And now the conclusion of the Liber Requiei.
The man who’s arms were cut off, wept to the apostles and begged them not to give him such torment. Peter informs him that he can not heal the wounds but rather the man would need to believe in Jesus. Peter orders the bier to be put down and tells the priest to go to the body and say:
"Are you listening now with your whole heart? Go then and embrace Mary's body, saying, "I Believe in you and in the one who came forth from your womb."
The priest started to bless Mary for three hours. Afterwards, he told the priest to put his arms to his detached hands on the bier and say:
"In the name of Jesus, the son of Mary, the son of the dove, who was crucified, with goodness my hands have touched your bier."
Suddenly his hands were re-attached and normal as if nothing had happened. Peter tells the priest to return to town with a palm leaf and find blind people who do not see and do not recognize the way, and tell them what just happened. Those who will believe, place the palm leaf on their eyes and they will see. Those who don’t, will not see.
The apostles all then gathered around Mary’s body and began to wait for Jesus to appear to take Mary’s body. In the mean time, Paul speaks to Peter and asks of him to tell him the mysteries since he was not able to meet Jesus during his earthly life. Peter tells him to be patient and wait for Jesus to return, and if Jesus orders it, then he will tell Paul of the mysteries. Paul reluctantly agrees to this and then tells the apostles a story involving Solomon and demons who had ridiculed humans. This story goes on for several pages before ending. The apostles agreed with the morale of that story and asked that he keep on talking as they have three days of waiting. Paul, still kind of bitter about not getting the mysteries revealed to him from Peter, asks of Peter what does he teach, so he (Paul) can go forth and preach this doctrine.
Peter tells Paul what he has been saying is good, but if he wants to hear what he preaches, then he will oblige. Peter gives him the phrase:
"Whoever does not fast every day will not see God."
Paul tells Peter that if people hear that, they will rise up and kill them, as they worship gods and do not believe in God, nor in fasting. Paul then turns to John to get his advice. John says:
"If there is anyone who is not continent until his repose, he will not see God."
Paul tells John that the people will not believe this either and he will be stoned if he preaches this. Paul turns to Andrew and asks for his teaching. Andrew states:
"Whoever does not leave his father and mother, and his brothers and sisters, and his children, and his possessions, he has not followed God, and he will not be able to see him."
Once again, Paul scoffs at this teaching. Peter then asks Paul what would he preach. Paul then states:
"Let every man take his wife, so that they will not commit adultery"; and "let a woman take her husband, that she may not commit adultery." And let us establish one or two days of fasting in the week for them, and let us not be too hard on them, lest they become negligent and turn away. But if they fast today and are a little weary, they will persevere for the time and say, "Tomorrow we will not fast again." And if they come to mealtime, and they have rested, they will give to the poor, saying, "Why this fast, which comes?" and they will ponder God in their hearts. And let us also say to them, "Let the one who is not able to fast until the second hour, and the one who is average until the ninth, and the perfect one until evening." And when we have trampled on their wings a little, we will know that they are able to bear this. And then we can give them milk to drink, and we will tell them the glorious things."
The story then states that the other apostles murmured amongst themselves, not agreeing with what Paul said. Ouch! lol Amongst this chattering, Jesus arrives from heaven with the archangel Michael. Jesus then sort of sides with Paul on what he has been saying. In the Syriac translation, Jesus informs Peter that his advice has always been destructive, along with Andrew’s and John’s, and informs them that they should receive the word of Paul, for the whole world will be caught in the net of Paul’s words. The Ethiopic version isn’t as harsh, but still puts forth the same message. Jesus tells Paul not to be sad about not being revealed the mysteries, as he (Jesus) has only revealed the Earthly mysteries to the apostles, and not the heavenly mysteries, which he will teach Paul.
Jesus signaled to Michael, who then answered in the voice of a mighty angel, which called down 10,000 (Ethiopic version, 1,000 Syriac version) angels who took Mary’s body into the clouds. The apostles went with them into the clouds. Once they arrived in Paradise, Mary’s body was placed by the tree of life, in which her soul then entered her body.
The apostles then said to Jesus about seeing the torments (Hell). Jesus transported them, along with Mary and Michael, to where the sun sets and a pit in the earth opened up to expose the damned. When the damned saw Michael, they all started crying out to him asking for help. The cries caused a lot of distress for Mary and the apostles, which Jesus told them that they would not be able to handle this sight. The damned kept pleading with Michael to get Jesus to save them. Michael turned to Jesus and asked of him for his help. Jesus went into a long explanation that he is aware of their pleas and has pleaded with his Father on their behalf, but mercy will only be shown when the Father deems it.
The next few sections of the story involves Mary and the apostles spotting various individuals who were in torment and asking about each person. Oddly enough, most of these people were from the church, such as priests, deacons, etc… who were crooked/corrupt. Eventually Jesus gives the tormented nine hours of rest on the Lord’s day thanks to the tears of Michael, the apostles and Mary.
After this, he takes the group into Paradise to the tree of life where we get a who’s who of the Old Testament. There is Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Elizabeth, the Magi, Enoch, etc… Speaking of Enoch, a short flash back is inserted that states when Noah sent out the dove to find land, the dove would go to Paradise to the olive tree where Enoch was, and Enoch would petition God for mercy. It would not be until God showed mercy, that Enoch would give the dove a branch to take back.
Jesus tells the other apostles to stay with his mother while he and Paul ascends even higher so he can tell Paul of the mysteries. As they were ascending, the Devil himself cries out:
"Jesus, Son of God, who came into the world and preached before Jerusalem and gave a commandment to your apostles that they preach to the whole earth in Jerusalem, how do you make this one named Paul ascend, before he contends with me, in your greatness, and defeats me? And it is fitting that you have shown everything to the twelve, since they were worthy, and they have contended with me and defeated me. But this one has not contended with me and has not defeated me. How do you make him ascend? Let him come then: first he will contend with me, and if he defeats me, bring him and show him everything."
Jesus then tells Paul to “prepare yourself for battle, so that he will find nothing against you.” Jesus goes and gets Peter to help prepare Paul for the battle. Peter asks Jesus where the two will fight, on a mountain or in the middle of a crowd? Why, the middle of a crowd of course!!
Now in this particular translation, the author leaves out the fight. He states that this section is also presented in another apocrypha, that being the “History of Peter and Paul.” Feeling this was combined at a later time, this is why the author leaves that out. I haven’t read that particular apocrypha, but it’s now on my to read list.
The story continues after the fight, with everyone joining back up in Paradise. Jesus then takes them all to the seventh heaven where God sits. The apostles wanted to embrace God but were terrified as God is “entirely fire.” There were two seraphim standing next to God. Two of their wings were covering their faces, as not to see the face of God. The apostles were not able to see the face of God either. Jesus informs them all that the time will come when they can embrace the Father, but in the meantime, they will need to embrace the body of Christ and they will not die. Jesus made a signal to one of the seraphim, whom responded but no one understood what it said. Suddenly the tens of thousands of angels appeared. Mary was given a throne and went into Paradise. Michael then brought the apostles back to Earth so that they can continue their mission.
This last part of the dormition narrative could have been excised off the story and one wouldn’t really notice. I did find the bickering between the apostles, as well as the church clergy in Hell to be an interesting commentary on the early church (one of the reasons why I highly enjoy the ‘Gospel of Judas’). The description of the Father was quite interesting. You usually don’t see something like that in these stories, at least from the ones I’ve read.
I am still going through this book, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary’s Dormition and Assumption by Stephen J. Shoemaker. If I find any more Gnostic related stories, I’ll blog about it. However, if you are interested in stories about the Theotokos, I do recommend picking up the book. It’s been quite the fascinating read so far (I’m a third of the way in).