Theotokos: Mother and Symbol of the Church (Part II)

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.

Hymn to the Theotokos

"O never-failing protection of Christians and ever-present mediation before the Creator, despise not the prayers of as sinners, but by Thy goodness extend Thy help to us, who in faith call upon Thee: hasten, O Mother of God, to intercede for us and make speed to supplicate for us, Thou Who ever protects those, who honor Thee." (Divine Liturgy)

+++

"Prayer among beginners is experienced as a joyous warmth or fire rising up out of the heart, but for those who have progressed toward perfection it is more life a sweet-scented light that is active within the heart. Prayer may also be said to be a gospel message of the Apostles, and an activity of faith, or rather a direct expression of faith and a substance of things hope for. Prayer is also activated love, an Angelic activity, a work, a power and a delight of the bodiless Angels. Moreover, we can say that prayer is a gospel of God, an enlightenment of the heart, a hope of salvation, a sign of purification, a symbol of sanctity, a knowledge of God, a manifestation of Baptism, an ablution of cleansing, an engagement of the Holy Spirit, the joy of Jesus, a delight of the soul, God's mercy, a sign of reconciliation, a seal of Christ, a ray of the intelligible sun, a bright dawn of hearts, an affirmation of Christianity..." (St. Gregory of Sinai)

_________________________________________

TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):

On August 17th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and every righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Hieromartyr Myron the Presbyter of Achaia, who was beheaded at Cyzicus in the reign of pagan emperor Decius; Holy Martyrs Straton, Philip, Eutychian, and Cyprian of Nicomedia; Holy Martyr Paul and Juliana his sister of Ptolemais in Palestine; Holy Martyrs Thyrsus at Apollonia in the Hellespont, Leucius, Coronatus, and those with them; Holy New Righteous Martyr Demetrios of Samarina in Epirus, Greece; we commemorate a certain anonymous Hagarene executioner, who believed in Christ through Saint Demetrios the New and was martyred for His sake; Holy Martyr Patrocles of Troyes in Gaul; Holy Martyrs Liberatus the Egoumenos (Abbot), Boniface the Deacon, Servus and Rusticus the Subdeacons, Rogatus and Septimus the Monks, and the child Maximus, of Capsa in Byzacene in Africa, who were martyred at Carthage under Huneric, Arian king of the Vandals; St. Eutichius, Eutychian, and Cassiane their sister of Crete; our righteous Father Alypius the Iconographer of the Kiev Caves; Saint Theodoretos, Enlightener of the Lapps; our Righteous Father Philip of Yaikovo; Holy New Hieromartyrs Achillius the Archpriest, Michael the Priest, a certain deacon, and ten others with them at Stavropol, who were slain by the aitheists in the year 1921; Synaxis of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary in the district of Armatius.

+ By the holy intercessions of the Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Iconographers, Holy Deacons, Holy Subdeacons, Holy Righteous, Holy Mothers, Holy Monks, Holy Nuns, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Egoumenoi, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us.

HOLY MARTYR MYRON. Saint Myron was a priest during the reign of the pagan Roman emperor Decius, when Antipater was ruler of Achaia. On the day of our Lord's Nativity, Antipater entered the church to seize the Christians and punish them. Saint Myron, kindled with holy zeal, roundly insulted Antipater, for which he was hung up and scraped, then cast into a raging furnace, but was preserved unharmed. When St. Myron refused to worship the idols, Antipater commanded that strips be cut in the Saint's flesh from his shoulders to his feet; the Saint took one of the strips of his flesh and flung it in the tyrant's face. He was beaten, and scraped again upon his beaten flesh; then he was thrown to wild beasts, but when Antipater saw them leaving off their fierce nature and protecting the Saint from harm, he was overcome with unbearable shame and slew himself. The Saint was then sent to Cyzicus, where the proconsul had him beheaded about the year 250 AD.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Martyr. Second Tone

Since thou didst love Christ from childhood, O all-lauded one, and strictly didst keep His precepts and divine command, thou didst run whole-heartedly unto Him, O Myron, and foundest rest and with Angels glorifiest Him, while asking divine forgiveness for us all.

TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:

Holy Epistle Lesson: II Corinthians 5:10-15
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 1:9-15

INSPIRING WORDS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS OF THE CHURCH:

"The beginning of prayer is the expulsion of distractions." (Saint John Climacus)

____________________________________________________

Mary The Untrodden Portal of God
By George S. Gabriel

Mother and Symbol of the Church (Part II)

She (Theotokos) is creation's own chosen Mediatress to the Lord. In a Nativity vesper hymn, all creatures, rational and irrational, visible and invisible, earthly and heavenly, are represented with their own unique thanksgiving offerings to Christ in anticipation of His imminent appearance on earth: "The Angels offer a hymn; the heavens the star; the Magi the gifts; the earth the cave; the wilderness the manger; and we a Virgin Mother." She is the only offering that Adam's children are able to bring to the economy of salvation. Naturally we supplicate her saying, "In you alone do I hope" (Fourth Ode of the Great Supplicatory Canon).

She is our only Mediatress, the only Mother of Life, and the Holy Fathers reserved the office of mediation for Christ and His mother only. Yes, we have other intercessors to God, but the Orthodox faith interposes neither Saints nor Angels as mediators and intercessors to her. In the vast tradition of liturgy and piety of the Holy Fathers, there is not a single request to Angels or to Saints for their intercession to the Theotokos on our behalf, not even in the hymns and services for Angels and Saints who were closest to her in this life and whom we celebrate festally, such as her parents, the Archangel Gabriel, Saint Joseph the Betrothed, her cousin Elizabeth, and many others. The Church asks the Lord to accept His mother's intercessions on our behalf, but in the many services and feasts of the Theotokos, she is never asked to accept intercessions from other Saints. To do so would be to make her into a deity or goddess approached through others.

Concluding the Small Compline Service, the Orthodox faithful sing this much beloved verse: "My hope is the Father, my refuge the Son, my protection the Holy Spirit; O Holy Trinity, Glory to Thee." Then we immediately add, "My entire hope I place in you, O Mother of God. Guard me under your protection." Superficially, it could seem to be a contradiction, but in fact it is not. We confess first that our whole faith is in the Holy Trinity. The only hope of mankind lies in the Father's benevolence, which He imparts to the world through a woman.

It is fitting at this point to present the complete Theotokarion of Saint Andrew of Crete, which, up to now, has been quoted only in parts and scattered verses: "Rejoice, O God after God, who has honors second after the Trinity and directly receives the fullness of the gifts of God, transporting them to all, to Angels and to men. O Bride of the Father, spotless Mother of the Son, holy and all-illumined Temple of the Holy Spirit. O All-Pure One, most resolute and ultimate purpose of all creation for which the world was made, in your birth indeed was the eternal will of the Creator fulfilled."

Thus, we return to God our whole faith and hope in Him offered again through the Theotokos and "Mistress of the World", (Small Supplicatory Canon) who, with Him, co-shares in the ontological cause of creation. Creation was made for her because, by her free consent and mediation, the eternal will and mystery of the Incarnation was fulfilled in her pure and fertile womb.

"O Theotokos, by your intercessions you give good order to the breezes and grant rains in due season. You guide straight the winds and make the earth fruitful.  You restore peace to the Church and uphold Orthodoxy. You guard the realm and disperse the barbarian nations. You care after every race of Christians, and so you accept our boldness as well. You prophetically sang your oracle that would come to pass which says, 'For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.' Since this, your divinely uttered word, surely does not pass away, accept from me, your unworthy servant, such salutation as I am able to make, and 'restore unto me the joy of [His] salvation.' Through the power of your intercessions, establish me in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom belongs honor and glory and power with the all-sustaining Father and the life creating Spirit. Amen. (St. Theodore the Studite, Encomium on the Dormition, MPG 99, 729A,B.)

[Please note: Posted with permission of the Publisher]

_______________________________________________

MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

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.

+

Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

+++

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry)
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George