Ἀπόστολοι ἐκ περάτων, συναθροισθέντες ἐνθάδε, Γεθσημανῇ τῷ χωρίῳ, κηδεύσατέ μου τὸ σῶμα, καὶ σὺ Υἱὲ καὶ Θεέ μου, παράλαβέ μου τὸ πνεῦμα.
“Apostles, you have been gathered from the ends of the Earth, to this place of Gethsemane, I ask you, lay my body to rest, and you my Son and my God, receive my spirit.”
Much of our Orthodox Tradition, including our hymnology, draw upon events that are not in Scripture. This hymn, which is chanted during the Supplicatory Canons to the Theotokos from 1st – 14th August, immediately preceding the Great Feast of Panayia, the Dormition of the Theotokos on the 15th August, is from the Matins service of the Feast day.
The narrative that first entered the writings and homilies of the Fathers and then became embodied in our hymns is as follows: Mary is informed by an angel that her death is near. She is then joined by eleven of the twelve Apostles, miraculously transported from their apostolic missions all over the world. After several speeches by herself and those gathered there, she commits her soul to Jesus and dies. As the Apostles prepare to bury her body in a tomb at Gethsemane, a Jew named Jephoniah tries to hinder the procession, and is deprived of the use of his hands. The Apostles keep vigil at her tomb for three days and then realise, after St Thomas’ late arrival, that her body has in addition to her soul been conveyed to Paradise.
This hymn is written in the first-person perspective of the Theotokos herself, which is a rarity in most hymns we hear in Church, but not so much for those about Panayia.
Her graceful acceptance of death is made even more immediate to us, as she speaks with her own voice. As we sing these words we pray that we will have the same calm resignation, the same graceful acceptance, and the same expectation from Our Lord, Her Son, to receive our own souls into His hands, when our hour approaches.
Source: Lychnos August/September 2019 edition