Assumption: The Virgin Mary's parting gift to Saint Thomas
While preaching the Gospel in India, Saint Thomas the Apostle received the inner call to return to the West for the impending departure of the Virgin Mary from this earthly life. Just as he had been separated from his brother apostles for a special mission, so he was in the final hour of the Virgin's life. For he did not reach Gethsemane in time to be present at her going forth from the body, but only came there on foot the third day after her burial.
As he was approaching her tomb unawares, he was astounded to see her radiant living body emerge from the stone sepulchre and ascend. Realizing that she had finished her span of life without his being present, and fearing that he would never see her divine form again, he cried out to her in anguish of heart, imploring her not to leave him desolate. Looking upon him with loving tenderness, the Virgin took from her waist the belt she habitually wore and threw it down to him with words of blessing.
Carrying the precious relic of her belt, Saint Thomas hastened and announced to the grieving apostles and all those gathered in the Mother's house that she, too, was risen from the dead. Whereas he had doubted the good news of Jesus' resurrection and had received proof of its reality by touching the resurrected body of his Lord, now it was Thomas who gave physical evidence that Mary, too, was "alive for evermore" (Revelation 1:18).
Saint Thomas took the Virgin Mother's belt with him to India, and there it became the most valued treasure of his disciples, whose descendants in time came to be known as Saint Thomas Christians. A few centuries ago, in times of upheaval in India, it was taken into Syria, where during subsequent troubles in that country it disappeared.
About thirty years ago the head of the Syrian Jacobite Church, Patriarch Zachariah, felt an intense urge to find the belt, and began studying the ancient records concerning it. Noticing that one of the handwritten books he consulted had an unusually thick binding, he was inspired with the thought that the belt might be hidden there. Cutting it open, he found the prize, whose simple touch began to work great miracles.
Most of the belt has been returned to India and enshrined in a great church where every Saturday thousands of Christians, Hindus, and Moslems gather for the sacred Eucharist (Qurbana) and prayers to the Virgin – a testimony to the Holy Mother's capacity to unite the her children in love and harmony. The miracles granted are beyond number.
The Feast of the Virgin Mary's Assumption into heaven is celebrated today in the Western Church, and celebrated as the Feast of the Dormition ("falling asleep") on August 28th in the Orthodox Church.