Dome of the Church of the Dormition
BETTER FOR ONE TO PERISH THAN A WHOLE NATION
- Document: Holy Scripture Readings
1.1. First Reading: The Book of the prophet Ezekiel 37: 21-28
1.2. Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St John 11: 45-57
1.3. Simple Comment: The prophet Jeremiah describes a wonderful picture of a renewed people: cleansed from all sin, made one nation under one prince, made numerous, given peace. One notices how these phrases are all in their passive form. This marvelous reality is all an accomplishment of Yahweh – the God of Abraham, the God of the covenant, the God of peace. In the Gospel Jesus instead becomes a threat to the status quo. With the increasing adulation of the people, the chief priests see an impending political reaction of the Roman occupation: “the Romans will come in and sweep away our sanctuary and our nation.” The Jews see in Jesus a charismatic leader to head off a revolt against the foreign power; while the priests and Pharisees see themselves out of the picture because they do not belong to the company of his henchmen, the disciples.
- Monument: The Church of the Dormition
2.1. On the same area of the Upper Room stands the Dormition Abbey, traditionally held as the site where Mary the Mother of Jesus slept awhile (dormire in Latin means to sleep) before her Son came and thereby she assumed body and soul into heaven.
2.2. The place is called Hagia Sion (the Greek word hagia meaning holy). The Church has two levels: the lower level is a crypt with the statue of the Blessed Mother lying on a divan. Above her is an elaborately made mosaic cupola, depicting the different holy women of the Old Testament and surrounding this holy place are side altars commemorating the different titles of Mary venerated in different nations; the upper level is a modern church, covered with mosaic pictures of evangelists, apostles and saints. This shrine was constructed in 1900 by the German Benedictine order.
- Lenten Reflection
3.1. That Caiaphas the High Priest would predict the inner truth of Jesus’ sacrifice and death on the cross is most ironic. Definitely his remark had only a political color, but for God it was a means to convey the reason for the incarnation of His Son: the salvation of the whole world by taking upon his shoulders the burden of all human sins.
3.2. We move about in our daily chores and duties and, perhaps, we too only see the tram-tram of it all. But God works his salvation for us through these ordinary ways, unassumingly and silently! It takes a man of faith and piety to recognize the finger of God in the course of our own life-history and in the course of our society’s history as a whole. John XXIII called it – and the Second Vatican Council seconded it – the signs of the times, the movement of the Spirit in our world and history.
3.3. The Blessed Mother participates in these ordinary ways of the Almighty. Since she received from her dying Son the mandate to take care of his beloved disciple, she has taken seriously the task of protecting, guiding, inspiring and interceding for her children. While our Greek Orthodox brethren carry this presence in their beautiful and venerated icons, we Catholic Christians recognize her presence in our shrines and the many liturgical festivities celebrated in her honor.
- Contemporary Filipino Question: Our Filipino type of the resurrection scene (normally now celebrated immediately after the Easter Vigil instead of 4 o clock in the morning) consists of a family reunion between the Risen Son and his sorrowful Mother. We call it salubong – the encounter of mother and son. This joyful family event has now become more and more common, even without the Easter celebration, what with the return of vacationing USA balikbayans or finished-contract OFWs. In all this the Lord makes use of the human joy of coming home as a foretaste of the heavenly homecoming.