One of the despicable things that the pandemic has done is reduce death to mere statistics depriving its narrative. Consequently this has made us more callous to death. This callousness is further augmented by media especially the celluloids which make us consume violence to an exceptional degree such that we have grown anesthetic to the pathos of the world. We are no longer so shattered by someone’s death as we used to be largely because the pop culture has disabled our ability for shock.
The narrative and the iconography of the Dormition of Theotokos strike our inculcated numbness at its roots. The magnetic force exerted by the death of the Mother of God extends not only to the ends of the earth but also to Heaven and Hades. The whole cosmos was not just affected but drawn to her death. Solrunn Nes, an Iconographer, comments on the icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos;
“Mary did not die alone. She did not have to cry out, as her Son did in his last hour: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…All the apostles came and gathered around Mary’s deathbed when they heard that she was ill. When that’s possible, this is what we should do for the dying. Nobody should die entirely alone. This is one of the tragedies sometimes played out in hospitals and nursing homes when nurses are overworked and family members do not show up.”
The crowd around the bier of Mary is a clarion call for us to do the same when our fellow brothers and sisters repose. We have to try our best to dignify their earthly departure by our personal presence rather than a mere message because this is the last thing we could do for them in their earthly sojourn. Ecclesiastically speaking we also have a liturgical role to fulfill there and hence in the Syriac Orthodox Funeral Liturgy, the deceased invites us; “My beloved ones, why do you stand far? Draw near to me, give me peace and pray for me.”
As we celebrate this festivity let’s pray that may the Mother of God moisten our hearts hardened by the perils of time.
~ 𝐃𝐚𝐲𝐫𝐨𝐲𝐨 𝐅𝐫. 𝐁𝐚𝐬𝐢𝐥