RUSSIAN ECCLESIASTICAL MISSION IN JERUSALEM: September 6, 2006
The Apodosis of the Dormition of the Most-Holy Mother of God in Jerusalem
The Dormition of the Mother of God is called the Pascha of the Theotokos and is expecially celebrated in the Holy Land. During the three days preceding the Dormition, a procession of the cross is performed from Little Gethsemane throughout the Old City of Jerusalem to the Sepulcher of the Most-Holy Mother of God. This tradition came down through Tradition, according to which three days before Her blessed repose, the Most-Holy Virgin was informed of this event by Archangel Gabriel. The heavenly messenger gave Her a palm frond from Eden, which Holy Apostle John the Theologian carried before her funerary bier in the procession. All the Apostles were miraculously gathered by Divine intervention at the deathbed of the Most-Holy Virgin. Receiving a final earthly blessing and bidding farewell to Her, they fulfilled Her will to bury Her in Gethsemane near the tomb of Her holy parents, Joachim and Anna.
In honor of these events, an ancient tradition has taken hold in Jerusalem of repeating this procession of the cross with the shroud of the Theotokos, which bears a two-sided icon with a silver oklad [covering frame]. This Shroud is kept throughout the year in Gethsemane directly across from the Church of the Resurrection of Christ. And only during the Dormition period does this miracle-working Shroud pass into a special canopy at the Sepulcher of the Mother of God. Believers venerate it as they pass through the canopy on their knees. From August 25 through September 5, the staircase of the Church of the Dormition, which consists of 48 steps, is covered in candles. This is a remarkable scene. The Apodosis of the Dormition is also the time when worshipers bid farewell to the Shroud. Once again a multitude of nuns gather from all over Jerusalem, who lead the procession. Here one can see representatives of all the monasteries of the Holy Land: Greek, Romanian and Russian nuns. All are united in love for the Most-Holy Theotokos. The procession of the cross continues for over an hour. His Holiness Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem and All Palestine and his clergymen bless the Christians as they pass through the street. The procession ends in the courtyard before the Church of the Resurrection of Christ under the Paschal peal of bells from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.