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.
A PRAYER FOR THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF THE SOUL
O Lord Jesus Christ, Word of God, O God the Logos, You are the Light that created the perceptible light. You are the Way and the Truth and the Life. In You there is no darkness, no deception or lie, no vanity and no death. You are indeed the Light, and apart from You there is spiritual darkness. You are the way of truth and virtue, and without You mankind wanders in error. You are the Truth, without which there is only vanity. You are the Life without You there is death.
Lord, give the command to my soul which You gave in the beginning: "Let there be light!" that I may see the Light of Your Spirit and avoid the darkness of ignorance and of sin; that I may see the way of virtue and of salvation and return to You and away from what is not a real way; that I may see the truth of and avoid the vanity of this temporal life; that I may see the spiritual life and avoid the death which is brought about by sin. Lord, shine Your spiritual Light abundantly upon me. You are my enlightenment and my Savior, Whom I will respect and fear. You are my Lord to Whom I will sing songs of praise. You are my God, Whose Name I will bless and glorify. You are my Father, Whom I will love. You are my Bridegroom, for Whom I will keep my soul faithful and devoted.
O Lord, the light of my soul, shine Your enlightenment upon me. As I stand now before You in prayer, shine Your Light upon me who am blind of soul, sitting in spiritual darkness and under the influence and power of death. Guide my works on the way of virtue, which brings peace, so that I may worthily approach the wondrous tabernacle, Your holy temple, the house of God, and there offer to You, with joyous voice, words of thanksgiving and doxology. For this doxology, when truly coming from the heart, is a way and means by which I will first be able to turn away from the path of sin, and then directly return to You. For You are truly the Way that leads to Life. Amen.
THE EVER-VIRGINITY OF MARY THE MOTHER OF GOD
By Dr. George S. Gabriel (Source: MARY: The Untrodden Portal of God)
The Mother of Jesus was glorified and elevated by God above certain needs and God-given laws of nature, including the imperative for man and woman to "become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). "In you the bounds of nature are overcome, O Pure Virgin, Childbearing preserves virginity" (Ninth Ode, Matins of the Dormition).
Incomparably greater than the virginity of all other virgins, her virginity is the only total virginity, for she was perfectly and completely virgin and ever-virgin in a triple manner, "being ever-virgin in mind, and in soul, and in body" (St. John of Damascus, Homily on the Birth of the Theotokos, ch. 5). Her ever-virginity, therefore, was a living affirmation of the "life of the age to come." It was not the bloody battle for virginity waged by those who struggle inside the bounds of nature not yet overcome. Her ever-virginity was the perfect image, even in this life, of the future age and the fulfillment of the Lord's words: "In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage" (St. Matthew 22:30). For the bounds of nature as we presently know them shall be forever overcome at the General Resurrection.
Being free of personal transgressions, she also became free of the passions, except for death and those that the Holy Fathers call "natural and blameless passions." (This does not mean it was impossible for her to sin. Moreover, the perfection and sinlessness of the Theotokos are relative and not the same as the perfection and sinlessness of Christ, which are absolute. In comparison to Christ, no one is perfect and no one is sinless. We confess this in the Resurrectional Prayer of Matins: "...let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the only sinless one," Who alone is not a child of Adam.). The Theotokos' death "was not due to sins by only to the other natural causes which mankind has, being subject to corruptibility even before sinning...She was human and subject to death" (Acts of the Orthodox Council of Jerusalem, 1672).
EVER-VIRGINITY AND MOTHERHOOD TO GOD ARE ONE
The Holy Fathers say that her maternity and her virginity were a condition of her whole person, not only of her body. "She was wholly united to God...Her soul and her body bore God" (St. John of Damascus, Second Encomium on the Dormition, ch. 13). Her sexuality was transformed into everlasting motherhood to God and, inseparably, into everlasting virginity. She became the Mother of God (Theotokos), not for nine months, not for thirty-three years, but forever. Jesus is forever God the Logos (Word). God the Logos (Word) remains forever Jesus her Son and, therefore, she is forever the Unwedded Bride of the Father. Through her womb and motherhood she transmitted the nature of humanity to God, and He transmitted to her His Kingdom, that is, the uncreated power or rule of God. Indeed, if "the Kingdom of God is within you" (St. Luke 17:21), she became the very "Palace of the only King" (First Ode, Canon of the Akathist Hymn).
In the Old Israel, the tabernacle containing the Ark of the Covenant, the holy of holies, was so filled with the glory of God that Moses himself could not approach it. Yet it was only a prefiguring of the Virgin, and it dims next to the true and "living ark" of God that was to come. For in her dwelled the very person of the Divine Logos (Word) with "all the fullness of divinity bodily" (Col. 2:9). When Moses was enveloped in the glory of God for forty days on Mount Sinai, he was in the Kingdom and needed no food, drink, or rest. In other words, he was in a state of deification (theosis), beholding the vision of God (Theoria) in uncreated Glory. In the uncreated Kingdom, the vital bodily functions and needs of Moses' human nature were suspended. Likewise, beholding the transfigured and glorified Lord on Mount Tabor, the Apostles were in the same Kingdom or uncreated reign of God. In the Kingdom, Moses received the tablets. The Theotokos, however, was not only in the Kingdom, the Kingdom was in her. And she received not only the power or rule but the Ruler and King Himself, and "He made [her] womb His Throne" (Theotokion of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great). In the "God-receiving body" of the Virgin, an exchange took place. Her humanity became His. His Divinity wholly sanctified her, elevating her above the bounds of nature" (Cf. Ninth Ode, Matins of the Dormition).
Her Ever-virginity, her incorruption in death, and her mediation are a single mystery that was working in her from her mother's womb, and its fullness was shown when "she brought forth her firstborn son" (St. Matt. 1:25), however, is only half of this passage in Matthew. Because of the often misunderstood adverb "till," the passage is one of the most abused in the Scriptures, particularly by Protestantism. An examination of the passage can help remove what for some Christians has been a stumbling block to Orthodox faith and to the veneration of the Theotokos.
Joseph "knew her not till she brought forth..."
The complete passage says Joseph "knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son, and he called His name Jesus." The adverb "till" leads readers of English (and of other modern languages) to the wrong conclusion that, even if Joseph did not "know" Mary before she delivered her Child, he undoubtedly did "know" her later, after the passing of the limitation of time that "till" implies. And since the Gospel calls Jesus Christ her "firstborn son," she must have had children with Joseph and perhaps with others. The Gospels even mention "brethren" and "sisters" of the Lord. Let us address each of these points.
The classical Greek adverb έως ού in the Gospel of Matthew, rendered by the English translators of the Bible as "till", is not exactly the same word as "till", only roughly corresponding to it. In fact, έως ού has several meanings, but Protestant translators of the Bible have always preferred to interpret the Greek adverb as if its exact equivalent is "till" or "until." Of course, this is consistent with the majority of Protestantism and its general disregard for the Theotokos and its distorted perceptions of who and what Christ is. If the translators felt bound to use an English adverb which is one word, "till" was the only one available in the language. But the Greek adverb's meaning here cannot properly be expressed by one word. A variety of adverbial phrases could be more appropriate. For example, "up to the time," or "as of the time," or "up to when" would not necessarily imply a fixed expiration or limitation of a time period, and would more correctly translate the Evangelist's meaning...Moreover, St. Matthew's clear and single purpose here and in the surrounding passages (1:19-24) is to show that Mary's conception of the Savior was virginal and without human seed, accomplished through the Holy Spirit, and that his conception and birth clearly fulfilled the messianic prophecies. In fact, the passage is intended to demonstrate to the Jews the fulfillment of a specific prophecy by Isaiah (7:14), which Matthew the Evangelist even quotes: "A virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel" (v. 23). Every effort of the Evangelist here is to show that Joseph had nothing to do with the conception of the Child. And in support of this position, the author provides sufficient background information (v. 18-24). Mary's permanent virginity, however, like her final mystery, was not a subject for the public Gospel. The Holy Spirit reserved it for the interior life and empirical dogmas in the Church.
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