August 14, 2014

Eve of the Dormition of the Mother of God

Psalm 132: The Eternal Dwelling of God in Zion

8 Arise, O Lord, and go to Thy resting place,
  Thou and the ark of Thy might.
9 Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness,
  and let Thy saints shout for joy.
11 The Lord swore to David a sure oath
  from which He will not turn back:
“One of the sons of your body
  I will set on your throne.
12 If your sons keep My covenant
  and My testimonies which I shall teach them,
their sons also for ever
  shall sit upon your throne.”
13 For the Lord has chosen Zion;
  He has desired it for his habitation:
14 “This is My resting place for ever;
  here I will dwell, for I have desired it…”

Dormition of the Theotokos

Psalm 132 has been richly mined by the Orthodox liturgical tradition, where the images of the ark of the covenant and a dwelling place for God are naturally linked with the Mother God. For example, the Alleluia for the feast of Dormition tomorrow is verses 8 and 11:

Arise, O Lord, and go to Thy resting place,
Thou and the ark of Thy might.
The Lord swore to David a sure oath
from which He will not turn back.

Priest’s phelonion
Abp Benjamin
Archbishop Benjamin being vested in sakkos

Psalm132 recalls King David finding a dwelling place for the ark of the covenant and bringing it to Jerusalem with great joy and fanfare (2 Samuel 6), and mentions David’s city Ephratha (Bethlehem) and the nearby “fields of Jaar” (or “the town of the woods,” LXX) where the ark had been kept from the time of Samuel.

The Old Testament readings for the Dormition (and most feasts of the Mother of God) are also built around images of a divine dwelling place. So the Theotokos is the living Temple (Ezekiel 43:23-44:4) and the house built by Wisdom (Proverbs 9:1-11).

At every Divine Liturgy, Psalm 132:9 is part of the vesting prayers as the priest puts on the phelonion or the bishop puts on the sakkos: Thy priests, O Lord, shall clothe themselves with righteousness, and Thy saints shall rejoice with joy, always, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Saint Tikhon’s Monastery Feastday

St Tikhon
St Tikhon of Zadonsk

Yesterday I joined Metropolitan Tikhon, Bishop Mark of Philadelphia,  Archimandrite Sergius, the brotherhood of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and many local clergy (at least 20) and faithful to celebrate the monastery’s patronal saint, Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk (1724-83). In his sermon Father Sergius noted that Saint Tikhon in his own lifetime was a multi-faceted monastic, seminary rector and diocesan bishop, and this makes him an especially appropriate patron of Saint Tikhon’s monastery, where monks, seminarians and faithful from parishes regularly come together. In the midst of his busy life Saint Tikhon also devoted himself daily to reading the scriptures, and urged his clergy and faithful to do the same.

“The saint considered it essential that each priest, deacon and monk have a New Testament, and that he should read it daily. In an Encyclical, he called on pastors to perform the Holy Mysteries with reverence, with the fear of God, and love for one’s neighbor.” (For his life, see