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.
Τήν υψηλοτέραν τών ουρανών, και καθαρωτέρα λαμπηδόνων ηλιακών, τήν λυτρωσαμένην ημάς εκ τής κατάρας, τήν Δέσποιναν τού κόσμου, ύμνοις τιμήσωμεν.
Higher than the heavens above are you, and you are much purer than the radiance of the sun; you who have redeemed us from the curse which is upon us; the Lady of all people, in hymns, do we honor you.
Από τών πολλών μου αμαρτιών, ασθενεί τό σώμα, ασθενεί μου και η ψυχή, πρός σέ καταφεύγω τήν κεχαριτωμένην, ελπίς απηλπισμένων, σύ μοι βοήθησον.
Now with zeal we chant this Ode to you; you, the all-praised Lady, Theotokos, we hymn with joy; With the Saints most holy, together with the Baptist, Beseech, O Theotokos, for God's mercy on us.
΄Αλαλα τά χείλη τών ασεβών, τών μή προσκυνούντων, τήν εικόνα σοu τήν σεπτήν, τήν ιστορηθείσα υπό τού αποστόλου, Λουκά ιερωτάτου, τήν Οδηγήτριαν.
Speechless be the lips of impious ones, those who do not reverence your great icon, the sacred one which is called Directress, and was depicted for us by one of the apostles, Luke the Evangelist.
Πάσαι τών αγγέλων αι στρατιαι, Πρόδρομε Κυρίου, Αποστόλων η δωδεκάς, οι ΄Αγιοι Πάντες μετά τής Θεοτόκου, ποιήσατε πρεσβείαν, είς τό σωθήναι ημάς.
With the hosts of Angels, God's messengers, with the Lord's Forerunner, and Apostles, the chosen Twelve, with the Saints most holy, and with you, the Theotokos, we see your intercession for our salvation.
MOTHERHOOD TO GOD
By Dr. George S. Gabriel (Source: Mary: The Untrodden Portal of God)
From her earliest years, she gave herself to God as no other man or woman was able to do. And she was chosen as no other was chosen by God's omniscience. She left her parents' house at the age of three to dwell in the temple's holy of holies in order to be nurtured by the Angels and made into the living temple of God. Therefore, the Archangel Gabriel reverently proclaimed to her at the Annunciation that she was already set apart and singularly "blessed among women." Living only for God, she became "full of grace" (St. Luke 1:28), she "found favor with God" (St. Luke 1:30), and "the Lord was with her" (St. Luke 1:28). She was the "maiden worthy of God, the beauty of human nature" (St. John of Damascus, Homily on the Birth of the Theotokos, ch. 7).
God chose for her spiritual beauty, in which she surpassed all men and women. First He dwelt in her by incomparably more grace than in any other creature, and from the Annunciation, even by His very hypostasis or Person. Years before the event of the Annunciation, Mary had attained to holiness and perfection unequaled even by the greatest Saints of Old and New Israel. Saint Gregory Palamas says that, "at the age when most children are just beginning to learn their letters," Mary had already attained a hesychastic life of unceasing prayer and theoria-the vision of the Uncreated Glory of God, which "she beheld more than Moses did." (Homily No. 53: On the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple).
From her mother's womb, her life was a succession and ascent of grace leading to spiritual perfection already in early childhood. Dwelling in the holy of holies of the man-made temple, she was readied by the Holy Spirit to become the "sanctified temple" not made by human hands. The odes and hymns of the feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple tell us that she "was set apart for God," "brought up in the Lord," "prepared to become the dwelling place of the Lord." "She delighted in divine grace," "learned mysteries," and "her virtues were brought into bloom."
At the Annunciation, totally accepting God's will and giving herself unreservedly into the hands and providence of God, she became the new Eve, our new mother, the Father's "nature-surpassing" helpmate. "The Holy Spirit came upon her, purifying her and imparting to her a receptive as well as fertile power for [the entry of] the Word's divinity." And she was elevated to yet higher glory by "the Glory from within her, the fruit of her womb", the Lord of Glory. In obedience and love toward God, she accepted a conception and a motherhood never known before, freely committing to Him all the powers of her soul and body in the service of His will: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word" (St. Luke 1:3). And the Eternal Son of God came to dwell in her, and He was the one Person, one hypostasis one identity of the Embryo. The conception was His own. The flesh, body and soul, was His own and not that of another person.
It was a manner of conception above nature, without natural laws, free of natural instinct, necessity, or plan, free of the natural bonds of affection, desire, or pleasure: "For I know not a man" (St. Luke 1:34), she said. She knew it would mean forgoing natural and even God-given human imperatives and institutions, but from her earliest years she had chosen to live only for God. "The mystery hidden from the ages and generations" (Col. 1:26) was but a breath away from bursting into time and space through her as the untrodden portal. At hand was the renewal and completion of creation, and she was asked to be its consenting, worthy instrument and medium in some incomprehensible way. She was "the most resolute and ultimate purpose of all creation, for which the world was made" (St. Andrew of Crete, Theotokarion). For in her and through her the eternal will for the permanent communion of God and creation would be fulfilled.
And Mary said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord...From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For the Mighty One hath done unto me great things, and holy is His name" (St. Luke 1:46-49). By her free consent, the Creator joined mankind's creaturely being to Himself, opening for both men and divinity a new mode of being, of flesh beyond nature, flesh transfigured and seated on the throne of God, where now the Incarnate Son of God" in the flesh co-rules with the Father" (St. Maximos the Confessor). And "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (St. Luke 2:19).
She lived only for the beloved Incarnate Son of God she carried within her. As the "Mother of Life" (Apolytikion [Anthem Hymn] of the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos), she cherished and increased Him Who is Life. And when she brought Him forth, she nursed Him at her breast and caressed and sheltered the flesh of her flesh and one of her bone. "In her belly came and dwelt He Who is Uncontainable. And by her breasts filled with milk was nurtured God, the Child Jesus: O Portal of God eternally virginal, O hands that carried God and knees that became a throne higher than the Seraphim" (St. John of Damascus, Homily on the Birth of the Theotokos, ch. 9). Her hands steadied His first faltering steps, and her lips helped Him from His first words. She returned maternal love to Him Who came down from the Father motherless. He was her "light more dear than seeing, her most sweet springtime" (Lamentation of Matins of Great Saturday). She protected Him and kindled and nurtured His development in the world of man, and she delighted in Him. "And the Child grew and waxed strong in spirit and filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him" (St. Luke 2:40).
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