And the story continues…..
After Jesus ascended back into the heavens, Mary returned home. Entering the house, it began to tremble on the account of the glory of the book that Jesus had given her. She wrapped up the book and said various prayers over it. Her prayers eventually lead back to her son, who responds to her stating no other power will come for her except himself.
After Mary was done with the prayers, she went to her maidservant and told her to call upon all all her (Mary) relatives and those who know her, as she wished to speak to them. When the people arrived, she told them that she will go forth from her body tomorrow to eternal rest. She requested they perform a great act of kindness with her. She did not want any material possessions (silver/gold/etc…) but rather they all get a lamp and not let it go out in the next three days (two days in the Georgian versions) as Mary will speak of her charity to them. Yes, I realize it said at the beginning she would depart the next day, but then it says she will be with them for the next few days. I suspect either a translation error or she is referring to “tomorrow” as an event that is to be taken place very soon and perhaps not literally “tomorrow”.
Mary begins to speak proclaiming she does not know the hour of her departure but it will be soon. She then describes the death process for people and speaks of how two angels will come to a person, one of righteousness and one of wickedness, and those two will come with death. This is the process that she describes: Death will come to the body and if the person has done righteous and good deed, the angel of righteousness will rejoice as finding no sin on the person. That angel will call upon other angels to the soul and they all sing upon it until the soul reaches the place of all righteous. This will cause the angel of wickedness to weep. However, if the person was an evil doer, then this angel of wickedness (who is also referred to as Satan in the Georgian version) will call upon other evil spirits who will then tear the soul apart. Kind of reminds me of the Cenobites from the Clive Barker Hellraiser mythos! LOL
After this story, a woman in the group starts questioning Mary about the fact if she (Mary) is afraid, she will be fine as she is the Mother of the Lord but what about the rest of us common sinners. She continues for a bit before Mary tells her:
'Be silent, my brothers, and do not cry; but glorify the one who is among you at this moment. I beg you, do not be cast down, because this is the joy of the virgin of God. But sing instead of weeping, so that it will be to every nation of the earth and to all the heavens of God, and there will be a blessing rather than weeping.'
After this, Mary tells the group of a sin she once committed! She had, for one day, not believed in God. The story she tells is that she, Joseph and two of his children were fleeing when a sense of terror struck her. She heard what sounded like an infant speak to her. She turned around and the infant disappeared. She told Joseph that she saw an infant who was not of this world. The infant reappeared and said:
"Mary, my mother, every sin is imputed to you, because you have tasted the bitter as the sweet."
The story continues with Mary telling her group (in “present” day) about how she now understood who the child was and what was to come.
The next day at dawn, the apostle John came knocking on Mary’s door and when she saw him, she began to cry. She was in distress when she began to talk to John, reminding him of what Jesus said to them when he left (“John will take care of you”), how John was Jesus’ beloved and was the chosen virgin. Frantically, she was telling John not to abandon her. John is confused at this point because Mary had not informed him of her upcoming situation. He cried out in a loud voice to her that he had left someone with her to take care of her as he was doing the work of the Lord by traveling and spreading the good news. He asks what is causing her distress and she replies with a request that he place her body in a tomb and guard her (he and the other apostles) from the high priests, as apparently she heard one say:
"When we find her body, we will throw it into a fire, because the deceiver came forth from her."
Hearing about her death, this caused John to weep and want to leave his body as well. Mary comforts him and then leads him into her inner chamber where she gives him the book that Jesus gave her earlier. She tells him he must take this book and go forth with it but he said he could not because the other apostles were not there yet. And just as he said it, the other apostles starting appearing outside via clouds! Yes, they were seated on clouds.
Once all the apostles were there, the scene reminds me of when a group of old friends get back together as they all are greeting each other and being merry. At one point Peter tells Paul to pray before them because of the occasion, but Paul being humbled feels he is not worthy to lead prayer in front of the others. Eventually Peter leads the prayer. This goes on for quite a bit until they realize why they are at Mary’s house. They learn of of the situation and Mary greets them. She begins to give praise and one of the lines is quite interesting. She says:
"I bless the Great Cherub of Light, who dwelt in my womb."
I do not believe that Jesus was described as that before. I like it! After her praises, she shows the apostles around and explains what needs to be done for the next few days until her time of dormition.
The next several pages has Peter preaching to the people there. There are a few occasions where he goes on with parables, one about the kingdom of heaven is like a virgin (kind of got “Gospel of Thomas” vibes on some of these). Eventually this leads to the time of Mary’s departure. Peter sat by her head, John at her feet, and the rest of the apostles encircled her. Then a sweet, pleasant smell, (like the odor of Paradise) filled the room and everyone fell asleep except for the virgins, as they would stay awake to witness the funeral.
Jesus arrived on a cloud with a multitude of angels. He entered the chamber where Mary was, while the angels remained outside singing. Mary embraced him and began to speak. After she was done, Jesus took her soul and placed it in Michael’s hands, which was then wrapped with a garment. This was the description of her spirit:
And the apostles saw Mary's spirit as it was given into Michael's hands: a perfect form, but its body was both male and female, and nevertheless one, being similar to every body and seven times white.
Jesus instructs Peter on where to take Mary’s body and soon they (the apostles, the crowd that was there, Jesus and his angels) began a funeral procession. During this, John had handed Peter the sacred book that Mary had given him earlier.
During this procession, the group were singing and this caused quite a stir in town and the high priests heard this. When they found out that Mary had left her body and the apostles were there as well, Satan had entered their hearts with the mission of killing the apostles and burning Mary’s body. The priests picked up spears and other weapons to attack the procession when angels came out of the clouds and caused hallucinations among the priests before smashing their heads into walls!! They weren’t playing around! One of the priests was able to get away from the chaos and grab a hold of the bier (which held Mary’s body) to throw it to the ground. But as soon as his hands grabbed it, his hands were ripped from his arms and stayed clinging to the bier!!
To be continued to part 3….
If you want to read the actual translation in full, pick up Stephen J. Shoemaker’s book Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary’s Dormition and Assumption. It’s an expensive purchase, but features 6 apocrypha of the dormition as well as an extensive background of these traditions. Well worth the money!