Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
A PRAYER TO THE MORE-THAN-HOLY THEOTOKOS
[Saint Gennadios Scholarios, Patriarch of Constantinople)
O Blessed Virgin, You are full of grace and among women the Most Blessed of any person; You are the adornment of the human race, the miracle of Angels, the joy of all creations, the crown of virtue, the Most True Image and Likeness of God, the Most well-disposed Queen, and we laud and praise your holiness. After all the glory we render to the Eternal Logos[Word] of God, our Creator and Savior, we directly confess and witness to your graces, O Theotokos, for you co-operated with and participated in the plan of our salvation. We beseech you, Most Holy Mother of God, accept also now our petition and send it for a favorable consideration to our Savior, and your Son, Jesus Christ, and through Him to the Unoriginate God and Father and the Holy Spirit. For you have served God in the very best of all the divine acts and in the greatest heavenly plan for the salvation of us humans. If God listens to sinners when they return in repentance to His obedience and love - O what supernatural wonder!--how will He reject your intercessions on our behalf? We admit that we are sinful and unworthy of any heavenly or earthly visitation; and yet we dare to be bold because we know the depth of your own loving kindness and compassion that resembles that of God Himself. We also confess and witness to your own abiding favor and providence toward our nation, which has been demonstrated from the beginning until now.
For these reasons therefore do not overlook us, the least of your servants, but intercede on our behalf; show your guardianship over us. Our life is passing away and the guilt for our sins is great and heavy. Our repentance is lukewarm and uncertain. We turn to God our Creator in repentance and immediately we return again to evil.
For this reason then, most compassionate Mother of our Merciful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, be quick to deliver us from these present fears of ours. Grant us a repentance that is as true and steadfast as possible; make us all to be diligent in the work of our salvation; supplement with your divine love for mankind what is lacking in us because of our natural weakness and long-standing companionship with evil. Dissolve the guilt of our many great sins, by generating a profound contrition in our soul and by offering it as a start to the Divine Love for mankind, through which so many repentant thieves, prostitutes and publicans have been saved. If, through your own concern and effort on our behalf, we do not see the Light of Divine Mercy shine upon us who are most imprudent and reckless, then all of our affairs will be filled with horrible fears and destruction. We know and are certain that You will not abandon us altogether; we still have hope that is based upon the abundance of God's loving kindness toward mankind and your own many visitations to us. O Most Holy Theotokos, Full of Grace and Most Blessed among women, the Lord is indeed with you, and may He be also with us through you, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
On November 21st [The Great Feast of The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple] Our Holy Orthodox Church commemorates, honor and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith.
THE GREAT AND HOLY FEAST OF THE ENTRANCE OF THE THEOTOKOS INTO THE TEMPLE
There are four days in the ecclesiastical calendar year dedicated to the Theotokos: her birth, her Entrance or Presentation at the Temple, the Annunciation, and her Dormition (Koimisis). Saints Joachim and Anna were childless for many years and prayed fervently for a child whom they would dedicate to God. God heard their contrite supplications and blessed them with a little girl whom they named Mary. When the Theotokos was three years old, she was taken in a procession to the temple. Her parents, relatives, and maidens, all bearing candles led her to the first step of the Temple, and from there she ran up the remaining fourteen steps. Prophets Zacharias, father of Saint John the Baptist, took her by the hand into the Temple. He was instructed by divine inspiration to pass through the second curtain into the Holy of Holies, where only the high priest enters once a year. Saint Joachim and Anna visited her often until their death. The Theotokos wished to remain a virgin in the Temple her entire life. However, Jewish law would not permit this, nor had this ever been heard of. For this reason Prophet Zacharias chose an elderly relative to whom she was betrothed but not married, to protect her virginity. Saints Joachim and Anna are buried at the base of the Garden of Gethsemane, about fifty steps down a cement staircase, and the empty tomb of the Theotokos is fifty steps below.
+By the holy intercessions of the Theotokos, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Hebrews 9:1-7
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28
DOGMAS CONCERNING THE MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD
[source:Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky]
Two dogmas concerning the Mother of God are bound up, in closest fashion, with the dogma of God the Word's becoming man. They are (a) her Ever-Virginity, and (b) her name of Theotokos. They proceed immediately from the dogma of the unity of the Hypostasis of the Lord from the moment of His Incarnation--the Divine Hypostasis.
A. The Ever-Virginity of the Mother of God
The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ from a Virgin is testified to directly and deliberately by two Evangelists, St. Matthew and St. Luke. This dogma was entered into the Symbol of Faith of the First Ecumenical Council, where we read: "Who for the sake of us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven and was Incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man." The Ever-virginity of the Mother of God is testified by her own words, handed down in the Gospel, where she expressed awareness of the immeasurable majesty and height of her chosenness: "My soul doth magnify the Lord…For behold, from henceforth all generations shall all be blessed…For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His Name" (St. Luke 1:46-49).
The Most Holy Virgin preserved in her memory and in her heart both the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel and the inspired words of righteous Elizabeth when she was visited by Mary: "And whence is this to me, that the Mother of My Lord should come to me?" (St. Luke 1:43); both the prophecy of the righteous Symeon on meeting the Infant Jesus in the Temple, and the prophecy of the righteous Anna on the same day (St. Luke 2:25-38). In connection with the account of the shepherds of Bethlehem concerning the words of the Angels to them, and of the singing of the Angels, the Evangelist adds: "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart" (St. Luke 2:19). The same Evangelist, having told of the conversation of the Most Holy Mother with the twelve-year old Jesus after their visit to Jerusalem on the Feast of Pascha, ends his account with the words: "but His Mother kept all these sayings in her heart" (St. Luke 2:51). The Evangelists speak also of the understanding of the majesty of her service in the world by the righteous Joseph, her espoused husband, whose actions were many times guided by an Angel.
When the heretics and simple blasphemers refuse to acknowledge the Ever-virginity of the Mother of God on the grounds that the Evangelists mention the "brothers and sisters of Jesus", they are refuted by the following facts from the Gospel:
(a) In the Gospels there are named four "brothers" (James, Joses, Simon and Jude), and there are also mentioned the "sisters" of Jesus--no fewer than three, as is evident in the words: "and His sisters, are they not all with us?" (St. Matthew 13:56).
On the other hand, (b) in the account of the journey to Jerusalem of the twelve-year-old boy Jesus, where there is mention of the "kinsfolk and acquaintances" (St. Luke 2:44) in the midst of whom they were seeking Jesus, and where it is likewise mentioned that Mary and Joseph every year journeyed from faraway Galilee t Jerusalem, no reason is given to think that there were present other younger children with Mary: it was thus that the first twelve years of the Lord's earthly life proceeded.
(c) When, about twenty years after the above-mentioned journey, Mary stood at the Cross of the Lord, she was "alone" and she was entrusted by her Divine Son to His disciple John; and "from that hour that Disciple took her unto his own home" (St. John 19:27). Evidently, as the ancient Christians also understood it, the Evangelists speak either of "half" brothers and sisters or of cousins. [The generally accepted Orthodox tradition is that the "brothers" and "sisters" of the Lord are the children of Joseph by an earlier marriage].
Another verse of Holy Scripture that some have used to argue against the Ever-virginity of the Mother of God is Saint Matthew 1:25: "And (Joseph) "knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn son. As the Orthodox Holy Fathers have pointed out, however, the word "until" does not signify that Mary remained a virgin only until a certain time. In the Sacred Scriptures, the word "until" (eos) and words similar to it often signify eternity. For example, when Christ says, "Lo, I am with you always, even until (eos) the end of the world" (St. Matthew 28:20), we are obviously not to believe that Christ will cease to be with His Disciples after the end of the world (See Saint John Maximovitch, "The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God" pp. 31-32, where other examples from Scripture are given).
B. The Most Holy Virgin Mary Is Theotokos
With the dogma of the Son of God's becoming man is closely bound up the naming of the Most Holy Virgin Mary as "Theotokos" (Birth-giver of God). By this name the Church confirms its faith that God the Logos (Word) became Man truly and not merely in appearance; a faith that, in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, God was joined to Man from the very instant of His conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and that He, being perfect Man, is also perfect God.
At the same time the name of Theotokos is the highest name that exalts or glorifies the Virgin Mary. The name "Theotokos" has a direct foundation in Sacred Scripture. The Apostle Paul writes:
(a) "When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman" (Gal. 4:4). Here is expressed the truth that a woman gave birth to the Son of God.
(b) "God was manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16): the flesh was woven for God the Word (Logos) by the Most Holy Virgin Mary.
At the meeting of the Virgin Mary, after the Annunciation, with the righteous Elizabeth, "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she spake out with a loud voice, and said: 'Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the Mother of My Lord come to me?' ...And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord" (St. Luke 41-45). Thus Elizabeth, being filled with the Holy Spirit, calls Mary the Mother of the Lord, the God of Heaven; it is clear from her further words: "She believed…those things which were told her from the Lord"--the Lord God.
Concerning the birth of God "from a virgin" the Old Testament Scriptures speak:
The Prophet Ezekiel writes of his vision: "Then said the Lord unto me: this gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut" (Ezek. 44:2).
The Prophet Isaiah prophesies: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel, which is to say: Go is with us... For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Messenger of Great Counsel, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, Potentate, the Prince of Peace, Father of the age to come" (Is. 7:14, 9:6, Septuagint; St. Matthew 1:23).
In the first centuries of the Church of Christ, the truth of God the Word's becoming man and His Birth of the Virgin Mary was the catholic faith. Therefore, the Apostolic Fathers expressed themselves thus: "Our God Jesus Christ was in the womb of Mary"; "God took flesh of the Virgin Mary" (St. Ignatius the God-bearer, Saint Irenaeus). Exactly the same expressions were used by Saints Dionysius and Alexander of Alexandria (3rd and 4th centuries). The holy Fathers of the 4th century: Sts. Athanasius, Ephraim the Syrian, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Gregory of Nyssa, called the Most Holy Virgin the Theotokos.
In the 5th century, because of the heresy of Nestorius, the Church triumphantly confessed the Most Holy Virgin Mary to be Mother of God at the Third Ecumenical Council, accepting and confirming the following words of Saint Cyril of Alexandria: "If anyone will not confess that Immanuel is very God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is Theotokos, inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Logos (Word) of God made flesh: let him be anathema" (Seven Ecumenical Councils).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God