know that my departure will be to-morrow. Watch and pray with me, that when the Lord comes to receive my soul, He may find you watching. Then all promised that they would watch. And they watched and prayed the whole night, with psalms and chants, with great illuminations.
And when the Lord's day came, at the third hour, just as the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in a cloud, so Christ descended with a multitude of angels, and received the soul of His beloved mother. For there was such splendour and perfume of sweetness, and angels singing the songs of songs, where the Lord says, As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters, that all who were there present fell on their faces, as the apostles fell when Christ transfigured Himself before them on Mount Thabor, and for a whole hour and a half no one was able to rise. But when the light went away, and at the same time with the light itself, the soul of the blessed virgin Mary was taken up into heaven with psalms, and hymns, and songs of songs. And as the cloud went up the whole earth shook, and in one moment all the inhabitants of Jerusalem openly saw the departure of St. Mary.
And that same hour Satan entered into them, and they began to consider what they were to do with her body. And they took up weapons, that they might burn her body and kill the apostles, because from her had gone forth the dispersions of Israel, on account of their sins and the gathering together of the Gentiles. But they were struck with blindness, striking their heads against the walls, and striking each other. Then the apostles, alarmed by so much brightness, arose, and with psalms carried the holy body down from Mount Zion to the valley of Jehoshaphat. But as they were going in the middle of the road, behold, a certain Jew, Reuben by name, wishing to throw to the ground the holy bier with the body of the blessed Mary. But his hands dried up, even to the elbow; whether he would or not, he went down even to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, weeping and lamenting because his hands were raised to the bier, and he was not able to draw back his hands to himself. And he began to ask the apostles that by their prayer he might be saved and made a Christian. Then the apostles, bending their knees, asked the Lord to let him loose. And he, being healed that same hour, giving thanks to God and kissing the feet of the queen of all the saints and apostles, was baptized in that same place, and began to preach the name of our God Jesus Christ.
Then the apostles with great honour laid the body in the tomb, weeping and singing through exceeding love and sweetness. And suddenly there shone round them a light from heaven, and they fell to the ground, and the holy body was taken up by angels into heaven.
Then the most blessed Thomas was suddenly brought to the Mount of Olivet, and saw the most blessed body going up to heaven, and began to cry out and say: O holy mother, blessed mother, spotless mother, if I have now found grace because I see thee, make thy servant joyful through thy compassion, because thou art going to heaven. Then the girdle with which the apostles had encircled the most holy body was thrown down from heaven to the blessed Thomas. And taking it, and kissing it, and giving thanks to God, he came again into the Valley of Jehoshaphat. He found all the apostles and another great crowd there beating their breasts on account of the brightness which they had seen. And seeing and kissing each other, the blessed Peter said to him: Truly thou hast always been obdurate and unbelieving, because for thine unbelief it was not pleasing to God that thou shouldst be along with us at the burial of the mother of the Saviour. And he, beating his breast, said: I know and firmly believe that I have always been a bad and an unbelieving man; therefore I ask pardon of all of you for my obduracy and unbelief. And they. all prayed for him. Then the blessed Thomas said: Where have you laid her body? And they pointed out the sepulchre with their finger. And he said: The body which is called most holy is not there. Then the blessed Peter said to him: Already on another occasion thou wouldst not believe the resurrection of our Master and Lord at our word, unless thou went to touch Him with thy fingers, and see Him; how wilt thou believe us that the holy body is here? Still he persists saying: It is not here. Then, as it were in a rage, they went to the sepulchre, which was a new one hollowed out in the rock, and took up the stone; but they did not find the body, not knowing what to say, because they had been convicted by the words of Thomas. Then the blessed Thomas told them how he was singing mass in India—he still had on his sacerdotal robes. He, not knowing the word of God, had been brought to the Mount of Olivet, and saw the most holy body of the blessed Mary going up into heaven, and prayed her to give him a blessing. She heard his prayer, and threw him her girdle which she had about her. And the apostles seeing the belt which they had put about her, glorifying God, all asked pardon of the blessed Thomas, on account of the benediction which the blessed Mary had given him, and because he had seen the most holy body going up into heaven. And the blessed Thomas gave them his benediction, and said: Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
And the same cloud by which they had been brought carried them back each to his own place, just like Philip when he baptized the eunuch, as is read in the Acts of the Apostles; and as Habakkuk the prophet carried food to Daniel, who was in the lions' den, and quickly returned to Judaea. And so also the apostles quickly returned to where they had at first been, to preach to the people of God. Nor is it to be wondered at that He should do such things, who went into the virgin and came out of her though her womb was closed; who, though the gates were shut, went in to His disciples; who made the deaf to hear, raised the dead, cleansed the lepers, gave sight to the blind, and did many other wonderful things. To believe this is no doubtful matter.
I am Joseph who laid the Lord's body in my sepulchre, and saw Him rising again; and who, before the ascension and after the ascension of the Lord, always kept his most sacred temple the blessed ever-virgin Mary, and who have kept in writing and in my breast the things which came forth from the mouth of God, and how the things mentioned above were done by the judgment of God. And I have made known to all, Jews and Gentiles, those things which I saw with my eyes, and heard with my ears; and as long as I live I shall not cease to declare them. And her, whose assumption is at this day venerated and worshipped throughout the whole world, let us assiduously entreat that she be mindful of us in the presence of her most pious Son in heaven, to whom is praise and glory through endless ages of ages. Amen.
1. THEREFORE, when the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was hanging on the tree fastened by the nails of the cross for the life of the whole world, He saw about the cross His mother standing, and John the evangelist, whom He peculiarly loved above the rest of the apostles, because he alone of them was a virgin in the body. He gave him, therefore, the charge of holy Mary, saying to him: Behold thy mother! and saying, to her: Behold thy son! From that hour the! holy mother of God remained specially in the care of John, as long as she had her habitation in this life. And when the apostles had divided the world by lot for preaching, she settled in the house of his parents near Mount Olivet.
2. In the second year, therefore, after Christ had vanquished death, and ascended up into heaven, on a certain day, Mary, burning with a longing for Christ, began to weep alone, within the shelter of her abode. And, behold, an angel, shining in a dress of great light, stood before her and gave utterance to the words of salutation saying: Hail! thou blessed by the Lord, receive the salutation of Him who commanded safety to Jacob by His prophets. Behold, said He a palm branch—I have brought it to thee from the paradise of the Lord—which thou wilt cause to be carried before thy bier, when on the third day thou shalt be taken up from the body. For, lo, thy Son awaits thee with thrones and angels, and all the powers of heaven. Then Mary said to the angel: I beg that all the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ he assembled to me. To whom the angel said: Behold, to-day, by the power of my Lord Jesus Christ, all the apostles will come to thee. And Mary says to him: I ask that thou send upon me thy blessing, that no power of the lower world may withstand me in that hour in which my soul shall go out of my body, and that I may not see the prince of darkness. And the angel said: No power indeed of the lower world will hurt thee; and thy Lord God, whose servant and messenger I am, hath given thee eternal blessing; but do not think that the privilege of not seeing the prince of darkness is to be given thee by me, but by Him whom thou hast carried in thy womb; for to Him belongeth power over all for ever and ever. Thus saying, the angel departed with great splendour. And that palm shone with exceeding great light. Then Mary, undressing herself, put on better garments. And, taking the palm which she had received from the hands of the angel, she went out to the mount of Olivet, and began to pray, and say: I had not been worthy, O Lord, to bear Thee, unless Thou hadst had compassion on me; but nevertheless I have kept the treasure which Thou entrustedst to me. Therefore I ask of Thee, O King of glory, that the power of Gehenna hurt me not. For if the heavens and the angels daily tremble before Thee, how much more man who is made from the ground, who possesses no good thing, except as much as he has received from Thy benignant bounty! Thou art, O Lord, God always blessed for ever. And thus saying, she went back to her dwelling.
3. And, behold, suddenly, while St. John was preaching in Ephesus, on the Lord's day, at the third hour of the day, there was a great earthquake, and a cloud raised him and took him up from the eyes of all, and brought him before the door of the house where Mary was. And knocking at the door, he immediately went in. And when Mary saw him, she exulted in joy, and said: I beg of thee, my son John, be mindful of the words of my Lord Jesus Christ, in which He entrusted me to thee. For, behold, on the third day, when I am to depart from the body, I have heard the plans of the Jews, saying, Let us wait for the day when she who bore that seducer shall die, and let us burn her booty with fire. She therefore called St. John, anti led him into the secret chamber of the house, and showed him the robe of her burial, and that palm of light which she had received from the angel, instructing him that he should cause it to be carried before her couch when she was going to her tomb.
4. And St. John said to her: How shall I alone perform thy funeral rites, unless my brethren and fellow-apostles of my Lord Jesus Christ come to pay honour to thy body? And, behold, on a sudden, by the command of God, all the apostles were snatched up, raised on a cloud, from the places in which they were preaching the word of God, and set down before the door of the house in which Mary dwelt. And, saluting each other, they wondered, saying: What is the cause for which the Lord hath assembled us here?'
5. Then all the apostles, rejoicing with one mind, finished their prayer. And when they had said the Amen, behold, on a sudden, there came the blessed John, and told them all these things. The apostles then, having entered the house, found Mary, and saluted her, saying: Blessed art thou by the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth. And she said to them: Peace be with you, most beloved brethren! How have you come hither? And they recounted to her how they had come, each one raised on a cloud by the Spirit of God, and set down in the same place. And she said to them: God hath not deprived me of the sight of you. Behold, I shall go the way of all the earth, and I doubt not that the Lord hath now conducted you hither to bring me consolation for the anguish which is just coming upon me. Now therefore I implore you, that without intermission you all with one mind watch, even till that hour in which the Lord will come, and I shall depart from the body.
6. And when they had sat down in a circle consoling her, when they had spent three days in the praises of God, behold, on the third day, about the third hour of the day, a deep sleep seized upon all who were in that house, and no one was at all able to keep awake but the apostles alone, and only the three virgins who were there. And, behold, suddenly the Lord Jesus Christ came with a great multitude of angels; and a great brightness came down upon that place, and the angels were singing a hymn, and praising God together. Then the Saviour spoke, saying: Come, most precious pearl, within the receptacle of life eternal.
7. Then Mary prostrated herself on the pavement, adoring God, and said: Blessed be the name of Thy glory, O Lord my God, who hast deigned to choose me Thine handmaid, and to entrust to me Thy hidden mystery. Be mindful of me, therefore, O King of glory, for Thou knowest that I have loved Thee with all my heart, and kept the treasure committed to me. Therefore receive me, Thy servant, and free me from the power of darkness, that no onset of Satan may oppose me, and that I may not see filthy spirits standing in my way. And the Saviour answered her: When I, sent by my Father for the salvation of the world, was hanging on the cross, the prince of darkness came to me; but when he was able to find in me no trace of his work, he went off vanquished and trodden under foot. But when thou shall see him, thou shall see him indeed by the law of the human race, in accordance with which thou hast come to the end of thy life; but he cannot hurt thee, because I am with thee to help thee. Go in security, because the heavenly host is waiting for thee to lead thee in to the joys of paradise. And when the Lord had thus spoken, Mary, rising from the pavement, reclined upon her couch, and giving thanks to God, gave up the ghost. And the apostles saw that her soul was of such whiteness, that no tongue of mortals can worthily utter it; for it surpassed all the whiteness of snow, and of every metal, and of gleaming silver, by the great brightness of its light.
8. Then the Saviour spoke, saying: Rise, Peter, and take the body of Mary, and send it to the right hand side of the city towards the east, and thou wilt find there a new tomb, in which you will lay her, and wait until I come to you. And thus saying, the Lord delivered the soul of St. Mary to Michael, who was the ruler of paradise, and the prince of the nation of the Jews; and Gabriel went with them. And immediately the Saviour was received up into heaven along with the angels.
9. And the three virgins, who were in the same place, and were watching, took up the body of the blessed Mary, that they might wash it after the manner of funeral rites. And when they had taken off her clothes, that sacred body shone with so much brightness, that it could be touched indeed for preparation for burial, but the form of it could not be seen for the excessive flashing light: except that the splendour of the Lord appeared great, and nothing was perceived, the body, when it was washed, was perfectly clean, and stained by no moisture of filth. And when they had put the dead-clothes on her, that light was gradually obscured. And the body of the blessed Mary was like lily flowers; and an odour of great sweetness came forth from it, so that no sweetness could be found like it.
10. Then, accordingly, the apostles laid the holy body on the bier, and said to each other: Who is to carry this palm before her bier? Then John said to Peter: Thou, who hast precedence of us in the apostleship, shouldst carry this palm before her couch. And Peter answered him: Thou wast the only virgin among us chosen by the Lord, and thou didst find so great favour that thou didst recline upon His breast. And He, when for our salvation He was hanging upon the stem of the cross, entrusted her to thee with His own mouth. Thou therefore oughtest to carry this palm, and let us take up that body to carry it even to the place of sepulture. After this, Peter, raising it, and saying, Take the body, began to sing and say: Israel hath gone forth out of Egypt. Alleluiah. And the other apostles along with him carried the booty of the blessed Mary, and John bore the palm of light before the bier. And the other apostles sang with a most sweet voice.
11. And, behold, a new miracle. There appeared above the bier a cloud exceeding great, like the great circle which is wont to appear beside the splendour of the moon; and there was in the clouds an army of angels sending forth a sweet song, and from the sound of the great sweetness the earth resounded. Then the people, baring gone forth from the city, about fifteen thousand, wondered, saying; What is that sound of so great sweetness? Then there stood up one who said to them: Mary has departed from the body, and the disciples of Jesus are singing praises around her. And looking, they saw the couch crowned with great glory, and the apostles singing with a loud voice. And, behold, one of them, who was chief of the priests of the Jews in his rank, filled with fury and rage, said to the rest: Behold, the tabernacle of him who disturbed us and all our race, what glory has it received? And going up, he wished to overturn the bier, and throw the body down to the ground. And immediately his hands dried up from his elbows, and stuck to the couch. And when the apostles raised the bier, part of him hung, and part of him adhered to the couch; and he was vehemently tormented with pain, while the apostles were walking and singing. And the angels who were in the clouds smote the people with blindness.
12. Then that chief cried out, saying: I implore thee, Saint Peter, do not despise me, I beseech thee, in so great an extremity, because I am exceedingly tortured by great torments. Bear in mind that when, in the praetorium, the maid that kept the door recognised thee, and told the others to revile thee, then I spoke good words in thy behalf. Then Peter answering, said: It is not for me to give other to thee; but if thou believest with thy whole heart on the Lord Jesus Christ, whom she carried in her womb, and remained a virgin after the birth, the compassion of the Lord, which with profuse benignity saves the unworthy, will give thee salvation.
To this he replied: Do we not believe? But what shall we do? The enemy of the human race has blinded our hearts, and confusion has covered our face, lest we should confess the great things of God, especially when we ourselves uttered maledictions against Christ, shouting: His blood be upon us, and upon our children. Then Peter said: Behold, this malediction will hurt him who has remained unfaithful to Him; but to those who turn themselves to God mercy is not denied. And he said: I believe all that thou sayest to me; only I implore, have mercy upon me, lest I die.
13. Then Peter made the couch stand still, and said to him: If thou believest with all thy heart upon the Lord Jesus Christ, thy hands will be released from the bier. And when he had said this his hands were immediately released from the bier, and he began to stand on his feet; but his arms were dried up, and the torture did not go away from him. Then Peter said to him: Go up to the body, and kiss the couch, and say: I believe in God, and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom she bore, and I believe all whatsoever Peter the apostle of God has said to me. And going up, he kissed the couch, and immediately all pain went away from him, and his hands were healed. Then he began greatly to bless God, and from the books of Moses to render testimony to the praises of Christ, so that even the apostles themselves wondered, and wept for joy, praising the name of the Lord.
14. And Peter said to him: Take this palm from the hand of our brother John, and going into the city thou wilt find much people blinded, and declare to them the great things of God; and whosoever shall believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, thou shalt put this palm upon their eyes, and they shall see; but those who will not believe shall remain blind. And when he had done so, he found much people blinded, lamenting thus: Woe unto us, because we have been made like the Sodomites struck with blindness. Nothing now is left to us but to perish. But when they heard the words of the chief who had been cured speaking, they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and when he put the palm over their eyes, they recovered sight. Five of them remaining in hardness of heart died. And the chief of the priests going forth, carried back the palm to the apostles, reporting all things whatsoever had been done.
15. And the apostles, carrying Mary, came to the place of the Valley of Jehoshaphat which the Lord had showed them; and they laid her in a new tomb, and closed the sepulchre. And they themselves sat down at the door of the tomb, as the Lord had commanded them; and, behold, suddenly the Lord Jesus Christ came with a great multitude of angels, with a halo of great brightness gleaming, and said to the apostles: Peace be with you! And they answered and said: Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, as we have hoped in Thee. Then the Saviour spoke to them, saying: Before I ascended to my Father I promised to you, saying that you who have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of His majesty, will sit, you also, upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Her, therefore, did I choose out of the tribes of Israel by the command of my Father, that I should dwell in her. What, therefore, do you wish that I should do to her? Then Peter and the other apostles said: Lord, Thou didst choose beforehand this Thine handmaid to become a spotless chamber for Thyself, and us Thy servants to minister unto Thee. Before the ages Thou didst foreknow all things along with the Father, with whom to Thee and the Holy Spirit there is one Godhead, equal and infinite power. If, therefore, it were possible to be done in the presence of the power of Thy grace, it had seemed to us Thy servants to be right that, just as Thou, having vanquished death, reignest in glory, so, raising up again the body of Thy mother, Thou shouldst take her with Thee in joy into heaven.
16. Then the Saviour said: Let it be according to your opinion. And He ordered the archangel Michael to bring the soul of St. Mary. And, behold, the archangel Michael rolled back the stone from the door of the tomb; and the Lord said: Arise, my beloved and my nearest relation; thou who hast not put an corruption by intercourse with man, suffer not destruction of the body in the sepulchre. And immediately Mary rose from the tomb, and blessed the Lord, and falling forward at the feet of the Lord, adored Him, saying: I cannot render sufficient thanks to Thee, O Lord, for Thy boundless benefits which Thou hast deigned to bestow upon me Thine handmaiden. May Thy name, O Redeemer of the world, God of Israel, be blessed for ever.
17. And kissing her, the Lord went back, and delivered her soul to the angels, that they should carry it into paradise. And He said to the apostles: Come up to me. And when they had come up He kissed them, and said: Peace be to you! as I have always been with you, so will I be even to the end of the world. And immediately, when the Lord had said this, He was lifted up on a cloud, and taken back into heaven, and the angels along with Him, carrying the blessed Mary into the paradise of God. And the apostles being taken up in the clouds, returned each into the place allotted for his preaching, telling the great things of God, and praising our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in perfect unity, and in one substance of Godhead, for ever and ever. Amen.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (ANF 8, Roberts and Donaldson). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.