The place of the Holy Virgin in our lives
The Holy Virgin is a stumbling block for many protestants looking into Orthodoxy. The idea that this woman described in the Gospels in such humble terms could be called the Mother of God seems unbiblical to them. She was never called Mother of God in the Bible, they say, so why would she be given such an exalted title? She was, they think, simply the mother of Jesus.
From the earliest of times the Church has seen fit to call her exalted among women, even more exalted than the heavenly hosts. Her role in the history of salvation has been seen as pivotal from the time of the very first century for her humility and obedience before God made her the New Eve. Whereby death entered the world through the disobedience of the first mother, Eve, the Holy Virgin became the New Eve the moment she answered, “be it done according to Thy word”, agreeing to be the Mother of Christ.
The very first icon was painted depicting Mary holding the child Jesus by none other than the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke. The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God was painted on a board from the table at which the Savior ate together with His All-Pure Mother and Righteous Joseph. The Mother of God, upon seeing this image, exclaimed, “Henceforth, all generations shall call Me blessed. The grace of both My Son and Me shall be with this icon.” She was thus recognized by the Church for her pivotal role with the title Theotokos, which means God-bearer.
The Council of Ephesus decreed in 431 that Mary is Theotokos because her son Jesus is one person who is both God and man, divine and human. To call her only the mother of Jesus was seen as heretical because to do so would be to suggest that Jesus was simply a man, apart from being God at the same time. The balance of being both God and Man was thus preserved by the Church from the earliest of times.
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to announce to the Virgin the birth of the Saviour: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women.” (Luke 1:28) This angelic salutation forms a part of the hymn of the Church most frequently sung in her honor, in imitation of the words of this angelic messenger of God. Elizabeth, the Virgin’s cousin, considered it an honor for the Mother of her Lord to visit her. “And whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43) There is no difference between saying “Mother of God” and “Mother of the Lord”. Surely, God is the Lord! (Psalm 118:27) During her visit to Elizabeth, the Blessed Virgin spoke the words that form the principal hymn sung in her honor at the Matins service.
“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden, for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” (Luke 1: 47-48)
Elizabeth, having been “filled with the Holy Spirit”, cried out: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” (Luke 1:41, 42) This honor given the Theotokos by her cousin is exactly what all generations of the Church do when they call her blessed. When Jesus beheld His mother and His disciple John standing by the cross, He entrusted him with her care, but He also established a new spiritual relationship between them in saying to the disciple: “Behold thy Mother!” (John 19:27) In making this declaration our Lord made His Mother the Mother of all Christians!
With love in Christ,
Wednesday December 4, 2019 / November 21, 2019
25th Week after Pentecost. Tone seven.
Fast. Fish Allowed
The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple.
Venerable Columbanus of Bobbio, abbot and founder of Luxeuil Abbey (Gaul) (615) (Celtic & British).
New Martyrs Priest Alexander Khotovitsky of New York (1937), and Priest Alexis Benemansky of Tver (1937).
Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Everlasting Hope”.
The Scripture Readings
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
The Song of Mary
46 And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
56 And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.
The Earthly Sanctuary
9 Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. 2 For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the [a]sanctuary; 3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, 4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
Limitations of the Earthly Service
6 Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance;
Mary and Martha Worship and Serve
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Keeping the Word
27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”
28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”