Daily visit of Mary to the Jesus' Sepulchre (nos. 1-2)
The archangel Gabriel appears to Mary (nos. 3-5)
The coming of the Apostles (nos. 6-24)
The prayer of the Mother of God (nos. 25-28)
The envy of the Jews (nos. 29-33)
The Jews want the house to be burned (nos. 34-36)
The trespassing (nos. 37-45)
Jephonias' outrage (nos. 46-47)
The translation of Mary's body into paradise (nos. 48-50)
The following narrative of Mary's death is commonly found in Greek manuscripts. It is a revised version, made in the 5th or the 6th century A.D., of an older text, apparently of judeo-christian origin, which may be dated to the second century A.D. A text nearer to the judeo-christian prototype is found in a greek manuscript preserved in the Vatican Library and in the Ethiopic version, called "Liber requiei" or "Book of the resting". A Latin version of this apocrypal book is also known. The narrative of Mary's death is witness to the faith of the ancient Church in the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. According to Christian faith, Assumption means the translation of Mary's body into paradise.
B. Bagatti - M. Piccirillo - A. Prodomo, New Discoveries at the Tomb of Virgin Mary in Gethsemane (SBF Collectio Minor 17) ed. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem 1975.
F. Manns, Le récit de la dormition de Marie (Vatican grec 1982). Contribution à l'étude des origines de l'exégèse chrétienne (SBF Collectio Maior 33) ed. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem 1989.
The text below is taken from: M.R. James (Trans.), The Apocryphal New Testament, Oxford 1953, 201-209.
THE DISCOURSE OF ST. JOHN THE DIVINE CONCERNING THE FALLING ASLEEP OF THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD
Daily visit of Mary to the Jesus' Sepulchre
1 Whenas the all-holy glorious mother of God and ever-virgin Mary according to her custom went unto the holy sepulchre of our Lord to burn incense, and bowed her holy knees, she besought Christ our God that was born of her to come and abide with her (rather, that she might depart unto him).
2 And when the Jews saw her resorting unto the holy sepulchre they came to the chief priests, saying: Mary goeth every day unto the sepulchre. And the chief priests called the watchmen which were charged by them not to suffer any to pray at the holy sepulchre, and inquired of them if it were so in truth. But the watch answered and said that they saw no such thing; for God did not suffer them to see her venerable presence.
The archangel Gabriel appears to Mary
3 Now on one day, which was Friday, the holy Mary came as she was wont to the sepulchre, and as she prayed it came to pass that the heavens were opened and the archangel Gabriel came down unto her and said: Hail, thou that didst bear Christ our God: thy prayer hath passed through the heavens unto him that was born of thee and hath been accepted, and henceforth according to thy petition thou shalt leave the world and come unto the heavenly places unto thy Son, unto the true life that hath no successor.
4 And when she heard that from the holy archangel she returned unto Bethlehem the holy, having with her three virgins that ministered unto her. And when she had rested a little space she sat up and said to the virgins: Bring me a censer that I may pray. And they brought it as it was commanded them.
5 And she prayed, saying: My Lord Jesu Christ, who didst vouchsafe of shine excellent goodness to be born of me, hear my voice and send unto me shine apostle John, that seeing him I may have the first fruits of joy: and send unto me also the rest of shine apostles, both them that have already come to dwell with thee and them that are in this present world, in whatever land the may be, by thy holy commandment, that I may behold them and bless thy name that is greatly extolled, for I have confidence that thou hearest shine handmaid in every thing.
The coming of the Apostles
6 And as she prayed I, John, came unto her, for the Holy Ghost caught me up by a cloud from Ephesus and set me in the place where the mother of my Lord lay. And I entered in unto her and gave glory to him that was born of her and said Hail, thou mother of my Lord, that didst bear Christ our God. rejoice for that thou departest out of this life with great glory.
7 And the holy mother of God glorified God that I, John, was come to her, remembering the word of the Lord which he spake. Behold thy mother, and behold thy son. And the three virgins came and worshipped.
8 And the holy mother of God said unto me: Pray thou and put on incense. And I prayed thus: O Lord Jesus Christ that doest marvellous things, do now marvellous things before her that bare thee, and let thy mother depart out of this life, and let them that crucified thee and believed not in thee be troubled.
9 And after I had finished the prayer the holy Mary said unto me: Bring me the censer. And she cast in incense and said: Glory be to thee, my God and my Lord, because in me are fulfilled all things that thou didst promise me before thou didst ascend into the heavens, that whenever I should depart out of this world thou wouldest come unto me in glory, thou and the multitude of thine angels.
10 And I, John, said unto her: Our Lord and our God Jesus Christ cometh, and thou beholdest him according as he promised thee. And the holy mother of God answered and said to me The Jews have sworn that when mine end cometh they will burn my body. And I answered and said unto her: Thy holy and precious body shall not see corruption. And she answered and said unto me : Bring a censer and put incense therein and pray. And there came a voice from heaven and said the Amen.
11 And I, John, listened unto that voice, and the Holy Ghost said unto me: John, heardest thou this voice which was uttered in heaven after the ending of the prayer! And I answered and said: Yea, I heard it. And the Holy Ghost said unto me: This voice which thou heardest signifieth the coming of thy brethren the apostles and of the holy powers which is to be for to-day they are coming hither.
12 And thereupon I, John, fell to prayer. And the Holy Ghost said unto the apostles: All of you together mount up upon clouds from the ends of the world and gather yourselves together at Bethlehem the holy because of the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, in a moment of time: Peter from Rome, Paul from Tiberia, Thomas out of the inmost Indies, James from Jerusalem:
13 Andrew the brother of Peter, and Philip, Luke and Simon the Canaanite, and Thaddaeus, which were fallen asleep, were raised up by the Holy Ghost out of their sepulchres ¡ unto whom said the Holy Ghost: Think not that the resurrection is now ¡ but for this cause are ye risen up out of your graves, that ye may go to salute for an honour and a wonderful sign for the mother of your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: for the day is come near of her departure and going to abide in heaven.
14 And Mark, who was yet alive, came also from Alexandria with the rest, as hath been said, from their several countries. But Peter when he was lifted up by the cloud stood between the heaven and the earth, for the Holy Ghost sustained him, and beheld while the rest of the apostles also were caught up in the clouds to be present with Peter. And so all came together by the means of the Holy Ghost, as hath been said.
15 And we entered in unto the mother of our Lord and God and did her worship and said: Fear not, neither be grieved: the Lord God that was born of thee shall bring thee out of this world with glory And she rejoicing in God her Saviour sat up in the bed and said to the apostles: Now believe I that our teacher and our God cometh from heaven, and I shall behold him, and so depart out of this life, even as I have seen you come unto me. And I would that you would tell me whence ye knew that I was departing and came unto me, and from what lands and how far ye are come hither, that ye have been so quick to visit me: for neither hath he that was born of me, even our Lord Jesus Christ, hidden it from me. For I have believed now also that he is the Son of the Most High.
16 And Peter answered and said unto the apostles: Let each one certify the mother of our Lord, in what manner the Holy Ghost announced it unto us and charged us.
17 And I, John, answered and said: I whenas I was entering in unto the holy altar in Ephesus to minister, the Holy Ghost said unto me: The time of the departure of the mother of thy Lord is come near: go unto Bethlehem to salute her. And a cloud of light caught me up and set me at the door of the house where thou liest.
18 And Peter also answered: I also was in Rome, and about the dawn I heard a voice by the Holy Ghost saying unto me The mother of thy Lord must depart, for the time is come nigh: go thou unto Bethlehem to salute her: and lo, a cloud of light caught me up, and I beheld the rest of the apostles also coming unto me upon clouds, and a voice saying to me: Go all of you unto Bethlehem.
19 Paul also answered and said: I also was abiding in a city not very far off from Rome and the place is called Tiberia. And I heard the Holy Ghost saying unto me: The mother of thy Lord leaveth this world to go unto the heavenly places, and endeth (maketh) her course by departure : but go thou also unto Bethlehem to salute her. And lo, a cloud of light caught me up and set me where it did set you also.
20 Thomas also answered and said: I also had passed through the land of the Indians, and my preaching was increased in strengt by the grace of Christ, and the son of the King's sister by name Labdanes, was about to be sealed (baptized) by me in the palace, and suddenly the Holy Ghost saith unto me: Thou also, Thomas, go unto Bethlehem to salute the mother of thy Lord, for she maketh her removal unto heaven. And a cloud of light caught me up and set me with you.
21 And Mark also answered and said: As I also was finishing the service (canon) of the third hour in the city of Alexandria, while I prayed, the Holy Ghost caught me up and brought me unto you.
22 And James also answered and said: While I was in Jerusalem the Holy Ghost admonished (permitted) me, saying: Be thou present at Bethlehem, for the mother of thy Lord maketh her departure. And lo, a cloud of light caught me up and brought me unto you.
23 And Matthew also answered and said: I glorified and do glorify God, or that as I was in a ship and it was tossed, for the sea was boisterous with waves, suddenly a cloud of light overshadowed us, and overcame (shook off) the billows of the tempest and made them calm, and me it caught up and brought me unto you. 24 Likewise they that had departed this life before told how they were come. And Bartholomew said: I was preaching the word in the country of Thebes, and lo, the Holy Ghost said to me: The mother of thy Lord maketh her departure: go therefore to salute her at Bethlehem. And lo, a cloud of light caught me up and brought me unto you.
The prayer of the Mother of God
25 All these things spake the apostles unto the holy mother of God, how and in what fashion they came. And she spread forth her hands unto heaven and prayed, saying: I worship and praise and glorify thy name, which is greatly extolled, O Lord, because thou hast regarded the lowliness of shine handmaiden, and thou that art mighty hast magnified me, and behold all generations shall call me blessed.
26 And after the prayer she said unto the apostles: Cast on incense and pray. And when they had prayed there came a thunder from heaven and a terrible sound as of chariots, and lo, a multitude of the host of angels and powers, and a voice as of the Son of man was heard, and the Seraphim came round about the house wherein the holy and spotless mother of God, the virgin, lay: so that all that were in Bethlehem beheld all the marvellous sights, and went to Jerusalem and declared all the wonderful things that were come to pass.
27 And it came to pass after that sound that the sun and the moon appeared about the house, and an assembly of the first begotten saints came unto the house where the mother of the Lord lay, for her honour and glory. And I saw also many signs come to pass, blind receiving sight, deaf hearing, lame walking, lepers cleansed, and them that were possessed of unclean spirits healed. And every one that was under any sickness or disease came and touched the wall where she lay, and cried: Holy Mary, thou that didst bear Christ our God, have mercy on us. And forthwith they were cured.
28 And many multitudes that were dwelling in Jerusalem out of every country because of a vow, when they heard the signs that were being done in Bethlehem by means of the Lord's mother, came unto the place seeking to be healed of divers diseases; and they obtained health. And there was joy unspeakable on that day of the multitude of them that were healed, with them also that beheld, glorifying Christ our God and his mother. And all Jerusalem returned from Bethlehem, keeping holiday with singing of psalms and spiritual songs.
The envy of the Jews
29 But the priests of the Jews, together with their people, were amazed at that which was done, and were taken with bitter (heavy) envy, and again with vain thoughts they gathered a council and advised themselves to send men against the holy mother of God and the holy apostles which were there at Bethlehem. And when the multitude of the Jews were now set forward toward Bethlehem, as it were about a mile therefrom, It came to pass that they saw a terrible vision, and their feet were bound: and they departed thence to them of their nation, and declared all the fearful vision unto the chief priests.
30 But they being yet more inflamed in spirit went unto the governor, crying out and saying: The nation of the Jews is destroyed because of this woman: drive thou her away from Bethlehem and from the province of Jerusalem. But the governor was astonied at the wonders and said unto them: I will not drive her out from Bethlehem nor from any other place. But the Jews continued crying out and adjuring him by the safety of Tiberius Caesar that he should lead the apostles out of Bethlehem and if thou doest it not we will report it unto Caesar. And being now compelled he sent a captain of a thousand against the apostles unto Bethlehem.
31 But the Holy Ghost said unto the apostles and the mother of the Lord: Behold, the governor hath sent a captain of a thousand against you, because the Jews have made a tumult. Go out therefore from Bethlehem, and fear not; for behold, I will bring you by a cloud unto Jerusalem; for the power of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is with you.
32 The apostles therefore rose up straightway and went out of the house, bearing the bed of their lady the mother of God and set forward toward Jerusalem: and immediately, according as the Holy Ghost said, they were lifted up by a cloud and were found at Jerusalem in the house of their lady. And we stood up and for five days we sung praise without ceasing.
The Jews want the house to be burned
33 But when the captain came unto Bethlehem and found not there the mother of the Lord, neither the apostles, he laid hold upon the Bethlehemites, saying unto them: Did ye not come and tell the governor and the priests all the signs and wonders which were come to pass, and how the apostles came out of every land ? where then are they ? come ye hither to Jerusalem unto the governor. For the captain knew not of the departure of the apostles and the mother of the Lord unto Jerusalem. So the captain took the Bethlehemites and went unto the governor saying that he had found no man.
34 Now after five days it was made known to the governor and to the priests and to all the city that the mother of the Lord was in her own house in Jerusalem with the apostles, by means of the signs and wondrous things that came to pass there, and a multitude of men and women were assembled, crying out: O holy virgin that didst bear Christ our God, forget not the race of men.
35 And because of this the people of the Jews, moved yet more with envy, together with the priests, took wood and fire and came on, desiring to burn the house where the mother of the Lord lay, together with the apostles. But the governor stood beholding the sight afar off. And when the people of the Jews were come unto the door of the house, behold, suddenly a force of fire came from within it by means of an angel and burnt a great multitude of the Jews, and there was great fear throughout all the city and they glorified God which was born of her.
36 But when the governor saw what was done, he cried aloud before all the people, saying: Of a truth he is the Son of God, which was born of the virgin whom ye thought to drive out: for these signs are of a true God. And there was a division betwixt the Jews, and many believed on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ because of the signs which came to pass.
37 Now after all these wonders were come to pass because of Mary the mother of God and ever virgin, the mother of the Lord, as we the apostles were with her in Jerusalem, the Holy Ghost said unto us: Ye know that on the Lord's day the good tidings were told unto the Virgin Mary by the archangel Gabriel and on the Lord's day the Saviour was born in Bethlehem, and on the Lord's day the children of Jerusalem went forth with palm-branches to meet him, saying: Hosanna in the highest: blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. And on the Lord's day he rose from the dead, and on the Lord's day he shall come to judge the quick and the dead, and on the Lord's day he shall come from heaven for the glory and honour of the departure of the holy and glorious virgin which bare him.
38 And upon the same Lord's day the mother of the Lord said unto the apostles: Cast on incense, for Christ cometh with an host of angels: and behold Christ cometh sitting upon the throne of the Cherubim. And as we all prayed there appeared innumerable multitudes o angels, and the Lord riding upon the Cherubim in great power. And lo, an appearance of light going before him and lighting upon the holy virgin because of the coming of her only-begotten Son: and all the powers of the heavens fell down and worshipped him. 39 And the Lord called unto his mother and said: Mary. And she answered and said: Behold, here am I, Lord. And the Lord said unto her: Be not grieved, but let shine heart rejoice and be glad; for thou hast found grace to behold the glory that was given me of my Father. And the holy mother of God looked up and saw in him glory which the mouth of man cannot utter nor comprehend. And the Lord abode by her, saying: Behold, henceforth shall thy precious body be translated unto paradise, and shine holy soul shall be in the heavens in the treasuries of my Father in surpassing brightness, where is peace and rejoicing of the holy angels, and continuance thereof.
40 And the mother of the Lord answered and said unto him: Lay thy right hand upon me, Lord, and bless me. And the Lord spread out his unstained right hand and blessed her: and she, holding his unstained right hand, kissed it, saying: I worship this right hand which made the heaven and the earth; and I beseech thy name which is greatly extolled, O Christ, God, King of the ages, only-begotten of the Father, receive shine handmaid, thou that didst vouchsafe to be born of me the lowly one to save mankind by shine unutterable dispensation. Every man that calleth upon or entreateth or nameth the name of shine handmaid, grant him shine help.
41 And as she thus spake, the apostles came near unto her feet and worshipped the Lord and said: O mother of the Lord, leave unto the world a blessing, for thou departest out of it: for thou didst bless it and raise it up from destruction when thou barest the light of the world. And the mother of the Lord prayed, and thus spake she in her prayer: O God, who of thy great goodness didst send shine only-begotten Son to dwell in my lowly body, who didst vouchsafe to be born of me the lowly one, have mercy upon the world and upon every soul that calleth upon thy name.
42 And again she prayed and said: O Lord, King of the heavens, Son of the living God, accept every man that calleth upon thy name that thy birth may be glorified. And again she prayed and said: O Lord Jesu Christ, that hast all power in heaven and on earth, I entreat shine holy name with thus supplication: At every time and in every place where there is a memorial of my name, sanctify thou that place, and glorify them that glorify thee through my name, accepting every offering of such, and every supplication and every prayer.
43 And when she had thus prayed, the Lord said unto his own mother: Let shine heart be glad and rejoice; for every grace and every gift hath been given thee of my Father which is in heaven and of me and of the Holy Ghost. Every soul that calleth upon thy name shall not be put to shame, but shall find mercy and consolation and succour and confidence, both in this world and in that which is to come, before my Father which is in heaven.
44 And the Lord turned and said unto Peter: The time is come to begin the song of praise. And when Peter began the song of praise, all the powers of the heavens answered Alleluia. And then the countenance of the mother of the Lord did shine above the light. And she rose up and with her own hand blessed every one of the apostles, and all of them gave glory to God; and the Lord spread forth his unstained hands and received her holy and spotless soul.
45 And at the going forth of her spotless soul the place was filled with sweet odour and light unspeakable, and lo, a voice from heaven was heard, saying: Blessed art thou among women. And Peter ran, and I, John, and Paul and Thomas, and embraced her precious feet to receive sanctification: and the twelve apostles laid her honourable and holy body upon a bed and bare it forth.
46 And behold as they bare her, a certain Hebrew named Jephonias, mighty of body, ran forth and set upon the bed, as the apostles bare it, and lo, an angel of the Lord with invisible power smote his two hands from off his shoulders with a sword of fire and left them hanging in the air about the bed.
47 And when this miracle came to pass, all the people of the Jews that beheld it cried out: Verily he is the true God that was born of thee, Mary, mother of God, ever virgin. And Jephonias himself, being commanded by Peter, that the wonderful works of God might be showed, stood up behind the bed and cried: Holy Mary that didst bear Christ which is God, have mercy on me. And Peter turned and said unto him: In the name of him that was born of her shine hands which were taken from thee shall cleave to their place. And immediately at the word of Peter the hands that did hang beside the bed of our lady went back and crave unto Jephonias: and he also believed and glorified Christ, even God, that was born of her.
The translation of Mary's body into paradise
48 And after this miracle the apostles bare the bed and laid her precious and holy body in Gethsemane in a new tomb. And lo, an odour of sweet savour came out of the holy sepulchre of our lady the mother of God: and until three days were past the voices of invisible angels were heard glorifying Christ our God which was born of her. And when the third day was fulfilled the voices were no more heard, and thereafter we all perceived that her spotless and precious body was translated into paradise.
49 Now after it was translated, lo, we beheld Elisabeth the mother of the holy John the Baptist, and Anna the mother of our lady, and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and David singing Alleluia, and all the choirs of the saints worshipping the precious body of the mother of the Lord, and we saw a place of light, than which light nothing is brighter, and a great fragrance came from that place whereto her precious and holy body was translated in paradise, and a melody of them that praised him that was born of her: and unto virgins only is it given to hear that sweet melody wherewith no man can be sated.
50 We, therefore, the apostles, when we beheld thus suddenly the translation of her holy body, glorified God who had shown unto us his wonders at the departure of the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ: by the prayer and intercession of whom may we all be accounted worthy to come into her protection and succour and guardianship, both in this world and in that which is to come: at all times and in all places glorifying her only-begotten Son, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.
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