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.
THE MOTHER OF GOD (THEOTOKOS)
By His Eminence Metropolitan Panteleimon Antinoes
Since the Hypostatic Union of the two Natures in Christ was accomplished from the moment of Conception, the Mother of the Savior, Saint Mary is truly honored to be called "the Mother of God," "Ever-Virgin" and "Theotokos," for she did not give birth merely to a fine Man but to the Incarnate Logos/Word and Son of God Who is the unique and only True God-Man. This Truth was proclaimed by the four Ecumenical Councils (Synods) who interpreted the Teachings of the New Testament and the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. They acknowledged the real Motherhood of the Ever-Virgin Mary in relation to Christ and the Conception by her of the Incarnate Son and Logos/Word of God. Conceiving the God-Man in her Womb from the Holy Spirit, She remained Ever-Virgin. She is the only woman to ever be simultaneously a Mother and a Virgin. Her Supernatural and Immaculate Conception and Birth-giving of the God-Man did not damage her virginity at all, neither before the Birth-giving nor during the Birth of her Child because even after the Birth she remained a virgin. Mary, the Mother of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, never had any sexual relationship with Saint Joseph the Betrothed before or after the Birth of the Incarnate Son of God. The "brothers" of Christ who are mentioned in Holy Scripture are not the children of the Ever Blessed Mary but of Saint Joseph's first marriage.
The election of the Virgin Mary is therefore, the culminating point of Israel's progress toward Reconciliation with God, but God's final response to this progress and the beginning of New Life comes with the Incarnation of the Logos/Word. Salvation needed '...a new root...' '...for no one, except God, is without sin; no one can give life; no one can remit sins.' This 'new root' is God the Logos/Word made Flesh; the Virgin Mary is His 'Temple.'
From the beginning the Orthodox Church proclaimed Saint Mary to be Ever-Virgin and Theotokos. Her virtuous and spotless life made her higher in Holiness than the Cherubim and more honorable than the Seraphim, for she gave Birth to the God-Man. Although we confess her as Ever-Virgin, spotless, stainless and undefiled from any personal sins, she was not free of Ancestral (Original) Sin. We believe that she was cleansed from Ancestral Sin at the Annunciation (Evangelismos) when the Holy Spirit descended upon her and she conceived the Incarnate Logos/Word of God Supernaturally. Addressing her as "Panagia," meaning "Above all Saints," we proclaim and confess that she surpassed all Righteous men and women of all times in Holiness. However, she was not completely sinless as having been born of Adam, she was guilty of Ancestral (Original) Sin, although her Son, the God-Man, is the only Sinless One.
The term Theotokos
The Fourth Ecumenical Council (Synod) in Ephesus, using the First Anathema of Saint Cyril of Alexandria, condemned Nestorios (heretic) who insisted that the Ever-Virgin Mary gave birth to the Man Christ and consequently she should be referred to as "Man-bearer" (i.e., Mother of the Man Who was never united with the Logos/Word) or "Christotokos" (i.e., Mother of Christ but not Mother of the God-Man). This Council proclaimed the Ever-Virgin to be truly "Theotokos" for she had indeed given Birth to the Logos/Word of God Who became Flesh. This term was repeated by the 4th Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon, which proclaimed that Christ "...during these last days for us and our Salvation..." was Born "...from Mary the Virgin and Theotokos according to His Humanity."
The 6th Ecumenical Council (Synod) also proclaimed "...Mary to be Virgin..." "...mainly and Truly Theotokos." Obviously by calling her "Above all Saints Virgin" (i.e. "Panagia"), it is proclaimed that she is "Mother" for she gave real birth to the human Nature of the God-Man, whereas she is certainly the "Mother of God" because she conceived, carried and gave birth to the Incarnate Logos/Word and Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. She did not give birth to His Divine Nature but only to His human nature, which He took up Hypostatically.
The Ever Blessed Mary was Truly, not falsely, the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This fact is witnessed by Holy Scripture that refers to her as "...the Mother of Jesus..." or "...His Mother..." and by the Archangel Gabriel when he announced that she would conceive in her "...womb and bring forth a Son." To Saint Joseph the Betrothed the same Archangel announced that "...that which is Conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." The Ever Blessed Virgin Mary was first addressed as "...the Mother of the Lord..." by Saint Elizabeth, the mother of Saint John the Baptist. Saint Paul stated that "...when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law..." and that "...Jesus Christ our Lord...was born of the seed of David according to the flesh."
Saint Irenaeos confessed that because He was born of the Virgin Mary, a descendant of men and a human being, the Lord was born as a Man and thus He became "The Son of Man." He added "...for what reason then was He nourished in her, if He did not receive anything from her?"
Tertullian proclaimed that Christ was not born as the Gnostics claimed "per virginem" ("through the Virgin") or "in virgin" ("in the Virgin"), but "ex virgine" ("from the Virgin").
The term "Theotokos" was first used by Origen and then by the Holy Fathers. Saint Athanasius the Great of Alexandria believed that the Son of God became Man by taking flesh "...from the Virgin Theotokos."
Saint Gregory of Nazianzos accused all those "...who do not take into consideration the Holy Mary as being Theotokos..." "...of being without God."
Saint Cyril of Alexandria emphasized that "...Truly and Theotokos and Virgin-Mother the rightly Blessed should be called. For Jesus Who was Born from her was not merely a fine Man."
Saint John of Damascus, rejecting the title "Christotokos" observed that "...rightfully and truthfully we should call the Holy Mary Theotokos..." "...for He Who was Born from her is Truly God."
Mogilas observed that "...the Incarnation of Christ was realized by the Cooperation of the Holy Spirit. As the Virgin, before she had Conceived was a virgin, likewise at her Conception and after the Conception she remained a virgin even during the Birth; for from her He was Born, preserving her virginity. So, even after the Birth, she remains forever a virgin." For this reason "...the Most Pure Virgin Mary...The Theotokos..." who was worthy to fulfill such a Mystery, all Orthodox Christians are obliged to glorify accordingly and to honor her as the Mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in other words as the "Theotokos." "The Logos/Word of God, Who is the beginningless, came down from Heaven without carrying flesh with Him, but in the Womb of the Holy Virgin and from her pure blood took up Flesh, with the Cooperation of the Holy Spirit and was Born form her as from a Pure Mother." "We also call her 'Theotokos,' because she gave birth to God according to His Humanity, and from her Christ was Born, perfect God and perfect Man."
According to Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: "The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ from a virgin is testified to directly and deliberately by two Evangelists, Matthew and Luke. This dogma was entered into the Symbol of Faith of the First Ecumenical Council, where we read: "Who for the sake of us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnated by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man." The Ever-virginity of the Mother of God is testified by Her own words, handed down in the Gospel, where she expressed awareness of the immeasurable majesty and height of Her chosenness: "My soul doth magnify the Lord...For behold from henceforth all generations shall call be blessed...For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His Name" (St. Luke 1:46-49).
When the heretics and simple blasphemers refuse to acknowledge the Ever-virginity of the Mother of God on the grounds that the Evangelists mention the "brothers and sisters of Jesus," they are refuted by the following facts from the Gospel:
a) In the Gospels there are named four "brothers" (James, Joses, Simon and Jude), and there are also mentioned the "sisters" of Jesus--no fewer than three, as is evident in the words: and His sisters, are they not all with us?" (Matthew 13:56).
On the other hand, (b) in the account of the journey to Jerusalem of the twelve-year old boy Jesus, where there is mention of the "kinsfolk and acquaintances" (Luke 2:44) in the midst of whom they were seeking Jesus, and where it is likewise mentioned that Mary and Joseph every year journeyed from faraway Galilee to Jerusalem, no reason is given to think that there were present other younger children with Mary: it was thus that the first twelve years of the Lord's earthly life proceeded.
c) When, about twenty years after the above-mentioned journey, Mary stood at the cross of the Lord, she was alone, and she was entrusted by her Divine Son to His disciple John; and "from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home" (John 19:27). Evidently, as the ancient Christians also understood it, the Evangelists speak either of "half" brothers and sisters or of cousins.
As for the tradition concerning the Assumption of the body of the Mother of God: the belief in the Assumption of her body after its burial does exist in the Orthodox Church. It is expressed in the content of the service for the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, and also in the Confession of the Jerusalem Council of the Eastern Patriarchs in 1672. Saint John Damascene in his second homily on the Dormition relates that once the Empress Pulcheria (5th century), who had built a church in Constantinople, asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Juvenalius, a participant in the Council of Chalcedon, for relics of the Most Holy Virgin Mary to place in the church. Juvenalius replied that, in accordance with ancient tradition, the body of the Mother of God had been taken to heaven, and he joined to this reply the well-known account of how the Apostles had been assembled in miraculous fashion for the burial of the Mother of God, how after the arrival of the Apostle Thomas her grave had been opened and her body was not there, and how it had been revealed to the Apostles that her body had ascended to heaven. Written Church testimonies on this subject date in general to a relatively late period (not earlier than the 6th century) and the Orthodox Church, with all its respect for them, does not ascribe to them the significance of a dogmatic source. The Church, accepting the tradition of the ascension of the body of the Mother of God, has not regarded and does not regard this pious tradition as one of the fundamental truths or dogmas of the Christian faith." (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Fr. Michael Pomazansky).
(To be continued)
[Please note: The Feast-Day of the Procession of the Precious Cross. Also, on August 1st we begin the Dormition Fast--Strict Fast.
You are all invited to the Paraklesis (Supplication) Service conducted (this week) at the Saint Nektarios Chapel.]
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!"-St. John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God