Sacred Sites in Contested Regions

Lectures & Publications

Feast of Mary's Dormition

Between scripture and performance: cohesion and
dissent at the Feast of Mary’s Dormition in Jerusalem
Nurit Stadler
In contrast to popular Marian rites throughout the world, the Jerusalem
Dormition Feast is held on a canonical route that includes the purported
sites of some of the key moments in the Virgin’s life. The festival boasts an
ancient liturgical order consisting of utterances and customs that are assiduously
preserved by Jerusalem’s Greek-Orthodox Church. Drawing on Engelke’s
distinction (2007) between scriptural authority and religious performance and
numerous scholarly analyses of cohesion and dissent at assorted Marian
shrines (e.g., Eade and Sallnow [1991]), this article explores the reactions to
the local ceremonial on the part of various participants. While the clergy
strives to impose its particular reading of the Scriptures on all the attendees,
the different lay groups insist on performing rituals that give expression to
their own knowledge of the canon and their own understanding of the
Virgin’s nature. All told, their reactions range from rigid obedience to creative
practices and heated dissent. The event ultimately splinters off into several
factions and the host’s orderly script is compromised.