An Ineffable Fragrancy

Dormition of the Virgin; plaque from a triptych (?) then from a binding. Ivory, Constantinople, late 10th century–early 11th century; Musée national du Moyen Âge.
Dormition of the Virgin; plaque from a triptych (?) then from a binding. Ivory, Constantinople, late 10th century–early 11th century; Musée national du Moyen Âge.

It has been above said, that the holy Pulcheria built many churches to Christ at Constantinople. Of these, however, there is one which was built in Blachernæ, in the beginning of Marcian I’s reign of divine memory. These, therefore, namely, Marcian and Pulcheria, when they had built a venerable temple to the greatly to be celebrated and most holy mother of God and ever Virgin Mary, and had decked it with all ornaments, sought her most holy body, which had conceived God. And having sent for Juvenal, Archbishop of Jerusalem, and the bishops of Palestine, who were living in the royal city on account of the synod then held at Chalcedon, they say to them, “We hear that there is in Jerusalem the first and famous Church of Mary, mother of God and ever Virgin, in the garden called Gethsemane, where her body which bore the Life was deposited in a coffin. We wish, therefore, her relics to be brought here for the protection of this royal city.” But Juvenal answered, “In the holy and divinely inspired Scripture, indeed, nothing is recorded of the departure of holy Mary, mother of God. But from an ancient and most true tradition we have received, that at the time of her glorious falling asleep, all the holy Apostles who were going through the world for the salvation of the nations, in a moment of time borne aloft, came together at Jerusalem. And when they were near her, they had a vision of angels, and divine melody of the highest powers was heard: and thus with divine and more than heavenly glory, she delivered her holy soul into the hands of God in an unspeakable manner. But that which had conceived God being borne with angelic and apostolic psalmody, with funeral rites, was deposited in a coffin in Gethsemane. In this place the chorus and singing of the angels continued for three whole days. But after three days, on the angelic music ceasing, since one of the Apostles had been absent, and came after the third day, and wished to adore the body which had conceived God, the Apostles, who were present, opened the coffin; but the body, pure and every way to be praised, they could not at all find. And when they found only those things in which it had been laid out and placed there, and were filled with an ineffable fragrancy proceeding from those things, they shut the coffin. Being astounded at the miraculous mystery, they could form no other thought, but that He, who in his own person had vouchsafed to be clothed with flesh, and to be made man of the most holy Virgin, and to be born in the flesh, God the Word, and Lord of Glory, and who after birth had preserved her virginity immaculate, had seen it good after she had departed from among the living, to honour her uncontaminated and unpolluted body by a translation before the common and universal resurrection.”

— Narrative of a certain Euthymius, whose report was inserted into a homily of St. John Damascene (hom. II in dormit. B. V. M., 18, P. G., XCVI, 748).

Author: Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

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