We celeberate the Dormition of the Theotokos (Daiva Mathavinte Vaangippu Perunnal / ദൈവമാതാവിന്റെ വാങ്ങിപ്പ് പെരുന്നാള്) on August 15th. Because of the importance of this feast the church teaches us to observe fasting from August 1st to August 15th known as the Dormition Fast.
The Virgin Mary died a natural death, "fallling asleep in the Lord" , like any other Christian. Christ himself came down to receive the soul of his Mother as depicted in the first icon above. All apostles except St. Thomas were present during the falling asleep of the Virgin Mary. They buried her body.
St. Thomas who was in India at that time was informed of the falling asleep of the Theotokos. He was carried in a cloud by an Angel from India to Jerusalem. As he was approaching Jerusalem, he saw the Virgin rising up to heaven carried by angels. Supposing that he was seeing her soul, he cried out in anguish, because he had been unable to spend her last days with her and receive her blessing. Looking down from on high with compassion, the Blessed Virgin removed her girdle or belt (soonoro) and dropped it down. It landed directly in the outstretched hands of the holy apostle as depicted in the second icon above.
After he had seen her disappear from sight, he hastened into the city to inform the other Apostles of all this. Still convinced that what he had seen was the soul of the Virgin Mary, Saint Thomas entreated the other Apostles to open her tomb and let him view the sacred body. Wishing themselves for another sight of their blessed Mother’s form, the Apostles agreed. But upon opening the tomb it was discovered that the Holy Virgin was not there, and they saw her empty tomb as depicted in the third icon above.
Based on all these, the Church teaches us that Virgin Mary died a natural death, like any human being; that her soul was received by Christ upon death; and that her body was ressuructed on the third day after her repose, at which time she was taken up bodily into heaven by the Angels. Her tomb was found empty on the third day. We do not accept the new western teaching that started in the 1950s that St. Mary did not experience death and was directly assumed into heaven.
There are some Christians who find the bodily assumption of St. Mary hard to believe. They need to read 2 Kings 2: 11. There they can see Prophet Elijah was bodily assumed into heaven. Now consider how close St. Mary was to our Lord, she carried him in her womb for nine months, gave him birth, nursed him from her breasts, was there next to the cross when he died, was there present with the disciples to recieve the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. What higher position can a human being aspire for other than to be called 'Mother of God'. The Holy Church holds the bodily assumption of Elijah to be true based on the written word, and the teachings around the Dormition of the Mother of God to be true based on the Holy oral traditon.
Also please remember that the 'Word of God' is not a book (John 1: 1) ; for a true Orthodox Christian the 'Word of God' is a person. And that person is Jesus Christ, who was fully man and fully God at the same time.
The following hymn that is sung during the Divine Liturgy on the Dormition feast on August 15th prior to the reading of the Gospel narrates the above events: