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 PEOPLE
(from the Prayer Book of Serapion)
O Loving God, we confess and bring before You our weaknesses, beseeching You to add strength to our efforts for correction and restoration. Forgive the sins we have committed until now and remit all our faults from the past, making each one of us into a new person in our soul. Help us to be Your authentic and pure servants. We entrust ourselves to You, Lord. Accept us, O God of Truth, as we humbly come to You. Accept these people, Lord, and grant that we all become truly Your people. Make it possible for all to live without reproach and to be cleansed of sins. May they become such faithful people that they will be counted with the heavenly Angelic spirits and will all be with the elect and the Saints in heaven.
We pray for the Christians who have believed and have come to know You, our Lord Jesus Christ. May they all become steadfast in the faith, in the knowledge of the Truth, and in the reception of the teaching. We beseech You, Lord, for all of these people. Remove from them every enmity of sin and establish friendly relations with all. May Your Holy Name be always known and glorified among them. Amen.
MOTHER AND SYMBOL OF THE CHURCH
By George S. Gabriel, Ph.D. Greek Orthodox Theologian (Source: MARY: The Untrodden Portal of God)
Please note: I will continue the articles on the Theotokos until the apodosis (leave-taking) of the feast of the holy Dormition which is this coming Saturday.
In Old Israel, only kings and the priests were anointed. The anointing was powerless, prefiguring but not conferring the seal of the Holy Spirit. In Mary, the barren church of Old Israel is reborn as the New Israel, and the royal and priestly lines are recapitulated and become one. The fruit of her womb is the one High Priest and King of the New Israel Who, in His human genealogy, descends from both the royal and priestly lines of Israel according to the Law. Therefore, the holy Fathers tell us, in and through Mary, God transferred the priestly office from the Levitical order and its animal sacrifices to the Davidic royal house from which the saving blood would pour forth according to the Eucharistic order of Melchisedek: "This day, a Virgin maiden comes forth from Judah and David, and she insures the advent of the Person Who is of both the royal house and the priesthood, Who [came and] served according to the order of Aaron. This day, the mystic cloth of the divine priesthood that was woven earlier by the Law for the Levitical seed is made white by grace, and God dyes the royal sash crimson in the Davidic blood" (St. Andrew of Crete, Homily on the Birth of the Theotokos, in Μέγας Συναξαριστής, Athens 1963). "Through you [O Theotokos], the royal house was enriched with the priesthood. Through you, the transfer of the Law was accomplished, and the spirit hidden beneath its letter was uncovered with the passing of the priestly office from the Levitical to the Davidic tribe. (St. John of Damascus).
With Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, the preparatory purpose of the Law, of Israel's tribal priesthood with its bloody animal sacrifices, came to the end appointed by God. Christ's priesthood, however, was not prefigured by the Law or anything of the Jews, but by Melchisedek, the Gentile priest-king who blessed Abraham. His name means "king of righteousness." The Psalmist presents God the Father addressing His Son: "Thou art a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedek." (Psalm 109:4). The priest-king, as Saint Paul says, was a type of Christ, "made like unto the Son of God...In the likeness of Melchisedek there ariseth another priest, Who is made not after the Law of a carnal commandment but after the power of un-ending life" (Hebrews 7:3-16). Melchisedek appears mysteriously in the Holy Bible "without father, mother or ancestry" (Hebrews 7:3). Because Jesus' birth did not spring from a carnal imperative or union, He is the only priest "according to the order of Melchisedek since He is motherless and fatherless: motherless from God the Father, and fatherless because his genealogy is not given, so is Christ from the very nature of the matter" (St. John Chrysostom). Offering bloodless sacrifices of bread and wine to represent the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist. [The Divine Liturgy uses the term "bloodless sacrifices" in the priest's prayer after the litany for the catechumens, meaning there is no reenactment and re-slaying of the Lamb of God and no re-shedding of His Blood at the Liturgy. Jesus Christ was slain "once and for all" (Heb. 9:12, 28, 10:10). The bread and wine are changed into the once slain but never depleted Lamb of God. "Since this [Eucharistic] sacrifice is not accomplished by the slaying of the Lamb but by the bread changing into the slain Lamb, it is clear that, at this time, it is a change that takes place and not a slaying" (Nicholas Cavasilas, Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, ch. 32). The Divine Liturgy says, "The Lamb of God is distributed but not dismembered, ever consumed but never depleted, sanctifying those who partake of it," and never needing to be re-slaying and replenished. Roman Catholic tradition, on the other hand, holds that the Mass is indeed a reenactment of the slaying, but it is also more than reenactment. Each Mass is a re-slaying of the Lamb of God, and it takes place in perpetuation of the satisfaction of divine justice.
Mary is the mother of the Church because she is the Mother of the Life-Giving Body and Blood of Christ. Without the Theotokos there is no Christ and no Church. Holy Fathers even identified Mary with the Church and the Church with Mary. "We hymn the Ever-Virgin Mary, which is to say, the Church" (Saint Cyril of Alexandria). In the name "Theotokos" the whole meaning of the Church is contained. This is symbolized by the holy icon called the Platytera, "She who is broader than the Heavens" (Πλατυτέρα τών ουρανών), in which she bears Christ enthroned in her womb, which is represented by a circle or oval containing all who are present, she is a precise figure and symbol of the Church with Christ in her midst. Traditionally placed in the apse of the church building, the Platytera overlooks the sanctuary and the holy table and us her children. All men are her children, Christians and non-Christians alike, because she mediated human life to God and divine life for all mankind and not for certain chosen races. Because of her consent to the Incarnation, creation itself took place. She was our mother ontologically in the Eternal will of God before the ages, and our mother in history who gave flesh to the Lord that we may be reborn of that same flesh. Therefore, whether we call her Mediatress, or Mother of Life, we say the same thing
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