Today we again had some free time in the afternoon so I went for a walk across the Old City. As I made my way up the Via Dolorosa I noticed a small shop being run by the Little Sisters of Jesus, who follow the example of St Charles de Foucald. I stepped inside and saw a sign pointing to the church. Going down a few steps, I entered into a small oasis from the hustle and bustle of the street, the vendors, the pilgrims, the tourists, the people going about their daily lives. It was simple, peaceful and lovely.
On the far side of the city was the Abbey of the Dormition. This is the place that commemorates the death/assumption of Mary the Mother of Jesus.
Inside, a pilgrim group were gathered in the sanctuary and Mass was about to start, so the interior was closed to visitors. I took a photo of the interior, but there is much more to see, as the following website shows: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dormition_Abbey. So I will have to come back again to explore further.
The mosaic of the Virgin Mary and her son above the sanctuary is impressive. The Latin inscription around the base of the mosaic is from Isaiah 7:14 and reads:
Ecce virgo concipiet et pariet filium et vocabitis nomen eius Emmanuel
which translates as:
Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
This text is then adapted by Matthew’s Gospel 1:23 to refer to the birth of Jesus:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
If you are wondering what the word “dormition” means, it means “sleeping”, a euphemism for death. The Catholic Church teaches that when Mary died she was assumed body and soul into heaven. This was a unique privileged participation in the resurrection of her Son, corresponding to her Immaculate Conception at the start of her life, her surrender to God as expressed in her “fiat” at the Annunciation, which she lived throughout her life and culminated in her death as the final and complete surrender to God. Here is how the Catholic Catechism expresses this teaching:
I. MARY’S MOTHERHOOD WITH REGARD TO THE CHURCH
Wholly united with her Son . . .
964 Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. “This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death”;502 it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion:
Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim, born of her: to be given, by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: “Woman, behold your son.”503
965 After her Son’s Ascension, Mary “aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers.”504 In her association with the apostles and several women, “we also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation.”505
. . . also in her Assumption
966 “Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”506 The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians:
In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death.507
. . . she is our Mother in the order of grace
967 By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity. Thus she is a “preeminent and . . . wholly unique member of the Church”; indeed, she is the “exemplary realization” (typus)508 of the Church.
968 Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. “In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.”509
969 “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation …. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”510
970 “Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it.”511 “No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.”512
I returned from the Abbey of the Dormition by way of the nearby Zion gate. As a defensive measure, people and vehicles passing through must do a 90 degree turn inside the gate, which ensures that no one can simply charge through. They must slow and turn, at which point they are vulnerable to being attacked and repulsed.
I noticed that the interior of the turn had been broken through to create a small opening, not big enough for anyone to pass through, but which enabled one to see through to the wall on the far side of the adjacent street. I thought it created a very artistic shot, so I captured this photo:
At first glance it looks like a white brick statue against a dark background, but the dark is actually the interior wall of Zion gate, and the image is actually the view of the white brick wall bathed in sunlight on the far side of the street as seen through the opening in the interior wall of Zion Gate.
Shalom, Peace, Salaam.