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.
Μή καταπιστεύσης με, ανθρωπίνη προστασία Παναγία Δέσποινα, αλλά δέξαι δέησιν τού ικέτου σου, θλίψις γάρ έχει με, φέρειν ού δύναμαι, τών δαιμόνων τά τοξεύματα, σκέπην ού κέκτημαι, ουδέ πού προσφύγω ο άθλιος, πάντοθεν πολεμούμενος και παραμυθίαν ούκ πλήν σου, Δέσποινα τού κόσμου, ελπίς και προστασία τών πιστών, μή μού παρίδης τήν δέησιν, τό συμφέρον ποίησον.
Put me not into the hands of any human protection, O our Lady, Most Holy, but do now receive the prayers of your supplicant; sorrow has taken me, and I am unable to withstand and bear the demon's darts; shelter I do not have, nor a place to go, worthless that I am; Lady of humanity, the shelter of the faithful and their hope, do not reject my prayers to you, do the things that profit me.
Ουδείς προστρέχων επί σοί, κατησχυμένος από σού εκπορεύεται, αγνή παρθένε Θεοτόκε, αλλ΄ αιτείται τήν χάριν και λαμβάνει τό δώρημα, πρός τό συμφέρον τής αιτήσεως.
No one is turned away from you, ashamed and empty, who flee unto you, O Pure Virgin Theotokos; but one asks for the favor, and the gift is received from you, to the advantage of their own request.
Μεταβολή τών θλιβομένων, απαλλαγή τών ασθενούντων, υπάρχουσα Θεοτόκε παρθένε, σώζε πόλιν και λαόν, τών πολεμουμένων η ειρήνη, τών χειμαζομένων η γαλήνη, η μόνη προστασία τών πιστών.
The transformation of the afflicted, you are the cure of those in sickness, Theotokos, O Virgin; save your people and your town. You are the peace of those in conflict, the calm of those in turmoil, the only protection of the faithful.
(Holy service of the Paraklesis to the Thetokos)
THE MYSTERY HIDDEN FROM THE AGES
By Dr. George S. Gabriel (Source: Mary: The Untrodden Portal of God)
Before the world began, she was already chosen for "the mystery hidden from the ages and generations," (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, The Mystery of the Incarnation]). While it was a hidden mystery, however, it was not a dormant mystery. For it was operating even before the creation and in the first creative commands of God, as Saint Paul tells us, because all things were made in Christ, by Christ, and for Christ: the Incarnation was the reason for creation. (Col.1:15-20. Cf. chapter VIII, which discusses the Patristic teaching that the Incarnation is the cause of creation and the Mother of God is part of the ontological mystery of this eternal plan.)
The mystery also operated throughout ancient Israel's long history, in prophecy and in the spiritual cultivation of the Jews. In its own ways that shall be discussed here, the Old Testament everywhere speaks of the Incarnation and the Mother of God, in theophanies, prophetic words and visions, and historic events that were also prophetic prefigurings and images. These are "mystical utterances about the Mother of the Most High...spoken in the divinely made Scriptures." "She was preannounced by the Prophets." Mary is mentioned very early in the Holy Bible, in the narratives of Genesis on the garden of Eden. Immediately after the fall of Adam, God speaks to the serpent and makes a veiled reference to the Virgin and her Offspring Who shall bring about the destruction of the evil one: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her see; He shall stand against thy head" (Genesis 3:15).
A succession of chosen and hallowed generations
Through the Holy Spirit, the hidden mystery of the Incarnation was cultivating the holy generations of Israel as the fertile ground for Mary, "the rod which sprang from the root of Jesse". (The Fourth Ode of the Orthros (Matins) of the Nativity of Jesus Christ identifies Mary as the staff or "rod which sprang from the root of [the Judean family] of Jesse" according to the prophecy of Isaiah (11:1). This Ode also addresses Christ as "the flower which blossomed forth from her [the rod]. She was the "precious jewel stored up in the [Old Testament] church of our ancestors." We find a long series of theophanies of the Lord of Glory prefiguring His future manhood. This continuous succession of grace, illumination, and deification (theosis) in which many men and women knew the Lord of Glory confirms the continuous operation of the hidden mystery throughout the history of Old Israel.
The holiness of Old Israel, therefore, led to Joachim and Anna. The Holy Fathers say Joachim and Anna, "in their time, were the pinnacle of virtue in a succession of chosen and hallowed generations." Through her mother, Anna was of the royal house of David, the son of Jesse. And through her father, Matthan the priest, she was also of the Levites, the priestly tribe. Joachim and Joseph were also of the house of David. [This inner significance of Mary's and Jesus' genealogies is expressed by many Holy Fathers. It completes the significance of the genealogies with regard to the historic fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.]
The Holy Fathers speak of a special sanctity imparted to Mary in her mother's womb, arising from her parents' holiness and sobriety and the "spotless seed" (St. John of Damascus, Homily on the birth of the Thetokos, ch. 2.) The term "spotless" is unrelated to the Papal dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Saint John uses it to describe the chaste and righteous life of the parents of the Theotokos, of her father. Among the ancient Jews, it was not so uncommon for illumined parents to have children who from birth were already illumined. For example, the great Prophets Jeremiah and John the Forerunner were "filled with the Holy Spirit, even from [their] mother's womb." All the more is this true of the Theotokos. (After painful decades of childlessness, Joachim and Anna conceived Mary, at about seventy and sixty years of age respectively.)
Born of a barren mother, Mary conceived a Child without a father's seed and rejected all considerations about a life of her own, of living for herself. "She lived a life that was above nature, not her 'own' life, because she was not born 'for herself.' Indeed, she lived for God. She came into life for Him, to serve in the salvation of the world so that 'the ancient will of God' for the Incarnation of the Logos (Word) and our own theosis (deification) may be fulfilled through her. Her hunger was rather for nourishment by divine words, and by their nectar she increased. And in the temple of God, she became like a fruitful olive tree, a tree planted by the banks of the streams of the Spirit, a tree of life which, at the time appointed by God, brought forth its fruit: God in the flesh, the Life Eternal for all His creatures."
The holiness and "successive ascent of chosen and cleansed generations of ancestors was a preparation" (St. Gregory Palamas) and cultivation that led directly to the conception of the Theotokos. Through her, the Mosaic Law arrived at the threshold of its fulfillment, and God's promise to the world and covenant with Abraham was fulfilled: "God promised Abraham the forefather that in his seed shall the nations be blessed, O Pure One. And through you the promise comes to pass this day" (Sixth Ode, Matins of the Annunciation). The coming of Mary had been prefigured by the overwhelming presence of glory in the ark or vessel of the covenant, both in the time of Moses and in the temple. For over a millennium, the tabernacle, the temple, the veil, the ark of the covenant, the golden censer, the sacred table and the showbread, the golden urn of manna, the lamps an all the vessels were all prefigurings of her. When Mary, the living temple of God, enters into the holy of holies, the old temple's passing is foreshown: "Receiving the Untrodden Portal today, the house of God terminates the worship and shadow under the Law, and it cries aloud, Verily, the truth has appeared to those on earth." The temple receives the East Portal prophesied by Ezekiel and it is at last completed, not in its architecture but in its divine purpose. Mary the Ever-Virgin is for the Lord God of Israel shall enter by it...and he shall depart from the same way" (Ez. 44:1-3). "With her entry, she introduces the grace of the Holy Spirit into the house of God," and thereby "the temple receives her as its diadem." Being, divinely prepared in the temple to become the "chamber" of the Incarnate Lord of Glory, she fulfills the temple's purpose and destiny and all that it had prefigured. She is the living promise and connection of the temple's participation in the mystery of the Incarnation: "The fulfillment of the prophecy that the fallen temple of David would be raised up again in prefigured by her, through whom the dust of the earth that all men are made of is refashioned in a body for God." Therefore, she is the living proof of its fulfillment and, in turn, she prefigures the temple's passing and its rebirth in the Body of Christ. God has declared "a new covenant; He hath made the first obsolete. That which is obsolete and aged is ready to vanish" (Hebrews 8:13). The Old Testament Church, "the church that was formerly barren," now passes away.
[Eirmos, Third Ode, Matins of the Universal Elevation of the Cross (September 14th). Cf. Saint Paul's comments in Hebrews (chs. 9, 10). The rituals of the Law and the Temple were sterile; the Holy Spirit "had not yet shown the way to the holiest things." Sacrifices offered for the sins of the priests and the people had no power to heal and regenerate. They "were unable to perfect the offerer of worship in his conscience" because "the ordinances of divine service" were only "a figure for the time then present." They were temporary figures awaiting Christ's coming, the "good things to come." The blood of bulls and goats gave an external legalistic absolution "for the time then present," but healing and regeneration unto eternal life came only through the body and blood of Christ, "by which we are sanctified."]
(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