My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Κατά την περίοδον τού Δεκαπενταυγούστου ψάλλωνται τά εξής Εξαποστειλάρια.
During the fifteen days of August the following Exapostilaria hymns are chanted:
Απόστολοι εκ περάτων, συναθροισθέντες ενθάδε, Γεθσημανή τώ χωρίω, κηδεύσατέ μου τό σώμα, και σύ, Υιέ και Θεέ μου, παράλαβέ μου τό πνεύμα.
O you Apostles from far off, being gathered together in the village of Gethsemane, lay my body in burial, and You, my Son, and my God, receive now my spirit from me.
Ο γλυκασμός τών Αγγέλων, τών θλιβομένων η χαρά, Χριστιανών η Προστάτης, Παρθένε Μήτερ Κυρίου, αντιλαβού μου και ρύσαι τών αιωνίων βασάνων.
You are the sweetness of Angels, the gladness of the afflicted ones, a protection of all Christians, O Virgin Mother of our Lord; Grant me now help and save me from the eternal torments.
Και σέ Μεσίτριαν έχω, πρός τόν φιλάνθρωπον Θεόν, μή μου ελέγξη τάς πράξεις, ενώπιον τών Αγγέλων, παρκαλώ σε, Παρθένε, βοήθησον μοι εν τάχει.
I have you as Mediator before God Who loves mankind; May He not question my action before the hosts of the Angels, I ask of you, O Virgin, hasten now quickly to my aid.
Χρυσοπλοκώτατε πύργε, και δωδεκάτειχε πόλις, ηλιοστάλακτε θρόνε, καθέδρα τού Βασιλέως, ακατανόητον θαύμα, πώς γαλουχείς τόν Δεσπότην;
You are a tower adorned with gold, a city surrounded by twelve walls, a shining Throne touched by the sun, a Royal Seat for the King, O unexplainable wonder, How do you nurse the Master?
[Paraklesis to the Theotokos]
THE HOLY FEAST OF THE FALLING ASLEEP (KOIMISIS) OF THE MOTHER OF GOD AND EVER-VIRGIN MARY.
Please note: For the duration of the August Fast I will be bringing to all of you different articles pertaining to the Ever-Virgin and All-Holy Theotokos so that you may come to know better the one who gave birth to the Son of God and the Savior of all mankind. "For behold, all generations will call me blessed." (St. Luke 1:48).
"For two thousand years the Church has preserved the memory of the Virgin Mary as the prototype of all Christians--the model of what we are to become in Christ. Mary was truly pure and unconditionally obedient to God. The Holy Tradition of the Church holds that Mary remained a virgin all her life. While lifelong celibacy is not a model for all Christians to follow, Mary's spiritual purity, her wholehearted devotion to God, is certainly to be emulated.
Mary is also our model in that she was the first person to receive Jesus Christ. As Mary bore Christ in her womb physically, all Christians now have the privilege of bearing God within them spiritually. By God's Grace and mercy we are purified and empowered to become like Him.
The honor we give to Mary also signifies our view of who Jesus is. From early times the Church has called her Mother of God (Gr. Theotokos, lit. God-Bearer), a title which implies that her Son is both fully man and fully God. As His mother, Mary was the source of Jesus' human nature, yet, the One she bore in her womb was also the Eternal God.
Therefore, because of her character, and especially because of her role in God's plan of salvation. Orthodox Christians honor Mary as the first among the Saints. The Archangel Gabriel initiated this honor in his address to her. "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" (St. Luke 1:28). This salutation clearly indicates that God Himself had chosen to honor Mary. Her favored status was confirmed when she went to visit her cousin St. Elizabeth, who was then six months pregnant with Saint John the Forerunner and Baptist. Elizabeth greeted Mary with these words: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted for me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?" (St. Luke 1:42, 43). And Mary herself, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, predicted the honor that would be paid her throughout history: "For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed" (St. Luke 1:48).
In obedience to God's clear intention, therefore, the Orthodox Church honors Mary in icons, hymns, and special feast days. We entreat her, as the human being who was most intimate with Christ on earth, to intercede with her Son and our behalf. We ask her, as the first believer and the Mother of the Church, for guidance and protection. We venerate her--but we do not worship her, for worship belongs to God alone." (Orthodox Study Bible)
"Then the Angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His Kingdom there will be no end. Then Mary said to the Angel, 'How can this be, since I do not know a man?' And the Angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy, One Who is to be born will be called the Son of God." (St. Luke 1:30-35).
MARY: THE UNTRODDEN PORTAL OF GOD
By George S. Gabriel
"Rejoice, O Untrodden Portal of the Lord. Rejoice, O battlement and shelter of those who flee to you. Rejoice, O untroubled harbor and one who has not known wedlock. O giver of birth to your Maker and God in the flesh, cease not to intercede for them who praise and worship your Offspring." (Theotokion or Hymn to the Virgin)
THE MYSTERY OF MARY
In the preaching of salvation to the outside world and in the Gospels, the Church did not explicitly set forth all of her beliefs, even though they were always present mystically in the Holy Scriptures like the "treasure hidden in a field." It was many years after the death of the Mother of Jesus that the New Testament was completed, yet it is silent about her ever-virginity, the final years of her life, and her Dormition and burial itself. There are a great many things that are not written in the Scriptures with the same words but are proclaimed in the Fathers and are of equal force as the Scriptures. Indeed, the Son's being of the same essence (ομοούσιος) with the Father, for example, is not found in the divinely inspired Scriptures; it was made clear later by the holy Fathers, and likewise that the Holy Spirit is God, and that the Kyriotokos is Theotokos. There are other things also, and it takes a long time to enumerate them. If they were not professed, however, our true worship would be disavowed.
Belief in Christ and His bodily Resurrection was necessary first as the cornerstone on which the entire edifice of Christian faith rests. Without this, it is impossible to approach "the ever so many things that took place then, the holy and incomprehensible things performed and sung by the Apostles to celebrate her glory, the ineffable mysteries from God that were revealed to them." The Apostles experience and eye-witness account to Mary's final mystery, for example, comes down to us in the Apostolic and Patristic tradition of the Church. Mary died only about a dozen years after her Son's Resurrection. He descended to earth and received His mother's soul and, on the third day, raised her incorrupt body from the tomb, translating her to Heaven, body and soul. It was most fitting that she should reap the first fruits of the Resurrection of the Word Made Flesh because His flesh was her flesh.
If we speak of her final mystery, however, we must also speak of the mystery of Mary the Ever-Virgin, of Mary the Mother of God and, at the same time, of Mary the Mediatress (This title corresponds to Μεσίτρια used by the holy Fathers). To speak of one of her titles is to speak of all of them. To isolate one of these from the others is a common error of inquirers to whom the Orthodox ecclesial experience is alien. These are the paradoxes of Mary, of her maternity, and of he being made from the clay of earth yet, from before the ages, being the co-cause of the creation of all things. Her paradoxa are her endoxa or glorious mysteries indivisible from the single and greatest mystery, the Incarnation, the only "new thing under the sun."
Orthodox belief in Mary, as the holy Fathers teach us, can exist only in the context of Christology and the Incarnation, that is, in the context of who and what Jesus Christ is and of the meaning of the Incarnation in history and in the eternal will of God before all ages. The Child she brought forth was not a plain human being who was simply "adopted" by the Father, or was invaded after his birth by the eternal Son of God and was forced to share his human body and personal existence with Him. He is not two Sons but one. He is "not 'another and another' but one and the same, both God and man, perfect God and perfect man, complete God and complete man," one Christ, one Person, one Incarnate Word of God Who gestated in Mary's womb.
The All-Holy One who gave birth to Him is truly the Theotokos, that is, the Birth Giver of God. (The name "Theotokos" consists of the Greek words, Theos (God) and tokos, a bringing forth, a birth or delivery of an offspring; it can also mean an offspring. The Theotokos, therefore, is she who gave birth to or brought forth God. The Synod (Council) of Ephesus and all subsequent Ecumenical Councils upheld the name. The name was a natural consequence and synonym of first-century references to the Virgin as the genuine Mother of God. For example, in his epistle To the Ephesians (chs. 7, 18), Saint Ignatius the Godbearer says the Virgin is the "mother of God the Word." "God was manifest in the flesh born of Mary," "our God Jesus Christ was conceived in her womb." It is by virtue of the identity, hypostasis, and nature of the Logos (Word) that this name is imparted to His mother according to the flesh. The same can be said about many other names given to her, such as Mediatress (Mesitria), Ever-Virgin, Mother of Life, Queen Mother. Her names are integral and seamless in the theology of who and what Jesus Christ is and in the "mystery that was hidden form the ages" (Col. 1:26) and "hidden in God". (Ephesians 3:9).
For this reason, Latin (Roman Catholic) Mariology is alien to Orthodoxy and rejected by it as a distinct theology with Mary at its center in the place of Christ. On the other hand, a Christian cannot claim to confess the true Jesus without also confessing His mother as the true Theotokos. And it is here that Protestantism and Nestorianism converge. The holy Fathers say, "If one does not accept holy Mary as Theotokos, he is separated from God." (Saint Gregory the Theologian, First Epistle to Clidonius). "Blessed are they who confess her as Theotokos, and accursed are they who reject her" (St. John of Damascus, Homily on the Birth of the Theotokos). Honor and reverence not offered to Mary are honor and reverence withheld from her Son.
To honor and revere her as Theotokos, then, is to honor and revere the Incarnate Word, for the honor we give to the Lord's mother passes to the Lord Himself and is not Mariolatry (it is not the worship of Mary). It flows from our worship and adoration of Christ, just as the veneration of the holy icons "passes to the prototype" because, first of all, we revered the prototype. "Honor given to her ascends to him Who was enfleshed by her" and is the Archetype of Mary and the Saints...Orthodoxy does not make her a goddess but confesses that "she was begotten by no other nature than that of all men," "for our sister Mary and all of us are of Adam" and have need of the Redeemer. (Col. 1:26.) "She was chosen from among the ancient generations by the good will of God the Father before the ages." (St. John of Damascus, First Encomium on the Dormition, ch. 3.)
[Dr. George S. Gabriel is a respected Orthodox theologian and writer. A devout Orthodox Christian and a brilliant scholar, he shares with us a deep understanding of both the liturgical and the writings of the Holy Fathers, which he studies in their original language. He is one of the few theologians in our time who contribute to the study of the Holy Fathers by discerning the 'mind of the Fathers.' "By relating the Virgin to so many aspects of Orthodox theology, including the doctrine of icons, Mary: The Untrodden Portal of God also presents a mosaic of the Orthodox Christian faith and ethos."]
(To be continued)
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God