Assuming the Dormition

According to the Gregorian calendar, the Christians in both East and West denominations commemorate today the death of the Mother of Jesus.

Just like with the difficulties surrounding the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, so also with what was the fate of her miraculous body after earthly death, the Church Fathers never came to an agreement: In the East, the Dormition (a “falling to sleep” followed by a Resurrection and an Ascension) is preferred to the term Assumption (the bodily taking up to the skies) that the Western Church is using.

Our belief is that in Nubia, an idea of a Dormition would have been the preferred one, given the links of the Nubian Church to Eastern Christianity, both Byzantine and Coptic.

However, no icon or mural has been preserved in the archaeological record from Nubia depicting the event and confirming one or the other doctrinal appurtenance.

And even though no text has preserved the actual wording of that Great Feast, we attempt in today’s entry to phrase “the Dormition of Mary, the Mother of God” in Old Nubian:

Moreover, despite the fact that there are references to two churches in Faras and one in Qasr Ibrim dedicated to Mary (see the superb list of toponyms and ethnonyms collected by Dr. Ochała at http://www.medievalnubia.info/dev/index.php/Toponyms_and_Ethnonyms ), none is known to have been especially dedicated to her Dormition.

Nevertheless, the cult of this special event must also have been venerated since the figure of the Virgin was surely linked with the figure of the Mother of the Kings of Makuria.

Therefore, it is tempting to see in the existence of a monastery dedicated to Mary, at a locality called Timaeie near Old Dongola (?), a hint to an option for the fate of the Queen mothers of Makuria at some late stage of their life: cease any earthly activity and retreat to the/a monastery where the Mother of God could be served.

In any case, the truth remains that there is hardly any reference to the end of either the Mothers of the Makurian Kings or the Mother of the Heavenly King in Nubia.

Can it then be the case that in the Nubian Church the death of the Virgin was never commemorated, neither as an Assumption nor as a Dormition, but that the idea prevalent was that of Epiphanius of Salamis, a Father of the Early Church venerated in Nubia, namely that no one could affirm whether Mary died or not!?!

It would simply be fantastic if further fieldwork on Sai would uncover information on that topic too…

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