Archbishop John Maximovitch: The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God

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Saint John of Shang­hai & San Francisco

NOT TOO MANY years ago the Abbe­ss of a con­vent of the Rus­si­an Ortho­dox Church, a woman of righ­teo­us life, was deli­ve­ring a ser­mon in the con­vent church on the feast of the Dor­mi­tion of the Most Holy Mot­her of God. With tears she entre­a­ted her nuns and the pil­grims who had come for the feast to accept enti­re­ly and who­le­hear­ted­ly what the Church hands down to us, taking such pains to pre­ser­ve this tra­di­tion sacred­ly all the­se cen­turi­es-and not to choo­se for one­self what is “important” and what is “dis­pensab­le”; for by thin­king one­self wiser than the tra­di­tion, one may end by losing the tra­di­tion. Thus, when the Church tells us in her hymns and icons that the Apost­les were mira­culous­ly gat­he­red from the ends of the earth in order to be pre­sent at the repo­se and buri­al of the Mot­her of God, we as Ortho­dox Chri­sti­ans are not free to deny this or rein­ter­pret it, but must belie­ve as the Church hands it down to us, with sim­pli­ci­ty of heart.

A young Western con­vert who had lear­ned Rus­si­an was pre­sent when this ser­mon was deli­ve­red. He him­self had thought about this very sub­ject, having seen icons in the tra­di­tio­nal ico­no­grap­hic sty­le depi­cting the Apost­les being trans­por­ted on clouds to behold the Dor­mi­tion of the Theo­tokos;* and he had asked him­self the question: are we actu­al­ly to under­stand this “lite­ral­ly,” as a mira­culous event, or is it only a “poe­tic” way of expres­sing the com­ing toget­her of the Apost­les for this event … or per­haps even an imag­i­na­ti­ve or “ide­al” depi­ction of an event that never occur­red in fact? (Such, inde­ed, are some of the questions with which “Ortho­dox the­o­lo­gi­ans” occu­py them­sel­ves in our days.) The words of the righ­teo­us Abbe­ss there­fo­re struck him to the heart, and he under­stood that the­re was somet­hing dee­per to the recep­tion and under­stan­ding of Ort­ho­doxy than what our own mind and fee­lings tell us. In that instant the tra­di­tion was being han­ded down to him, not from books but from a living ves­sel which con­tai­ned it; and it had to be recei­ved, not with mind or fee­lings only, but above all with the heart, which in this way began to recei­ve its dee­per trai­ning in Orthodoxy.

Later this young con­vert enco­un­te­red, in per­son or through rea­ding, many peop­le who were lear­ned in Ortho­dox the­o­lo­gy. They were the “the­o­lo­gi­ans” of our day, tho­se who had been to Ortho­dox schools and beco­me the­o­lo­gi­cal “experts.” They were usu­al­ly qui­te eager to spe­ak on what was Ortho­dox and what non-Ortho­dox, what was important and what secon­dary in Ort­ho­doxy itself; and a num­ber of them pri­ded them­sel­ves on being “con­ser­va­ti­ves” or “tra­di­tio­na­lists” in faith. But in none of them did he sen­se the aut­ho­ri­ty of the simp­le Abbe­ss who had spo­ken to his heart, unlear­ned as she was in such “the­o­lo­gy.”

And the heart of this con­vert, still taking his baby steps in Ort­ho­doxy, lon­ged to know how to belie­ve, which means also whom to belie­ve. He was too much a per­son of his times and his own upbrin­ging to be able sim­ply to deny his own rea­so­ning power and belie­ve blind­ly eve­ryt­hing he was told; and it is very evi­dent that Ort­ho­doxy does not at all demand this of one-the very wri­tings of the Holy Fat­hers are a living memo­ri­al of the wor­king of human rea­son enligh­te­ned by the gra­ce of God. But it was also obvious that the­re was somet­hing very much lack­ing in the “the­o­lo­gi­ans” of our day, who for all their logic and their know­led­ge of Patri­stic texts, did not con­vey the fee­ling or savor of Ort­ho­doxy as well as a simp­le, the­o­lo­gi­cal­ly-une­duca­ted Abbess.

Our con­vert found the end of his search-the search for con­ta­ct with the true and living tra­di­tion of Ort­ho­doxy-in Arch­bis­hop John Maxim­ovitch. For here he found someo­ne who was a lear­ned the­o­lo­gi­an in the “old” school and at the same time was very much awa­re of all the cri­ti­cis­ms of that the­o­lo­gy which have been made by the the­o­lo­gi­cal cri­ti­cs of our cen­tury, and was able to use his keen intel­li­gen­ce to find the truth whe­re it might be dis­pu­ted. But he also pos­ses­sed somet­hing which none of the wise “the­o­lo­gi­ans” of our time seem to pos­sess: the same sim­pli­ci­ty and aut­ho­ri­ty which the pious Abbe­ss had con­vey­ed to the heart of the young God-see­ker. His heart and mind were won: not becau­se Arch­bis­hop John beca­me for him an “infal­lib­le expert” — for the Church of Christ does not know any such thing — but becau­se he saw in this holy arch­pa­stor a model of Ort­ho­doxy, a true the­o­lo­gi­an who­se the­o­lo­gy pro­ce­e­ded from a holy life and from total roo­ted­ness in Ortho­dox tra­di­tion. When he spo­ke, his words could be tru­sted-alt­hough he care­ful­ly distingu­is­hed betwe­en the Chur­ch’s tea­ching, which is certain, and his own per­so­nal opi­ni­ons, which might be mista­ken, and he bound no one to the lat­ter. And our young con­vert discove­red that, for all of Arch­bis­hop John’s intel­lectu­al keen­ness and cri­ti­cal abi­li­ty, his words much more often agre­ed with tho­se of the simp­le Abbe­ss than with tho­se of the lear­ned the­o­lo­gi­ans of our time.

THE THEOLOGICAL WRITINGS of Arch­bis­hop John belong to no distin­cti­ve “school,” and they do not reve­al the extra­or­di­nary “influ­en­ce” of any the­o­lo­gi­ans of the recent past. It is true that Arch­bis­hop John was inspi­red to the­o­lo­gize, as well as to beco­me a monk and enter the Chur­ch’s ser­vi­ce, by his gre­at tea­cher, Metro­po­li­tan Ant­ho­ny Khra­povit­sky; and it is also true that the stu­dent made his own the tea­cher’s emp­ha­sis on a “return to the Fat­hers” and to a the­o­lo­gy clo­se­ly bound to spi­ri­tu­al and moral life rat­her than aca­de­mic. But Metro­po­li­tan Ant­ho­ny’s own the­o­lo­gi­cal wri­tings are qui­te dif­fe­rent in tone, inten­tion, and con­tent: he was very much invol­ved with the the­o­lo­gi­cal aca­de­mic wor­ld and with the intel­li­gent­sia of his time, and much of his wri­ting is devo­ted to argu­ments and apo­lo­gies which will be under­stan­dab­le to the­se ele­ments of the socie­ty he knew. The wri­tings of Arch­bis­hop John, on the other hand, are qui­te devoid of this apo­lo­ge­tic and dis­puta­tious aspect. He did not argue, he sim­ply pre­sen­ted the Ortho­dox tea­ching; and when it was neces­sary to refu­te fal­se doctri­nes, as espe­ci­al­ly in his two long arti­c­les on the Sop­hi­o­lo­gy of Bul­gakov, his words were con­vin­cing not by vir­tue of logi­cal argu­men­ta­tion, but rat­her by the power of his pre­sen­ta­tion of the Patri­stic tea­ching in its ori­gi­nal texts. He did not spe­ak to the aca­de­mic or lear­ned wor­ld, but to the uncor­rup­ted Ortho­dox consci­en­ce; and he did not spe­ak of a “return to the Fat­hers,” becau­se what he him­self wro­te was sim­ply a han­ding down of the Patri­stic tra­di­tion, with no attempt to apo­lo­gize for it.

The sour­ces of Arch­bis­hop John’s the­o­lo­gy are, qui­te sim­ply: Holy Scrip­tu­re, the Holy Fat­hers (espe­ci­al­ly the gre­at Fat­hers of the 4th and 5th cen­turi­es), and-most distin­cti­ve­ly-the Divi­ne ser­vi­ces of the Ortho­dox Church. The lat­ter sour­ce, rare­ly used to such an extent by the the­o­lo­gi­ans of recent cen­turi­es, gives us a clue to the pra­cti­cal, un-aca­de­mic appro­ach of Arch­bis­hop John to the­o­lo­gy. It is obvious that he was thor­oug­hly immer­sed in the Chur­ch’s Divi­ne ser­vi­ces and that his the­o­lo­gi­cal inspira­tion came chie­fly from this pri­mary Patri­stic sour­ce which he imbi­bed, not in lei­su­re hours set apart for the­o­lo­gizing, but in his daily pra­cti­ce of being pre­sent at eve­ry Divi­ne ser­vi­ce. He drank in the­o­lo­gy as an inte­gral part of daily life, and it was doub­t­less this more than his for­mal the­o­lo­gi­cal stu­di­es that actu­al­ly made him a theologian.

It is under­stan­dab­le, there­fo­re, that one will not find in Arch­bis­hop John any the­o­lo­gi­cal “system.” To be sure, he did not pro­test against the gre­at wor­ks of “syste­ma­tic the­o­lo­gy” which the 19th cen­tury pro­du­ced in Rus­sia, and he made free use in his mis­sio­nary work of the syste­ma­tic cate­chis­ms of this peri­od (as, in gene­ral, the gre­at hie­rar­chs of the 19th and 20th cen­turi­es have done, both in Gre­e­ce and Rus­sia, see­ing in the­se cate­chis­ms an excel­lent aid to the work of Ortho­dox enligh­ten­ment among the peop­le); in this respect he was above the fas­hions and par­ties of the­o­lo­gi­ans and stu­dents, both past and pre­sent, who are a litt­le too atta­ched to the par­ti­cu­lar way in which Ortho­dox the­o­lo­gy is pre­sen­ted. He showed equal respect for Metro­po­li­tan Ant­ho­ny Khra­povit­sky with his “anti-Western” emp­ha­sis, and for Metro­po­li­tan Peter Mogila with his sup­po­sed­ly exces­si­ve “Western influ­en­ce.” When the defects of one or the other of the­se gre­at hie­rar­chs and defen­ders of Ort­ho­doxy would be pre­sen­ted to him, he would make a deprecat­ing ges­tu­re with his hand and say, “unimportant”-because he always had in view first of all the gre­at Patri­stic tra­di­tion which the­se the­o­lo­gi­ans were suc­ces­sful­ly han­ding down in spi­te of their faults. In this respect he has much to teach the youn­ger the­o­lo­gi­ans of our own day, who appro­ach Ortho­dox the­o­lo­gy in a spi­rit that is often both too the­o­re­ti­cal and too pole­mi­cal and partisan.

For Arch­bis­hop John the the­o­lo­gi­cal “cate­go­ri­es” of even the wisest of the­o­lo­gi­cal scho­lars were also “unim­portant” — or rat­her, they were important only to the extent that they com­mu­ni­ca­ted a real mea­ning and did not beco­me mere­ly a mat­ter of rote lear­ning. One inci­dent from his Shang­hai years vivid­ly reve­als the fre­edom of his the­o­lo­gi­cal spi­rit: Once when he was atten­ding the oral exa­mi­na­tions of the seni­or cate­chism class of his cat­hed­ral school, he inter­rup­ted the per­fect­ly cor­rect reci­ta­tion by one pupil of the list of Minor Prop­hets of the Old Testa­ment with the abrupt and cate­go­ri­cal asser­tion: “The­re are no minor prop­hets!” The pri­est-tea­cher of this class was under­stan­dably offen­ded at this see­m­ing dis­pa­ra­ge­ment of his tea­ching aut­ho­ri­ty, but pro­bably to this day the stu­dents remem­ber this stran­ge dis­rup­tion of the nor­mal cate­chism “cate­go­ri­es,” and pos­sibly a few of them under­stood the mes­sa­ge which Arch­bis­hop John tri­ed to con­vey: with God all prop­hets are gre­at, are “major,” and this fact is more important than all the cate­go­ri­es of our know­led­ge of them, howe­ver valid the­se are in them­sel­ves. In his the­o­lo­gi­cal wri­tings and ser­mons also, Arch­bis­hop John often gives a sur­pri­sing turn to his discour­se which uncovers for us some une­xpected aspect or dee­per mea­ning of the sub­ject he is discus­sing. It is obvious that for him the­o­lo­gy is no mere human, eart­hly disci­pli­ne who­se riches are exhau­sted by our ratio­nal inter­pre­ta­tions, or at which we can beco­me self-satis­fied “experts, “-but rat­her somet­hing that points hea­venward and should draw our minds to God and hea­ven­ly rea­li­ties, which are not gra­sped by logi­cal systems of thought.

One noted Rus­si­an Church histo­ri­an, N. Tal­berg, has sug­ge­sted (in the Chro­ni­c­le of Bis­hop Savva, ch. 23) that Arch­bis­hop John is to be under­stood first of all as “a fool for Christ’s sake who remai­ned such even in epi­sco­pal rank,” and in this respect he com­pa­res him to St. Gre­gory the The­o­lo­gi­an, who also did not con­form, in ways similar to Arch­bis­hop John, to the stan­dard “ima­ge” of a bis­hop. It is this “foo­lis­h­ness” (by the wor­ld’s stan­dards) that gives a cha­ra­cte­ri­stic tone to the theo logi­cal wri­tings both of St. Gre­gory and of Arch­bis­hop John: a certain deta­ch­ment from public opi­ni­on, what “eve­ry­o­ne thin­ks” and thus the belon­ging to no ((par­ty” or “school”; the appro­ach to the­o­lo­gi­cal questions from an exal­ted, non-aca­de­mic point of view and thus the healt­hy avoi­dan­ce of pet­ty dis­pu­tes and the quar­relso­me spi­rit; the fresh, une­xpected turns of thought which make their the­o­lo­gi­cal wri­tings first of all a sour­ce of inspira­tion and of a tru­ly dee­per under­stan­ding of God’s revelation.

Per­haps most of all one is impres­sed by the utter sim­pli­ci­ty of Arch­bis­hop John’s wri­tings. It is obvious that he accepts the Ortho­dox tra­di­tion straight­forward­ly and enti­re­ly, with no “doub­le” thoughts as to how one can belie­ve the tra­di­tion and still be a “sop­hi­sti­ca­ted” modern man. He was awa­re of modern “cri­ti­cism,” and if asked could give his sound rea­sons for not accep­ting it on most points. He stu­di­ed thor­oug­hly the question of “Western influ­en­ce” in Ort­ho­doxy in recent cen­turi­es and had a well-balan­ced view of it, care­ful­ly distingu­is­hing betwe­en what is to be rejected out­right as foreign to Ort­ho­doxy, what is to be discou­ra­ged but wit­hout “making an issue)) over it, and what is to be accep­ted as con­duci­ve to true Ortho­dox life and pie­ty (a point that is espe­ci­al­ly reve­a­ling of Arch­bis­hop John’s lack of “precon­cei­ved opi­ni­ons,” and his testing of eve­ryt­hing by sound Ort­ho­doxy). But despi­te all his know­led­ge and exerci­se of cri­ti­cal jud­g­ment, he con­ti­nu­ed to belie­ve the Ortho­dox tra­di­tion sim­ply, just as the Church has han­ded it down to us. Most Ortho­dox the­o­lo­gi­ans of our time, even if they may have esca­ped the worst effects of the Pro­te­stant-refor­mer men­ta­li­ty, still view Ortho­dox tra­di­tion through the specta­c­les of the aca­de­mic environ­ment in which they are at home; but Arch­bis­hop John was “at home” first and fore­most in the church ser­vi­ces at which he spent many hours eve­ry day, and thus the tin­ge of ratio­na­lism (not neces­sa­rily in a bad sen­se) of even the best of aca­de­mic the­o­lo­gi­ans was total­ly absent in his thought. In his wri­tings the­re are no “pro­blems”; his usu­al­ly numerous foo­t­no­tes are sole­ly for the sake of infor­m­ing whe­re the tea­ching of the Church is to be found. In this respect he is abso­lu­te­ly at one with the “mind of the Fat­hers,” and he appears in our midst as one of them, and not as a mere com­men­ta­tor on the the­o­lo­gy of the past.

The the­o­lo­gi­cal wri­tings of Arch­bis­hop John, prin­ted in various church peri­o­di­cals over four deca­des, have not yet been col­lected in one pla­ce. Tho­se pre­sent­ly avai­lab­le to the St. Her­man of Ala­ska Bro­t­her­hood would fill a volu­me of somet­hing more than 200 pages. His lon­ger wri­tings belong for the most part to his ear­li­er years as a hiero­monk in Yugoslavia, whe­re he was alre­a­dy noted as out­stan­ding among Ortho­dox the­o­lo­gi­ans. Espe­ci­al­ly valu­ab­le are his two arti­c­les on the Sop­hi­o­lo­gy of Bul­gakov, one of them reve­a­ling con­vin­cing­ly, in a very objecti­ve man­ner, Bul­gako­v’s total incom­pe­ten­ce as a Patri­stic scho­lar, and the other being of even gre­a­ter value as a clas­sic expo­si­tion of the true Patri­stic doctri­ne of the Divi­ne Wis­dom. Among his later wri­tings one should men­tion his arti­c­le on Ortho­dox ico­no­grap­hy (whe­re, inci­den­tal­ly, he shows him­self much more awa­re than his tea­cher, Metr. Ant­ho­ny, of the question of “Western influ­en­ce” in ico­no­grap­hic sty­le); the seri­es of ser­mons entit­led “Three Evan­ge­li­cal Feasts,” whe­re he uncovers the dee­per mea­ning of some of the “les­ser” church feasts; and the arti­c­le “The Church: the Body of Christ.” His short arti­c­les and ser­mons also are deeply the­o­lo­gi­cal. One ser­mon begins with a “Hymn to God” of St. Gre­gory the The­o­lo­gi­an and con­ti­nu­es, in the same exal­ted, Patri­stic tone, as an inspi­red accu­s­a­tion against con­tem­porary god­les­sness; ano­t­her, spo­ken on Pas­sion Fri­day, 1936, is a moving address to Christ lying in the tomb, in a tone wort­hy of the same Holy Father.

We begin this seri­es of trans­la­tions with Arch­bis­hop John’s clas­sic expo­si­tion of the Ortho­dox vene­ra­tion of the Mot­her of God and of the chief err­ors which have atta­ck­ed it. Its lon­gest chap­ter is a clear and striking refuta­tion of the Lat­in dog­ma of the “Imma­cu­la­te Conception.”

The Veneration of the Mother of God During Her Earthly Life

FROM APOSTOLIC TIMES and to our days all who tru­ly love Christ give vene­ra­tion to Her Who gave bir­th to Him, rai­sed Him and pro­tected Him in the days of His youth. If God the Fat­her cho­se Her, God the Holy Spi­rit des­cen­ded upon Her, and God the Son dwelt in Her, sub­mit­ted to Her in the days of His youth, was con­cer­ned for Her when han­ging on the Cros­st­hen should not eve­ry­o­ne who con­fes­ses the Holy Tri­ni­ty vene­ra­te Her?

Still in the days of Her eart­hly life the fri­ends of Christ, the Apost­les, mani­fe­sted a gre­at con­cern and devo­tion for the Mot­her of the Lord, espe­ci­al­ly the Evan­ge­list John the The­o­lo­gi­an, who, ful­fil­ling the will of Her Divi­ne Son, took Her to him­self and took care for Her as for a mot­her from the time when the Lord utte­red to him from the Cross the words: Behold thy mother.”

The Evan­ge­list Luke pain­ted a num­ber of ima­ges of Her, some toget­her with the Pre-eter­nal Child, others wit­hout Him. When he brought them and showed them to the Most Holy Vir­gin, She appro­ved them and said: “The gra­ce of My Son shall be with them, ” and repe­a­ted the hymn She had once sung in the hou­se of Eliza­beth: “My soul doth mag­ni­fy the Lord, and My spi­rit hath rejoi­ced in God My Saviour.”

Howe­ver, the Vir­gin Mary during Her eart­hly life avoi­ded the glory which belon­ged to Her as the Mot­her of the Lord. She pre­fer­red to live in qui­et and pre­pa­re Her­self for the depar­tu­re into eter­nal life. To the last day of Her eart­hly life She took care to prove wort­hy of the King­dom of Her Son, and befo­re death She pray­ed that He might deli­ver Her soul from the mali­cious spi­rits that meet human souls on the way to hea­ven and stri­ve to seize them so as to take them away with them to hades. The Lord ful­fil­led the pray­er of His Mot­her and in the hour of Her death Him­self came from hea­ven with a mul­ti­tu­de of angels to recei­ve Her soul.

Sin­ce the Mot­her of God had also pray­ed that She might bid farewell to the Apost­les, the Lord gat­he­red for Her death all the Apost­les, except Tho­mas, and they were brought by an invi­sib­le power on that day to Jeru­sa­lem from all the ends of the inha­bi­ted wor­ld, whe­re they were prea­ching, and they were pre­sent at Her bles­sed trans­la­tion into eter­nal life. The Apost­les gave Her most pure body over to buri­al with sacred hymns, and on the third day they ope­ned the tomb so as once more to vene­ra­te the remains of the Mot­her of God toget­her with the Apost­le Tho­mas, who had arri­ved then in Jeru­sa­lem. But they did not find the body in the tomb and in per­ple­xi­ty they retur­ned to their own pla­ce; and then, during their meal, the Mot­her of God Her­self appea­red to them in the air, shin­ing with hea­ven­ly light, and infor­med them that Her Son had glo­ri­fied Her body also, and She, resur­rected, stood befo­re His Thro­ne. At the same time, She pro­mi­sed to be with them always.

The Apost­les gre­e­ted the Mot­her of God with gre­at joy and began to vene­ra­te Her not only as the Mot­her of their belo­ved Tea­cher and Lord, but also as their hea­ven­ly hel­per, as a pro­tector of Chri­sti­ans and inter­ces­sor for the who­le human race befo­re the Righ­teo­us Jud­ge. And eve­rywhe­re the Gospel of Christ was prea­ched, His Most Pure Mot­her also began to be glorified.

The First Enemies of the Veneration of The Mother of God

THE MORE the faith of Christ spre­ad and the Name of the Saviour of the wor­ld was glo­ri­fied on earth, and toget­her with Him also She Who was vou­chs­a­fed to be the Mot­her of the God-Man,-the more did the hatred of the ene­mies of Christ increa­se towards Her. Mary was the Mot­her of Jesus. She mani­fe­sted a hit­her­to unheard-of examp­le of puri­ty and righ­teo­us­ness, and furt­her­more, now depar­ted from this life, She was a migh­ty sup­port for Chri­sti­ans, even. though invi­sib­le to bodi­ly eyes. There­fo­re all who hated Jesus Christ and did not belie­ve in Him, who did not under­stand His tea­ching, or to be more pre­ci­se, did not wish to under­stand as the Church under­stood, who wis­hed to repla­ce the prea­ching of Christ with their own human rea­so­nings-all of the­se trans­fer­red their hatred for Christ, for the Gospel and the Church, to the Most Pure Vir­gin Mary. They wis­hed to belitt­le the Mot­her, so as the­re­by to destroy faith also in Her Son, to cre­a­te a fal­se pic­tu­re of Her among men in order to have the opportu­ni­ty to rebu­ild the who­le Chri­sti­an tea­ching on a dif­fe­rent foun­da­tion. In the womb of Mary, God and man were joi­ned. She was the One Who ser­ved as it were as the lad­der for the Son of God, Who des­cen­ded from hea­ven. To stri­ke a blow at Her vene­ra­tion means to stri­ke Chri­sti­a­ni­ty at the root, to destroy it in its very foundation.

And the very begin­ning, of Her hea­ven­ly glory was mar­ked on earth by an out­burst of mali­ce and hatred toward Her by unbe­lie­vers. When, after Her holy repo­se, the Apost­les were car­rying Her body for buri­al in Get­h­se­ma­ne, to the pla­ce cho­sen by her, John the The­o­lo­gi­an went ahe­ad car­rying the branch from para­di­se which the Archan­gel Gabri­el had brought to the Holy Vir­gin three days befo­re this when he came from hea­ven to anno­un­ce to Her Her appro­a­ching depar­tu­re to the hea­ven­ly mansions.

When Isra­el went out of Egypt, and the hou­se of Jacob from among a bar­ba­rous peop­le,” chan­ted St. Peter from Psalm 113; “Alle­lu­ia,” sang the who­le assem­bly of the Apost­les toget­her with their discip­les, as for examp­le, Dio­ny­si­us the Are­o­pagi­te, who likewi­se had been mira­culous­ly trans­por­ted at that time to Jeru­sa­lem. And whi­le this sacred hymn was being sung, which was cal­led by the J ews the ” G reat Alle­lu­ia, ” that is, the gre­at “Pra­i­se ye the Lord,” one Jewish pri­est, Atho­ni­us, lea­ped up to the bier and wis­hed to over­turn it and throw to the gro­und the body of the Mot­her of God.

The bra­zen­ness of Atho­ni­us was imme­di­a­te­ly punis­hed: the Archan­gel Micha­el with an invi­sib­le sword cut off his hand, which remai­ned han­ging on the bier. The thund­er­struck Atho­ni­us, expe­ri­en­cing a tormen­ting pain, in awa­re­ness of his sin, tur­ned in pray­er to the Jesus Whom he had hated up to then and he was imme­di­a­te­ly hea­led. He did not delay in accep­ting Chri­sti­a­ni­ty and con­fes­sing it befo­re his for­mer co-reli­gio­ni­sts, for which he recei­ved from them a mar­tyr’s death. Thus, the attempt to offend the honor of the Mot­her of God ser­ved for Her gre­a­ter glorification.

The ene­mies of Christ resol­ved not to mani­fest their lack of vene­ra­tion for the body of the Most Pure One furt­her at that time by cru­de vio­len­ce, but their mali­ce did not cea­se. See­ing that Chri­sti­a­ni­ty was spre­a­ding eve­rywhe­re, they began to spre­ad various vile slan­ders about Chri­sti­ans. They did not spa­re the name of the Mot­her of Christ eit­her, and they inven­ted the story that Jesus of Naza­reth had come from a base and immoral environ­ment, and that His Mot­her had asso­ci­a­ted with a certain Roman soldier.

But here the lie was too evi­dent for this fiction to attra­ct serious atten­tion. The who­le family of Joseph the Betro­t­hed and Mary Her­self were known well by the inha­bi­tants of Naza­reth and the sur­ro­un­ding ‑coun­trysi­de in their time. When­ce bath this man this wis­dom and the­se migh­ty wor­ks? Is not this the car­pen­ter’s son? Is not his mot­her cal­led Mary, and his bret­hren: James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? (Matt. 13:54–55; Mark 6:3; Luke 4:22.) So said His fel­lowco­un­try­men in Naza­reth when Christ reve­a­led befo­re them in the syna­gogue His other-wor­ld­ly wis­dom. In small towns the family mat­ters of eve­ry­o­ne are well known; very stri­ct watch was kept then over the puri­ty of mar­ri­ed life.

Would peop­le real­ly have beha­ved with respect towards Jesus, cal­led Him to preach in the syna­gogue, if He had been born of ille­gi­ti­ma­te coha­bi­ta­tion? To Mary the law of Moses would have been applied, which com­man­ded that such per­sons be sto­ned to death; and the Pha­ri­se­es would have taken the opportu­ni­ty many times to repro­ach Christ for the con­duct of His Mot­her. But just the con­trary was the case. Mary enjoy­ed gre­at respect; at Cana She was an honored guest at the wed­ding, and even when Her Son was con­dem­ned, no one allowed him­self to ridi­cu­le or cen­su­re His Mother.

Attempts of Jews and Heretics to Dishonor The Ever-Virginity of Mary

THE JEWISH slan­de­rers soon beca­me con­vin­ced that it was almost impos­sib­le to dis­ho­nor the Mot­her of Jesus, and on the basis of the infor­ma­tion which they them­sel­ves pos­ses­sed it was much easi­er to prove Her pra­i­sewort­hy life. There­fo­re, they aban­do­ned this slan­der of theirs, which had alre­a­dy been taken up by the pagans (Ori­gen, Against Celsus, I),and stro­ve to prove at least that Mary was not a vir­gin when She gave bir­th to Christ. They even said that the prop­he­cies con­cer­ning the bir­th-giving of the Mes­si­ah by a vir­gin had never exi­sted, and that there­fo­re it was enti­re­ly in vain that Chri­sti­ans thought to exalt Jesus by the fact that a prop­he­cy was sup­po­sed­ly being ful­fil­led in Him.

Jewish trans­la­tors were found (Aquila, Sym­ma­chus, Theo­do­tion) who made new trans­la­tions of the Old Testa­ment into Gre­ek and in the­se trans­la­ted the well-known prop­he­cy of Isai­ah (Is. 7:14) thus: Behold, a young woman will con­cei­ve. They asser­ted that the Hebrew word Aal­ma sig­ni­fied “young woman” and not “vir­gin,” as stood in the sacred trans­la­tion of the Seven­ty Trans­la­tors [Sep­tu­ag­int], whe­re this pas­sa­ge had been trans­la­ted “Behold, a vir­gin shall conceive.”

By this new trans­la­tion they wis­hed to prove that Chri­sti­ans, on the basis of an incor­rect trans­la­tion of the word Aal­ma, thought to ascri­be to Mary somet­hing com­ple­te­ly impos­sib­le a bir­th-giving wit­hout a man, whi­le in actu­a­li­ty the bir­th of Christ was not in the least dif­fe­rent from other human births.

Howe­ver, the evil inten­tion of the new trans­la­tors was clear­ly reve­a­led becau­se by a com­pa­ri­son of various pas­sa­ges in the Bib­le it beca­me clear that the word Aal­ma sig­ni­fied pre­ci­se­ly “vir­gin.” And inde­ed, not only the Jews, but even the pagans, on the basis of their own tra­di­tions and various prop­he­cies, expected the Rede­e­mer of the wor­ld to be born of a Vir­gin. The Gospels clear­ly sta­ted that the Lord Jesus had been born of a Virgin.

How shall this be, see­ing I know not a man? asked Mary, Who had given a vow of vir­gi­ni­ty, of the Archan­gel Gabri­el, who had infor­med Her of the bir­th of Christ.

And the Angel replied: The Holy Spi­rit shall come upon Thee, and the power of the Most High shall overs­ha­dow Thee; where­fo­re also that which is to be born shall be holy, and shall be cal­led the Son of God (Luke 1:34–35). Later the Angel appea­red also to righ­teo­us Joseph, who had wis­hed to put away Mary from his hou­se, see­ing that She had con­cei­ved wit­hout ente­ring into conju­gal coha­bi­ta­tion with him. To Joseph the Archan­gel Gabri­el said: Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is begot­ten in Her is of the Holy Spi­rit, and he remin­ded him of the prop­he­cy of Isai­ah that a vir­gin would con­cei­ve (Matt. 1: 18–2 5).The rod of Aaron that bud­ded, the rock torn away from the moun­tain wit­hout hands, seen by Nebu­chad­nezzar in a dream and inter­pre­ted by the Prop­het Dani­el, the clo­sed gate seen by the Prop­het Ezeki­el, and much else in the Old Testa­ment, pre­fi­gu­red the bir­th-giving of the Vir­gin. Just as Adam had been cre­a­ted by the Word of God from the unwor­ked and vir­gin earth, so also the Word of God cre­a­ted flesh for Him­self from a vir­gin womb when the Son of God beca­me the new Adam so as to cor­rect the fall into sin of the first Adam (St. Ire­na­eus of Lyons, Book 111).

The seed­less bir­th of Christ can and could be denied only by tho­se who deny the Gospel, whe­reas the Church of Christ from of old con­fes­ses Christ “incar­na­te of the Holy Spi­rit and the Vir­gin Mary.” But the bir­th of God from the Ever-Vir­gin was a stum­bling sto­ne for tho­se who wis­hed to call them­sel­ves Chri­sti­ans but did not wish to hum­b­le them­sel­ves in mind and be zea­lous for puri­ty of life. The pure life of Mary was a repro­ach for tho­se who were impu­re also in their thoughts. So as to show them­sel­ves Chri­sti­ans, they did not dare to deny that Christ was born of a Vir­gin, but they began to affirm that Mary remai­ned a vir­gin only until she brought forth her first-born son, Jesus (Matt. 1:25).

After the bir­th of Jesus,” said the fal­se tea­cher Hel­vi­di­us in the 4th cen­tury, and likewi­se many others befo­re and after him, “Mary ente­red into conju­gal life with Joseph and had from him chil­dren, who are cal­led in the Gospels the bro­t­hers and sisters of Christ.” But the word “until” does not sig­ni­fy that Mary remai­ned a vir­gin only until a certain time. The word “until” and words similar to it often sig­ni­fy eter­ni­ty. In the Sacred Scrip­tu­re it is said of Christ: In His days shall shine forth righ­teo­us­ness and an abun­dan­ce of pea­ce, until the moon be taken away (Ps. 71:7), but this does not mean that when the­re shall no lon­ger be a moon at the end of the wor­ld, God’s righ­teo­us­ness shall no lon­ger be; pre­ci­se­ly then, rat­her, will it tri­umph. And what does it mean when it says: For He must reign, until He hath put all ene­mies under His feet? (I Cor. 15:25). Is the Lord then to reign only for the time until His ene­mies shall be under His feet?! And David, in the fourth Psalm of the Ascents says: As the eyes of the hand­maid look unto the bands of her mistress, so do our eyes look unto the Lord our God, until He take pity on us (Ps. 122:2). Thus, the Prop­het will have his eyes toward the Lord until he obtains mer­cy, but having obtai­ned it he will direct them to the earth? (Bles­sed Jero­me, “On the Ever-Vir­gi­ni­ty of Bles­sed Mary.”) The Saviour in the Gospel says to the Apost­les (Matt. 28:20): Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the wor­ld. Thus, after the end of the wor­ld the Lord will step away from His discip­les, and then, when they shall jud­ge the twel­ve tri­bes of Isra­el upon twel­ve thro­nes, they will not have the pro­mi­sed com­mu­ni­on with the Lord? (Bles­sed Jero­me, op. cit.)

It is likewi­se incor­rect to think that the bro­t­hers and sisters of Christ were the chil­dren of His Most Holy Mot­her. The names of “bro­t­her” and “sister” have seve­ral distin­ct mea­nings. Sig­ni­fying a certain kins­hip betwe­en peop­le or their spi­ri­tu­al clo­se­ness, the­se words are used some­ti­mes in a bro­a­der, and some­ti­mes in a nar­rower sen­se. In any case, peop­le are cal­led bro­t­hers or sisters if they have a com­mon fat­her and mot­her, or only a com­mon fat­her or mot­her; or even if they have dif­fe­rent fat­hers and mot­hers, if their parents later (having beco­me widowed) have ente­red into mar­ri­a­ge (step­bro­t­hers); or if their parents are bound by clo­se degre­es of kinship.

In the Gospel it can nowhe­re be seen that tho­se who are cal­led the­re the bro­t­hers of Jesus were or were con­si­de­red the chil­dren of His Mot­her. On the con­trary, it was known that James and others were the sons of Joseph, the Betro­t­hed of Mary, who was a widower with chil­dren from his first wife. (St. Epip­ha­ni­us of Cyprus, Pana­rion, 78.) Likewi­se, the sister of His Mot­her, Mary the wife of Cle­o­pas, who stood with Her at the Cross of the Lord (John 19:25), also had chil­dren, who in view of such clo­se kins­hip with full right could also be cal­led bro­t­hers of the Lord. That the so-cal­led bro­t­hers and sisters of the Lord were not the chil­dren of His Mot­her is clear­ly evi­dent from the fact that the Lord entru­sted His Mot­her befo­re His death to His belo­ved discip­le John. Why should He do this if She had other chil­dren besi­des Him? They them­sel­ves would have taken care of Her. The sons of Joseph, the sup­po­sed fat­her of Jesus, did not con­si­der them­sel­ves obli­ged to take care of one they regar­ded as their step­mo­t­her, or at least did not have for Her such love as blood chil­dren have for parents, and such as the adop­ted John had for Her.


Thus, a care­ful stu­dy of Sacred Scrip­tu­re reve­als with com­ple­te cla­ri­ty the insub­stan­ti­a­lity of the objections against the Ever-Vir­gi­ni­ty of Mary and puts to sha­me tho­se who teach differently.

The Nestorian Heresy and The Third Ecumenical Council

WHEN ALL THOSE who had dared to spe­ak against the san­cti­ty and puri­ty of the Most Holy Vir­gin Mary had been redu­ced to silen­ce, an attempt was made to destroy Her vene­ra­tion as Mot­her of God. In the 5th cen­tury the Arch­bis­hop of Con­stan­ti­nop­le, Nesto­ri­us, began to preach that of Mary had been born only the man Jesus, in Whom the Divi­ni­ty had taken abo­de and dwelt in Him as in a temp­le. At first he allowed his pres­byter Anast­a­si­us and then he him­self began to teach open­ly in church that one should not call Mary “Theo­tokos, sin­ce She had not given bir­th to the God-Man. He con­si­de­red it deme­a­ning for him­self to wors­hip a child wrap­ped in swad­dling clo­t­hes and lying in a manger.

Such ser­mons evo­ked a uni­ver­sal dis­tur­ban­ce and une­a­se over the puri­ty of faith, at first in Con­stan­ti­nop­le and then eve­rywhe­re else whe­re rumors of the new tea­ching spre­ad. St. Pro­clus, the discip­le of St. John Chryso­st­om’ who was then Bis­hop of Cyzi­cus and later Arch­bis­hop of Con­stan­ti­nop­le, in the pre­sen­ce of Nesto­ri­us gave in church a ser­mon in which he con­fes­sed the Son of God born in the flesh of the Vir­gin, Who in truth is the Theo­tokos (Bir­t­h­gi­ver of God), for alre­a­dy in the womb of the Most Pure One, at the time of Her con­cep­tion, the Divi­ni­ty was uni­ted with the Child con­cei­ved of the Holy Spi­rit; and this Child, even though He was born of the Vir­gin Mary only in His human natu­re, still was born alre­a­dy true God and true man.
Nesto­ri­us stub­born­ly refu­sed to chan­ge his tea­ching, saying that one must distingu­ish betwe­en Jesus and the Son of God, that Mary should not be cal­led Theo­tokos, but Chri­sto­tokos (Bir­t­h­gi­ver of Christ), sin­ce the Jesus Who was born of Mary was only the man Christ (which sig­ni­fies Mes­si­ah, ano­in­ted one), like to God’s ano­in­ted ones of old, the prop­hets, only sur­pas­sing them in ful­l­ness of com­mu­ni­on with God. The tea­ching of Nesto­ri­us thus con­sti­tu­ted a deni­al of the who­le eco­no­my of God, for if from Mary only a man was born, then it was not God Who suf­fe­red for us, but a man.

St. Cyril, Arch­bis­hop of Ale­xan­dria, fin­ding out about the tea­ching of Nesto­ri­us and about the church disor­ders evo­ked by this tea­ching in Con­stan­ti­nop­le, wro­te a let­ter to Nesto­ri­us, in which he tri­ed to per­su­a­de him to hold the tea­ching which the Church had con­fes­sed from its foun­da­tion, and not to intro­du­ce anyt­hing novel into this tea­ching. In addi­tion, St. Cyril wro­te to the cler­gy and peop­le of Con­stan­ti­nop­le that they should be firm in the Ortho­dox faith and not fear the per­secu­tions by Nesto­ri­us against tho­se who were not in agre­e­ment with him. St. Cyril also wro­te infor­m­ing of eve­ryt­hing to Rome, to the holy Pope Celesti­ne, who with all his flo­ck was then firm in Orthodoxy.

St. Celesti­ne for his part wro­te to Nesto­ri­us and cal­led upon him to preach the Ortho­dox faith, and not his own. But Nesto­ri­us remai­ned deaf to all per­su­a­sion and replied that what he was prea­ching was the Ortho­dox faith, whi­le his oppo­nents were her­e­ti­cs. St. Cyril wro­te Nesto­ri­us again and com­po­sed twel­ve anat­he­mas, that is, set forth in twel­ve para­grap­hs the chief dif­fe­ren­ces of the Ortho­dox tea­ching from the tea­ching prea­ched by Nesto­ri­us, ack­now­led­ging as excom­mu­ni­ca­ted from the Church eve­ry­o­ne who should reject even a sing­le one of the para­grap­hs he had composed.

Nesto­ri­us rejected the who­le of the text com­po­sed by St. Cyril and wro­te his own expo­si­tion of the tea­ching which he prea­ched, likewi­se in twel­ve para­grap­hs, giving over to anat­he­ma (that is, excom­mu­ni­ca­tion from the Church) eve­ry­o­ne who did not accept it. The dan­ger to puri­ty of faith was increa­sing all the time. St. Cyril wro­te a let­ter to Theo­do­si­us the Youn­ger, who was then reig­ning, to his wife Eudo­cia and to the Emper­or’s sister Pul­che­ria, entre­at­ing them likewi­se to con­cern them­sel­ves with ecc­lesi­a­sti­cal mat­ters and restrain the heresy.

It was deci­ded to con­ve­ne an Ecu­me­ni­cal Coun­cil, at which hie­rar­chs, gat­he­red from the ends of the wor­ld, should deci­de whet­her the faith prea­ched by Nesto­ri­us was Ortho­dox. As the pla­ce for the coun­cil, which was to be the Third Ecu­me­ni­cal Coun­cil, they cho­se the city of Ephe­sus, in which the Most Holy Vir­gin Mary had once dwelt toget­her with the Apost­le John the The­o­lo­gi­an. St. Cyril gat­he­red his fel­low bis­hops in Egypt and toget­her with them tra­vel­led by sea to Ephe­sus. From Antioch over­land came John, Arch­bis­hop of Antioch, with the Eastern bis­hops. The Bis­hop of Rome, St. Celesti­ne, could not go him­self and asked St. Cyril to defend the Ortho­dox faith, and in addi­tion he sent from him­self two bis­hops and the pres­byter of the Roman Church Phi­lip, to whom he also gave instructions as to what to say. To Ephe­sus the­re came likewi­se Nesto­ri­us and the bis­hops of the Con­stan­ti­nop­le region, and the bis­hops of Palesti­ne, Asia Minor, and Cyprus.

On the 10th of the calends of July accor­ding to the Roman rec­k­o­ning, that is, June 22, 43 1, in the Ephe­si­an Church of the Vir­gin Mary, the bis­hops assem­b­led, hea­ded by the Bis­hop of Ale­xan­dria, Cyril, and the Bis­hop of Ephe­sus, Mem­non, and took their pla­ces. In their midst was pla­ced a Gospel as a sign of the invi­sib­le heads­hip of the Ecu­me­ni­cal Coun­cil by Christ Him­self. At first the Sym­bol of Faith which had been com­po­sed by the First and Second Ecu­me­ni­cal Coun­cils was read; then the­re was read to the Coun­cil the Impe­ri­al Pro­c­la­ma­tion which was brought by the rep­re­sen­ta­ti­ves of the Emper­ors Theo­do­si­us and Valen­ti­ni­an, Emper­ors of the Eastern and Western parts of the Empire.

The Impe­ri­al Pro­c­la­ma­tion having been heard, the rea­ding of docu­ments began, and the­re were read the Epi­st­les of Cyril and Celesti­ne to Nesto­ri­us, as well as the replies of Nesto­ri­us. The Coun­cil, by the lips of its mem­bers, ack­now­led­ged the tea­ching of Nesto­ri­us to be impious and con­dem­ned it, ack­now­led­ging Nesto­ri­us as depri­ved of his See and of the pri­est­hood. A decree was com­po­sed con­cer­ning this which was sig­ned by about 160 par­ti­ci­pants of the Coun­cil; and sin­ce some of them rep­re­sen­ted also other bis­hops who did not have the opportu­ni­ty to be per­so­nal­ly at the Coun­cil, the decree of the Coun­cil was actu­al­ly the deci­sion of more than 200 bis­hops, who had their Sees in the various regions of the Church at that time, and they testi­fied that they con­fes­sed the Faith which from all antiqui­ty had been kept in their localities.

Thus the decree of the Coun­cil was the voi­ce of the Ecu­me­ni­cal Church, which clear­ly expres­sed its faith that Christ, born of the Vir­gin, is the true God Who beca­me man; and inas­much as Mary gave bir­th to the per­fect Man Who was at the same time per­fect God, She right­ly should be reve­red as THEOTOKOS.

At the end of the ses­sion its decree was imme­di­a­te­ly com­mu­ni­ca­ted to the wai­ting peop­le. The who­le of Ephe­sus rejoi­ced when it found out that the vene­ra­tion of the Holy Vir­gin had been defen­ded, for She was espe­ci­al­ly reve­red in this city, of which She had been a resi­dent during Her eart­hly life and a Patro­ness after Her depar­tu­re into eter­nal life. The peop­le gre­e­ted the Fat­hers ecsta­ti­cal­ly when in the eve­ning they retur­ned home after the ses­sion. They accom­pa­nied them to their homes with ligh­ted tor­ches and bur­ned incen­se in the stre­ets. Eve­rywhe­re were to be heard joy­ful gre­e­tings, the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of the Ever-Vir­gin, and the pra­i­ses of the Fat­hers who had defen­ded Her name against the her­e­ti­cs. The decree of the Coun­cil was dis­play­ed in the stre­ets of Ephesus.

The Coun­cil had five more ses­sions, on June 10 and 11, July 16, 17, and and August 3 1. At the­se ses­sions the­re were set forth, in six canons, mea­su­res for action against tho­se who would dare to spre­ad the tea­ching of Nesto­ri­us and chan­ge the decree of the Coun­cil of Ephesus.

At the com­plaint of the bis­hops of Cyprus against the pre­ten­sions of the Bis­hop of Antioch, the Coun­cil decre­ed that the Church of Cyprus should pre­ser­ve its inde­pen­den­ce in Church gover­n­ment, which it had pos­ses­sed from the Apost­les, and that in gene­ral none of the bis­hops should sub­ject to them­sel­ves regions which had been pre­vious­ly inde­pen­dent from them, “lest under the pre­te­xt of pri­est­hood the pri­de of eart­hly power should ste­al in, and lest we lose, rui­ning it litt­le by litt­le, the fre­edom which our Lord Jesus Christ, the Deli­ve­rer of all men, has given us by His Blood.”

The Coun­cil likewi­se con­fir­med the con­dem­na­tion of the Pelagi­an her­e­sy, which taught that man can be saved by his own powers wit­hout the neces­si­ty of having the gra­ce of God. It also deci­ded certain mat­ters of church gover­n­ment, and addres­sed epi­st­les to the bis­hops who had not atten­ded the Coun­cil, anno­un­cing its decre­es and cal­ling upon all to stand on guard for the Ortho­dox Faith and the pea­ce of the Church. At the same time the Coun­cil ack­now­led­ged that the tea­ching of the Ortho­dox Ecu­me­ni­cal Church had been ful­ly and clear­ly enough set forth in the Nica­eo-Con­stan­ti­nopo­li­tan Sym­bol of Faith, which is why it itself did not com­po­se a new Sym­bol of Faith and for­ba­de in futu­re “to com­po­se ano­t­her Faith,” that is, to com­po­se other Sym­bols of Faith or make chan­ges in the Sym­bol which had been con­fir­med at the Second Ecu­me­ni­cal Council.

This lat­ter decree was vio­la­ted seve­ral cen­turi­es later by Western Chri­sti­ans when, at first in sepa­ra­te pla­ces, and then throug­hout the who­le Roman Church, the­re was made to the Sym­bol the addi­tion that the Holy Spi­rit pro­ce­eds “and from the Son,” which addi­tion has been appro­ved by the Roman Popes from the I I th cen­tury, even though up until that time their pre­de­ces­sors, begin­ning with St. Celesti­ne, firm­ly kept to the deci­sion of the Coun­cil of Ephe­sus, which was the Third Ecu­me­ni­cal Coun­cil, and ful­fil­led it.

Thus the pea­ce which had been destroy­ed by Nesto­ri­us sett­led once more in the Church. The true Faith had been defen­ded and fal­se tea­ching accused.

The Coun­cil of Ephe­sus is right­ly vene­ra­ted as Ecu­me­ni­cal, on the same level as the Coun­cils of Nica­ea and Con­stan­ti­nop­le which pre­ce­ded it. At it the­re were pre­sent rep­re­sen­ta­ti­ves of the who­le Church. Its deci­sions were accep­ted by the who­le Church “from one end of the uni­ver­se to the other.” At it the­re was con­fes­sed the tea­ching which had been held from Apo­sto­lic times. The Coun­cil did not cre­a­te a new tea­ching, but it loud­ly testi­fied of the truth which some had tri­ed to repla­ce by an inven­tion. It pre­ci­se­ly set forth the con­fes­sion of the Divi­ni­ty of Christ Who was born of the Vir­gin. The belief of the Church and its jud­g­ment on this question were now so clear­ly expres­sed that no one could any lon­ger ascri­be to the Church his own fal­se rea­so­nings. In the futu­re the­re could ari­se other questions deman­ding the deci­sion of the who­le Church, but not the question

Sub­sequent Coun­cils based them­sel­ves in their deci­sions on the decre­es of the Coun­cils which had pre­ce­ded them. They did not com­po­se a new Sym­bol of Faith, but only gave an expla­na­tion of it. At the Third Ecu­me­ni­cal Coun­cil the­re was firm­ly and clear­ly con­fes­sed Pre­vious­ly the Holy Fat­hers had accu­sed tho­se who had slan­de­red the imma­cu­la­te life of the Vir­gin Mary; and now con­cer­ning tho­se who had tri­ed to les­sen Her honor it was pro­clai­med to all: “He who does not con­fess Imma­nu­el to be true God and there­fo­re the Holy Vir­gin to be Theo­tokos, becau­se She gave bir­th in the flesh to the Word Who is from God the Fat­her and Who beca­me flesh, let him be anat­he­ma (sepa­ra­ted from the Church)” (First Anat­he­ma of St. Cyril of Alexandria).

Attempts of Iconoclasts to Lessen The Glory of the Queen of Heaven;
They are put to shame.

AFTER THE THIRD Ecu­me­ni­cal Coun­cil, Chri­sti­ans began yet more fer­vent­ly, both in Con­stan­ti­nop­le and in other pla­ces, to hasten to the inter­ces­sion of the Mot­her of God and their hopes in Her inter­ces­sion were not vain. She mani­fe­sted Her help to innu­me­rab­le sick peop­le, help­less peop­le, and tho­se in mis­fortu­ne. Many times She appea­red as defen­der of Con­stan­ti­nop­le against outward ene­mies, once even showing in visib­le fas­hion to St. Andrew the Fool for Christ Her won­drous Pro­tection over the peop­le who were praying at night in the Temp­le of Blachernae.

The Que­en of Hea­ven gave victory in batt­les to the Byzan­ti­ne Emper­ors, which is why they had the cust­om to take with them in their campaigns Her Icon of Hodi­gi­tria (Gui­de). She strengt­he­ned asce­ti­cs and zea­lots of Chri­sti­an life in their batt­le against human pas­sions and weak­nes­ses. She enligh­te­ned and instructed the Fat­hers and Tea­chers of the Church ’ inclu­ding St. Cyril of Ale­xan­dria him­self when he was hesi­tat­ing to ack­now­led­ge the inno­cen­ce and san­cti­ty of St. John Chryso­st­om. The Most Pure Vir­gin pla­ced hymns in the mout­hs of the com­po­sers of church hymns, some­ti­mes making renow­ned sin­gers out of the untalen­ted who had no gift of song, but who were pious labo­rers, such as St. Roma­nus the Swe­et-Sin­ger (the Melo­dist). Is it there­fo­re sur­pri­sing that Chri­sti­ans stro­ve to mag­ni­fy the name of their con­stant Inter­ces­sor? In Her honor feasts were establis­hed, to Her were dedi­ca­ted won­drous songs, and Her Ima­ges were revered.

The mali­ce of the prin­ce of this wor­ld armed the sons of apost­a­sy once more to rai­se batt­le against Imma­nu­el and His Mot­her in this same Con­stan­ti­nop­le, which reve­red now, as Ephe­sus had pre­vious­ly, the Mot­her of God as its Inter­ces­sor. Not daring at first to spe­ak open­ly against the Cham­pion Gene­ral, they wis­hed to les­sen Her glo­ri­fi­ca­tion by for­bid­ding the vene­ra­tion of the Icons of Christ and His saints, cal­ling this idol-wors­hip. The Mot­her of God now also strengt­he­ned zea­lots of pie­ty in the batt­le for the vene­ra­tion of Ima­ges, mani­festing many signs from Her Icons and hea­ling the seve­red hand of St. John of Dama­scus who had writ­ten in defen­ce of the Icons.

The per­secu­tion against the vene­ra­tors of Icons and Saints ended again in the victory and tri­umph of Ort­ho­doxy, for the vene­ra­tion given to the Icons ascends to tho­se who are depi­cted in them; and the holy ones of God are vene­ra­ted as fri­ends of God for the sake of the Divi­ne gra­ce which dwelt in them, in accor­dan­ce with the words of the Psalm: “Most pre­cious to me are Thy fri­ends.” The Most Pure Mot­her of God was glo­ri­fied with spe­ci­al honor in hea­ven and on earth, and She, even in the days of the mock­ing of the holy Icons, mani­fe­sted through them so many won­drous mira­c­les that even today we remem­ber them with con­tri­tion. The hymn “In Thee All Cre­a­tion Rejoi­ces, 0 Thou Who Art Full of Gra­ce,” and the Icon of the Three Hands remind us of the hea­ling of St. John Dama­s­ce­ne befo­re this Icon; the depi­ction of the Iveron Icon of the Mot­her of God reminds us of the mira­culous deli­ve­ran­ce from ene­mies by this Icon, which had been thrown in the sea by a widow who was unab­le to save it.

No per­secu­tions against tho­se who vene­ra­ted the Mot­her of God and all that is bound up with the memory of Her could les­sen the love of Chri­sti­ans for their Inter­ces­sor. The rule was establis­hed that eve­ry seri­es of hymns in the Divi­ne ser­vi­ces should end with a hymn or ver­se in honor of the Mot­her of God (the so-cal­led “Theo­tokia”). Many times in the year Chri­sti­ans in all cor­ners of the wor­ld gat­her toget­her in church, as befo­re they gat­he­red toget­her, to pra­i­se Her, to thank Her for the bene­fa­ctions She has shown, and to beg mercy.

But could the adver­s­ary of Chri­sti­ans, the devil, who goeth about roa­ring like a lion, seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8), remain an indif­fe­rent specta­tor to the glory of the Imma­cu­la­te One? Could he ack­now­led­ge him­self as defe­a­ted, and cea­se to wage war­fa­re against the truth through men who do his will? And so, when all the uni­ver­se reso­un­ded with the good news of the Faith of Christ, when eve­rywhe­re the name of the Most Holy One was invo­ked, when the earth was fil­led with chur­ches, when the hou­ses of Chri­sti­ans were ador­ned with Icons depi­cting Her-then the­re appea­red and began to spre­ad a new fal­se tea­ching about the Mot­her of God. This fal­se tea­ching is dan­gerous in that many can­not imme­di­a­te­ly under­stand to what degree it under­mi­nes the true vene­ra­tion of the Mot­her of God.

Zeal Not According to Knowledge (Romans 10:2)

The cor­rup­tion by the Lat­ins, in the newly inven­ted dog­ma of the “Imma­cu­la­te Con­cep­tion, ” of the true vene­ra­tion of the Most Holy Mot­her of God and Ever- Vir­gin Mary.

WHEN THOSE WHO cen­su­red the imma­cu­la­te life of the Most Holy Vir­gin had been rebuked, as well as tho­se who denied Her Ever­vir­gi­ni­ty, tho­se who denied Her dig­ni­ty as the Mot­her of God, and tho­se who dis­dai­ned Her icons-then, when the glory of the Mot­her of God had illu­mi­na­ted the who­le uni­ver­se, the­re appea­red a tea­ching which see­m­ing­ly exal­ted hig­hly the Vir­gin Mary, but in rea­li­ty denied all Her virtues.

This tea­ching is cal­led that of the Imma­cu­la­te Con­cep­tion of the Vir­gin Mary, and it was accep­ted by the fol­lowers of the Papal thro­ne of Rome. The tea­ching is this- that “the All-bles­sed Vir­gin Mary in the first instant of Her Con­cep­tion, by the spe­ci­al gra­ce of Almigh­ty God and by a spe­ci­al pri­vil­e­ge, for the sake of the futu­re merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was pre­ser­ved exempt from all stain of ori­gi­nal sin” (Bull of Pope Pius IX con­cer­ning the new dog­ma). In other words, the Mot­her of God at Her very con­cep­tion was pre­ser­ved from ori­gi­nal sin and, by the gra­ce of God, was pla­ced in a sta­te whe­re it was impos­sib­le for Her to have per­so­nal sins.

Chri­sti­ans had not heard of this befo­re the ninth cen­tury, when for the first time the Abbot of Cor­vey, Pas­cha­si­us Rad­bertus, expres­sed the opi­ni­on that the Holy Vir­gin was con­cei­ved wit­hout ori­gi­nal sin. Begin­ning, from the 12th cen­tury, this idea begins to spre­ad among the cler­gy and flo­ck of the Western church, which had alre­a­dy fal­len away from the Uni­ver­sal Church and the­re­by lost the gra­ce of the Holy Spirit.

Howe­ver, by no means all of the mem­bers of the Roman church agre­ed with the new tea­ching. The­re was a dif­fe­ren­ce of among the most renow­ned the­o­lo­gi­ans of the West, the pil­lars, so to spe­ak, of the Lat­in church. Tho­mas Aqui­nas and Ber­nard of Clair­vaux deci­si­ve­ly cen­su­red it, whi­le Duns Sco­tus defen­ded it. From the tea­chers this divi­sion car­ri­ed over to their discip­les: the Lat­in Domi­ni­can mon­ks, after their tea­cher Tho­mas Aqui­nas, prea­ched against the tea­ching of the Imma­cu­la­te Con­cep­tion, whi­le the fol­lowers of Duns Sco­tus, the Fran­ci­scans, stro­ve to implant it eve­rywhe­re. The batt­le betwe­en the­se two cur­rents con­ti­nu­ed for the cour­se of seve­ral cen­turi­es. Both on the one and on the other side the­re were tho­se who were con­si­de­red among the Cat­ho­li­cs as the gre­a­test authorities.

The­re was no help in deci­ding the question in the fact that seve­ral peop­le decla­red that they had had a reve­la­tion from above con­cer­ning it. The nun Brid­get [of Swe­den], renow­ned in the 14th cen­tury among the Cat­ho­li­cs, spo­ke in her wri­tings about the appea­ran­ces to her of the Mot­her of God, Who Her­self told her that She had been con­cei­ved imma­cu­la­te­ly, wit­hout ori­gi­nal sin. But her con­tem­porary, the yet more renow­ned asce­tic Cat­he­ri­ne of Sien­na, affir­med that in Her Con­cep­tion the Holy Vir­gin par­ti­ci­pa­ted in ori­gi­nal sin, con­cer­ning which she had recei­ved a reve­la­tion from Christ Him­self (See the book of Archpri­est A. Lebe­dev, Dif­fe­ren­ces in the Tea­ching on the Most Holy Mot­her of God in the Chur­ches of East and West)

Thus, neit­her on the foun­da­tion of the­o­lo­gi­cal wri­tings, nor on the foun­da­tion of mira­culous mani­fe­sta­tions which con­tra­di­cted each other, could the Lat­in flo­ck distingu­ish for a long time whe­re the truth was. Roman Popes until Sixtus IV (end of the 15th cen­tury) remai­ned apart from the­se dis­pu­tes, and only this Pope in 1475 appro­ved a ser­vi­ce in which the tea­ching of the Imma­cu­la­te Con­cep­tion was clear­ly expres­sed; and seve­ral years later he for­ba­de a con­dem­na­tion of tho­se who belie­ved in the Imma­cu­la­te Con­cep­tion. Howe­ver, even Sixtus IV did not yet deci­de to affirm that such was the unwa­ve­ring tea­ching of the church; and there­fo­re, having for­bid­den the con­dem­na­tion of tho­se who belie­ved in the Imma­cu­la­te Con­cep­tion, he also did not con­demn tho­se who belie­ved otherwise.

Meanwhi­le, the tea­ching of the Imma­cu­la­te Con­cep­tion obtai­ned more and more par­tisans among the mem­bers of the Roman church. The rea­son for this was the fact that it see­med more pious and plea­sing to the Mot­her of God to give Her as much glory as pos­sib­le. The stri­ving of the peop­le to glo­ri­fy the Hea­ven­ly Inter­ces­sor, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the devi­a­tion of Western the­o­lo­gi­ans into abstra­ct specu­la­tions which led only to a see­m­ing truth (Scho­la­sti­cism), and final­ly, the patro­na­ge of the Roman Popes after Sixtus IV-all this led to the fact that the opi­ni­on con­cer­ning the Imma­cu­la­te Con­cep­tion which had been expres­sed by Pas­cha­si­us Rad­bertus in the 9th cen­tury was alre­a­dy the gene­ral belief of the Lat­in church in the 19th cen­tury. The­re remai­ned only to pro­claim this defi­ni­te­ly as the chur­ch’s tea­ching, which was done by the Roman Pope Pius IX during a solemn ser­vi­ce on Decem­ber 8, 1854, when he decla­red that the Imma­cu­la­te Con­cep­tion of the Most Holy Vir­gin was a dog­ma of the Roman church. Thus the Roman church added yet ano­t­her devi­a­tion from the tea­ching which it had con­fes­sed whi­le it was a mem­ber of the Cat­ho­lic, Apo­sto­lic Church, which faith has been held up to now unal­te­red and unchan­ged by the Ortho­dox Church. The pro­c­la­ma­tion of the new dog­ma satis­fied the bro­ad mas­ses of peop­le who belon­ged to the Roman church, who in sim­pli­ci­ty of heart thought that the pro­c­la­ma­tion of the new tea­ching in the church would ser­ve for the gre­a­ter glory of the Mot­her of God, to Whom by this they were making a gift, as it were. The­re was also satis­fied the vaingl­ory of the Western the­o­lo­gi­ans who defen­ded and wor­ked it out. But most of all the pro­c­la­ma­tion of the new dog­ma was pro­fi­tab­le for the Roman thro­ne itself, sin­ce, having pro­clai­med the new dog­ma by his own aut­ho­ri­ty, even though he did listen to the opi­ni­ons of the bis­hops of the Cat­ho­lic church, the Roman Pope by this very fact open­ly appro­p­ri­a­ted to him­self the right to chan­ge the tea­ching of the Roman church and pla­ced his own voi­ce above the testi­mo­ny of Sacred Scrip­tu­re and Tra­di­tion. A direct deduction from this was the fact that the Roman Popes were infal­lib­le in mat­ters of faith, which inde­ed this very same Pope Pius IX likewi­se pro­clai­med as a dog­ma of the Cat­ho­lic church in 1870.

Thus was the tea­ching of the Western church chan­ged after it had fal­len away from com­mu­ni­on with the True Church. It has intro­du­ced into itself newer and newer tea­chin­gs, thin­king by this to glo­ri­fy the Truth yet more, but in rea­li­ty distor­ting it. Whi­le the Ortho­dox Church hum­bly con­fes­ses what it has recei­ved from Christ and the Apost­les, the Roman church dares to add to it, some­ti­mes from zeal not accor­ding to know­led­ge (cf. Rom. 10:2), and some­ti­mes by devi­at­ing into super­sti­tions and into the con­tra­di­ctions of know­led­ge fal­se­ly so cal­led (I Tim. 6:20). It could not be otherwi­se. That the gates of hell shall not pre­vail against the Church (Matt. 16:18) is pro­mi­sed only to the True, Uni­ver­sal Church; but upon tho­se who have fal­len away from it are ful­fil­led the words: As the branch can­not bear fru­it of itself, except it abi­de in the vine; so neit­her can ye, except ye abi­de in Me (John 15:4).

It is true that in the very defi­ni­tion of the new dog­ma it is said that a new tea­ching is not being establis­hed, but that the­re is only being pro­clai­med as the chur­ch’s that which always exi­sted in the church and which has been held by many Holy Fat­hers, excer­pts from who­se wri­tings are cited. Howe­ver, all the cited refe­ren­ces spe­ak only of the exal­ted san­cti­ty of the Vir­gin Mary and of Her imma­cu­la­te­ness, and give Her various names which defi­ne Her puri­ty and spi­ri­tu­al might; but nowhe­re is the­re any word of the imma­cu­la­te­ness of Her con­cep­tion. Meanwhi­le, the­se same Holy Fat­hers in other pla­ces say that only Jesus Christ is com­ple­te­ly pure of eve­ry sin, whi­le all men, being born of Adam, have bor­ne a flesh sub­ject to the law of sin.

None of the anci­ent Holy Fat­hers say that God in mira­culous fas­hion puri­fied the Vir­gin Mary whi­le yet in the womb; and many direct­ly indi­ca­te that the Vir­gin Mary, just as all men, endu­red a batt­le with sin­ful­ness, but was victo­rious over temp­ta­tions and was saved by Her Divi­ne Son.

Com­men­ta­tors of the Lat­in con­fes­sion likewi­se say that the Vir­gin Mary was saved by Christ. But they under­stand this in the sen­se that Mary was pre­ser­ved from the taint of ori­gi­nal sin in view of the futu­re merits of Christ (Bull on the Dog­ma of the Imma­cu­la­te Con­cep­tion). The Vir­gin Mary, accor­ding to their tea­ching, recei­ved in advan­ce, as it were, the gift which Christ brought to men by His suf­fe­rings and death on the Cross. More­over, spe­aking of the torments of the Mot­her of God which She endu­red stan­ding at the Cross of Her Belo­ved Son, and in gene­ral of the sor­rows with which the life of the Mot­her of God was fil­led, they con­si­der them an addi­tion to the suf­fe­rings of Christ and con­si­der Mary to be our CoRe­demptress.

Accor­ding to the com­men­tary of the Lat­in the­o­lo­gi­ans, “Mary is an asso­ci­a­te with our Rede­e­mer as Co-Redemptress” (see Lebe­dev, op. cit. p. 273). “In the act of Redemp­tion, She, in a certain way, hel­ped Christ” (Cate­chism of Dr. Wei­mar). “The Mot­her of God,” wri­tes Dr. Lentz, “bore the bur­den of Her mar­tyr­dom not mere­ly cou­ra­geous­ly, but also joy­ful­ly, even though with a bro­ken heart” (Mari­o­lo­gy of Dr. Lentz). For this rea­son, She is “a com­ple­ment of the Holy Tri­ni­ty,” and “just as Her Son is the only Inter­me­di­ary cho­sen by God betwe­en His offen­ded majesty and sin­ful men, so also, pre­ci­se­ly, ‑the chief Medi­a­tress pla­ced by Him betwe­en His Son and us is the Bles­sed Vir­gin.” “In three respects-as Daugh­ter, as Mot­her, and as Spou­se of God-the Holy Vir­gin is exal­ted to a certain equa­li­ty with the Fat­her, to a certain supe­ri­o­ri­ty over the Son, to a certain near­ness to the Holy Spi­rit” (“The Imma­cu­la­te Con­cep­tion,” Malou, Bis­hop of Brouges).

Thus, accor­ding to the tea­ching of the rep­re­sen­ta­ti­ves of Lat­in the­o­lo­gy, the Vir­gin Mary in the work of Redemp­tion is pla­ced side by side with Christ Him­self and is exal­ted to an equa­li­ty with God. One can­not go fart­her than this. If all this has not been defi­ni­ti­ve­ly for­mu­la­ted as a dog­ma of the Roman church as yet, still the Roman Pope Pius IX, having made the first step in this direction, has shown the direction for the furt­her deve­l­op­ment of the gene­ral­ly recog­nized tea­ching of his church, and has indi­rect­ly con­fir­med the above-cited tea­ching about the Vir­gin Mary.

Thus the Roman church, in its stri­vings to exalt the Most Holy Vir­gin, is going on the path of com­ple­te dei­fi­ca­tion of Her. And if even now its aut­ho­ri­ties call Mary a com­ple­ment of the Holy Tri­ni­ty, one may soon expect that the Vir­gin will be reve­red like God. who are buil­ding a new the­o­lo­gi­cal system having as its foun­da­tion the phi­los­op­hi­cal tea­ching of Sop­hia, Wis­dom, as a spe­ci­al power bin­ding the Divi­ni­ty and the cre­a­tion. Likewi­se deve­l­o­ping the tea­ching of the dig­ni­ty of the Mot­her of God, they wish to see in Her an Essen­ce which is some kind of mid-point betwe­en God and man. In some questions they are more mode­ra­te than the Lat­in the­o­lo­gi­ans, but in others, if you plea­se, they have alre­a­dy left them behind. Whi­le denying the tea­ching of the Imma­cu­la­te Con­cep­tion and the fre­edom from ori­gi­nal sin, they still teach Her full fre­edom from any per­so­nal sins, see­ing in Her an Inter­me­di­ary betwe­en men and God, like Christ: in the per­son of Christ the­re has appea­red on earth the Second Per­son of the Holy Tri­ni­ty, the Pre-eter­nal Word, the Son of God; whi­le the Holy Spi­rit is mani­fest through the Vir­gin Mary.

In the words of one of the rep­re­sen­ta­ti­ves of this ten­den­cy, when the Holy Spi­rit came to dwell in the Vir­gin Mary, she acqui­red “a dya­dic life, human and divi­ne; that is, She was com­ple­te­ly dei­fied, becau­se in Her hypo­sta­tic being was mani­fest the living, cre­a­ti­ve reve­la­tion of the Holy Spi­rit” (Archpri­est Ser­gei Bul­gakov, The Unbur­nt Bush, 1927, p. 154). “She is a per­fect mani­fe­sta­tion of the Third Hypost­a­sis” (Ibid., p. 175), CC a cre­a­tu­re, but also no lon­ger a cre­a­tu­re” (P. 19 1). This stri­ving towards the dei­fi­ca­tion of the Mot­her of God is to be obser­ved pri­ma­rily in the West, whe­re at the same time, on the other hand, various sects of a Pro­te­stant cha­ra­cter are having gre­at suc­cess, toget­her with the chief bran­ches of Pro­te­stan­tism, Lut­he­ra­nism and Cal­vi­nism, which in gene­ral deny the vene­ra­tion of the Mot­her of God and the cal­ling upon Her in prayer.

But we can say with the words of St. Epip­ha­ni­us of Cyprus: “The­re is an equal harm in both the­se her­esies, both when men deme­an the Vir­gin and when, on the con­trary, they glo­ri­fy Her bey­ond what is pro­per” (Pana­rion, “Against the Col­ly­ri­di­ans”). This Holy Fat­her accu­ses tho­se who give Her an almost divi­ne wors­hip: “Let Mary be in honor, but let wors­hip be given to the Lord” (same sour­ce). “Alt­hough Mary is a cho­sen ves­sel, still she was a woman by natu­re, not to be distingu­is­hed at all from others. Alt­hough the history of Mary and Tra­di­tion rela­te that it was said to Her fat­her Joa­chim in the desert, ‘Thy wife hath con­cei­ved,’ still this was done not wit­hout mari­tal uni­on and not wit­hout the seed of man” (same sour­ce). “One should not reve­re the saints above what is pro­per, but should reve­re their Master. Mary is not God, and did not recei­ve a body from hea­ven, but from the joi­ning of man and woman; and accor­ding to the pro­mi­se, like Isaac, She was pre­pa­red to take part in the Divi­ne Eco­no­my. But, on the other hand, let none dare foo­lis­hly to offend the Holy Vir­gin” (St. Epip­ha­ni­us, “Against the Antidikomarionites”).

The Ortho­dox Church, hig­hly exal­ting the Mot­her of God in its hymns of pra­i­se, does not dare to ascri­be to Her that which has not been com­mu­ni­ca­ted about Her by Sacred Scrip­tu­re or Tra­di­tion. “Truth is foreign to all over­sta­te­ments as well as to all under­sta­te­ments. It gives to eve­ryt­hing a fit­ting mea­su­re and fit­ting pla­ce” (Bis­hop Igna­ti­us Bri­an­cha­ni­nov). Glo­ri­fying the imma­cu­la­te­ness of the Vir­gin Mary and the man­ful bea­ring of sor­rows in Her eart­hly life, the Fat­hers of the Church, on the other hand, reject the idea that She was an inter­me­di­ary betwe­en God and men in the sen­se of the joint Redemp­tion by Them of the human race. Spe­aking of Her pre­pa­red­ness to die toget­her with Her Son and to suf­fer toget­her with Him for the sake of the salva­tion of all, the renow­ned Fat­her of the Western Church, Saint Ambro­se, Bis­hop of Milan, adds: “But the suf­fe­rings of Christ did not need any help, as the Lord Him­self prop­he­sied con­cer­ning this long befo­re: I loo­k­ed about, and the­re was none to help; I sought and the­re was none to give aid. there­fo­re My arm deli­ve­red them (Is. 63:5).” (St. Ambro­se, “Con­cer­ning the Upbrin­ging of the Vir­gin and the Ever-Vir­gi­ni­ty of Holy Mary,” ch. 7).

This same Holy Fat­her tea­ches con­cer­ning the uni­ver­sa­li­ty of ori­gi­nal sin, from which Christ alo­ne is an excep­tion. “Of all tho­se born of women, the­re is not a sing­le one who is per­fect­ly holy, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, Who in a spe­ci­al new way of imma­cu­la­te bir­t­h­gi­ving, did not expe­ri­en­ce eart­hly taint” (St. Ambro­se, Com­men­tary on Luke, ch. 2). “God alo­ne is wit­hout sin. All born in the usu­al man­ner of woman and man, that is, of fles­hly uni­on, beco­me guilty of sin. Con­sequent­ly, He Who does not have sin was not con­cei­ved in this man­ner” (St. Ambro­se, Ap. Aug. “Con­cer­ning Mar­ri­a­ge and Con­cupi­s­cen­ce”). “One Man alo­ne, the Inter­me­di­ary betwe­en God and man, is free from the bonds of sin­ful bir­th, becau­se He was born of a Vir­gin, and becau­se in being born He did not expe­ri­en­ce the touch of sin” (St. Ambro­se, ibid., Book 2: “Against Julianus”).

Ano­t­her renow­ned tea­cher of the Church, espe­ci­al­ly reve­red in the West, Bles­sed Augusti­ne, wri­tes: “As for other men, exclu­ding Him Who is the cor­ner­sto­ne, I do not see for them any other means to beco­me temp­les of God and to be dwel­lings for God apart from spi­ri­tu­al rebir­th, which must abso­lu­te­ly be pre­ce­ded by fles­hly bir­th. Thus, no mat­ter how much we might think about chil­dren who are in the womb of the mot­her, and even though the word of the holy Evan­ge­list who says of John the Bap­tist that he lea­ped for joy in the womb of his mot­her (which occur­red not otherwi­se than by the action of the Holy Spi­rit), or the word of the Lord Him­self spo­ken to Jere­mi­ah: I have san­cti­fied thee befo­re thou didst lea­ve the womb of thy mot­her (Jer. 1:5)- no mat­ter how much the­se might or might not give us basis for thin­king that chil­dren in this con­di­tion are capab­le of a certain san­cti­fi­ca­tion, still in any case it can­not be doub­ted that the san­cti­fi­ca­tion by which all of us toget­her and each of us sepa­ra­te­ly beco­me the temp­le of God is pos­sib­le only for tho­se who are reborn, and rebir­th always pre­sup­po­ses bir­th. Only tho­se who have alre­a­dy been born can be uni­ted with Christ and be in uni­on with this Divi­ne Body which makes His Church the living temp­le of the majesty of God” (Bles­sed Augusti­ne, Let­ter 187).

The above-cited words of the anci­ent tea­chers of the Church testi­fy that in the West itself the tea­ching which is now spre­ad the­re was ear­li­er rejected the­re. Even after the fal­ling away of the Western church, Ber­nard, who is ack­now­led­ged the­re as a gre­at aut­ho­ri­ty, wro­te, ” I am frigh­te­ned now, see­ing that certain of you have desi­red to chan­ge the con­di­tion of important mat­ters, intro­ducing a new festi­val unk­nown to the Church, unap­pro­ved by rea­son, unju­sti­fied by anci­ent tra­di­tion. Are we real­ly more lear­ned and more pious than our fat­hers? You will say, ‘One must glo­ri­fy the Mot­her of God as much as Pos­sib­le.’ This is true; but the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion given to the Que­en of Hea­ven demands dis­cer­n­ment. This Roy­al Vir­gin does not have need of fal­se glo­ri­fi­ca­tions, pos­ses­sing as She does true crowns of glory and signs of dig­ni­ty. Glo­ri­fy the puri­ty of Her flesh and the san­cti­ty of Her life. Mar­vel at the abun­dan­ce of the gifts of this Vir­gin; vene­ra­te Her Divi­ne Son; exalt Her Who con­cei­ved wit­hout knowing con­cupi­s­cen­ce and gave bir­th wit­hout knowing pain. But what does one yet need to add to the­se dig­ni­ties? Peop­le say that one must reve­re the con­cep­tion which pre­ce­ded the glo­rious bir­th-giving; for if the con­cep­tion had not pre­ce­ded, the bir­th-giving also would not have been glo­rious. But what would one say if any­o­ne for the same rea­son should demand the same kind of vene­ra­tion of the fat­her and mot­her of Holy Mary? One might equal­ly demand the same for Her grand­pa­rents and gre­at-grand­pa­rents, to infi­ni­ty. More­over, how can the­re not be sin in the pla­ce whe­re the­re was con­cupi­s­cen­ce? All the more, let one not say that the Holy Vir­gin was con­cei­ved of the Holy Spi­rit and not of man. I say deci­si­ve­ly that the Holy Spi­rit des­cen­ded upon Her, but not that He came with Her.”

I say that the Vir­gin Mary could not be san­cti­fied befo­re Her con­cep­tion, inas­much as She did not exist. if, all the more, She could not be san­cti­fied in the moment of Her con­cep­tion by rea­son of the sin which is inse­pa­rab­le from con­cep­tion, then it remains to belie­ve that She was san­cti­fied after She was con­cei­ved in the womb of Her mot­her. This san­cti­fi­ca­tion, if it anni­hi­la­tes sin, makes holy Her bir­th, but not Her con­cep­tion. No one is given the right to be con­cei­ved in san­cti­ty; only the Lord Christ was con­cei­ved of the Holy Spi­rit, and He alo­ne is holy from His very con­cep­tion. Exclu­ding Him, it is to all the des­cen­dants of Adam that must be refer­red that which one of them says of him­self, both out of a fee­ling of humi­li­ty and in ack­now­led­ge­ment of the truth: Behold I was con­cei­ved in iniqui­ties (Ps. 50:7). How can one demand that this con­cep­tion be holy, when it was not the work of the Holy Spi­rit, not to men­tion that it came from con­cupi­s­cen­ce? The Holy Vir­gin, of cour­se, rejects that glory which, evi­dent­ly, glo­ri­fies sin. She can­not in any way justi­fy a novelty inven­ted in spi­te of the tea­ching of the Church, a novelty which is the mot­her of impr­u­den­ce, the sister of unbe­lief, and the daugh­ter of ligh­t­min­de­d­ness” (Ber­nard, Epi­st­le 174; cited, as were the refe­ren­ces from Bles­sed Augusti­ne, from Lebe­dev). The above-cited words clear­ly reve­al both the novelty and the absur­di­ty of the new dog­ma of the Roman church.

The tea­ching of the com­ple­te sin­les­sness of the Mot­her of God (1) does not cor­re­spond to Sacred Scrip­tu­re, whe­re the­re is repe­a­ted­ly men­tio­ned the sin­les­sness of the One Medi­a­tor betwe­en God and man, the man Jesus Christ (I Tim. 2:5); and in Him is no sin U John 3:5); Who did no sin, neit­her was gui­le found in His mouth (I Peter 2:22); One that hath been in all points temp­ted like as we are, yet wit­hout sin (Heb. 4:15); Him Who knew no sin, He made to be sin on our behalf (II Cor. 5:2 1). But con­cer­ning the rest of men it is said, Who is pure of defile­ment? No one who has lived a sing­le day of his life on earth (Job 14:4). God com­men­deth His own love toward us in that, whi­le we were yet sin­ners, Christ died for us If, whi­le we were ene­mies, we were recon­ci­led to God through the death of His Son, much more, being recon­ci­led, shall we be saved by His life (Rom. 5:8–10).


(2) This tea­ching con­tra­di­cts also Sacred Tra­di­tion, which is con­tai­ned in numerous Patri­stic wri­tings, whe­re the­re is men­tio­ned the exal­ted san­cti­ty of the Vir­gin Mary from Her very bir­th, as well as Her cle­an­sing by the Holy Spi­rit at Her con­cep­tion of Christ, but not at Her own con­cep­tion by Anna. “The­re is none wit­hout stain befo­re Thee, even though his life be but a day, save Thee alo­ne, Jesus Christ our God, Who didst appear on earth wit­hout sin, and through Whom we all trust to obtain mer­cy and the remis­sion of sins” (St. Basil the Gre­at, Third Pray­er of Ves­pers of Pen­tecost). “But when Christ came through a pure, vir­gi­nal, unwed­ded, God-fea­ring, unde­fi­led Mot­her wit­hout wed­lo­ck and wit­hout fat­her, and inas­much as it befit­ted Him to be born, He puri­fied the fema­le natu­re, rejected the bit­ter Eve and overt­hrew the laws of the flesh” (St. Gre­gory the The­o­lo­gi­an, “In Pra­i­se of Vir­gi­ni­ty”). Howe­ver, even then, as Sts. Basil the Gre­at and John Chryso­st­om spe­ak of this, She was not pla­ced in the sta­te of being unab­le to sin, but con­ti­nu­ed to take care for Her salva­tion and overca­me all temp­ta­tions (St. John Chryso­st­om, Com­men­tary on John, Homily 85; St. Basil the Gre­at, Epi­st­le 160).

(3) The tea­ching that the Mot­her of God was puri­fied befo­re Her bir­th, so that from Her might be born the Pure Christ, is mea­ning­less; becau­se if the Pure Christ could be born only if the Vir­gin might be born pure, it would be neces­sary that Her parents also should be pure of ori­gi­nal sin, and they again would have to be born of puri­fied parents, and going furt­her in this way, one would have to come to the con­clu­sion that Christ could not have beco­me incar­na­te unless all His ance­stors in the flesh, right up to Adam inclu­si­ve, had been puri­fied before­hand of ori­gi­nal sin. But then the­re would not have been any need for the very Incar­na­tion of Christ, sin­ce Christ came down to earth in order to anni­hi­la­te sin.

(4) The tea­ching that the Mot­her of God was pre­ser­ved from ori­gi­nal sin, as likewi­se the tea­ching that She was pre­ser­ved by God’s gra­ce from per­so­nal sins, makes God unmerci­ful and unjust; becau­se if God could pre­ser­ve Mary from sin and puri­fy Her befo­re Her bir­th, then why does He not puri­fy other men befo­re their bir­th, but rat­her lea­ves them in sin? It fol­lows likewi­se that God saves men apart from their will, pre­de­ter­mi­ning certain ones befo­re their bir­th to salvation.

(5) This tea­ching, which see­m­ing­ly has the aim of exal­ting the Mot­her of God, in rea­li­ty com­ple­te­ly denies all Her vir­tu­es. After all, if Mary, even in the womb of Her mot­her, when She could not even desi­re anyt­hing eit­her good or evil, was pre­ser­ved by God’s gra­ce from eve­ry impuri­ty, and then by that gra­ce was pre­ser­ved from sin even after Her bir­th, then in what does Her merit con­sist? If She could have been pla­ced in the sta­te of being unab­le to sin, and did not sin, then for what did God glo­ri­fy Her? if She, wit­hout any effort, and wit­hout having any kind of impul­ses to sin, remai­ned pure, then why is She crow­ned more than eve­ry­o­ne else? The­re is no victory wit­hout an adversary.

The righ­teo­us­ness and san­cti­ty of the Vir­gin Mary were mani­fe­sted in the fact that She, being “human with pas­sions like us,” so loved God and gave Her­self over to Him, that by Her puri­ty She was exal­ted high above the rest of the human race. For this, having been forek­nown and fore­cho­sen, She was vou­chs­a­fed to be puri­fied by the Holy Spi­rit Who came upon Her, and to con­cei­ve of Him the very Saviour of the wor­ld. The tea­ching of the gra­ce-given sin­les­sness of the Vir­gin Mary denies Her victory over temp­ta­tions; from a victor who is wort­hy to be crow­ned with crowns of glory, this makes Her a blind instru­ment of God’s Provi­den­ce.

It is not an exal­ta­tion and gre­a­ter glory, but a belitt­le­ment of Her, this “gift” which was given Her by Pope Pius IX and all the rest who think they can glo­ri­fy the Mot­her of God by seeking out new trut­hs. The Most Holy Mary has been so much glo­ri­fied by God Him­self, so exal­ted is Her life on earth and Her glory in hea­ven, that human inven­tions can­not add anyt­hing to Her honor and glory. That which peop­le them­sel­ves invent only obscu­res Her Face from their eyes. Bret­hren, take heed lest the­re shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through phi­los­op­hy and vain deceit, after the tra­di­tion of men, after the rudi­ments of the wor­ld, and not after Christ, wro­te the Apost­le Paul by the Holy Spi­rit (Col. 2:8).

Such a “vain deceit” is the tea­ching of the Imma­cu­la­te Con­cep­tion by Anna of the Vir­gin Mary, which at first sight exalts, but in actu­al fact belitt­les Her. Like eve­ry lie, it is a seed of the “fat­her of lies” (John 8:44), the devil, who has suc­ce­e­ded by it in

bla­sp­he­me the Vir­gin Mary. Toget­her with it the­re should also be rejected all the other tea­chin­gs which have come from it or are akin to it. The stri­ving to exalt the Most Holy Vir­gin to an equa­li­ty with Christ ascri­bing to Her mater­nal tor­tu­res at the Cross an equal sig­ni­fi­can­ce with the suf­fe­rings of Christ, so that the Rede­e­mer and “Co-Redemptress” suf­fe­red equal­ly, accor­ding to the tea­ching of the Papists, or that “the human natu­re of the Mot­her of God in hea­ven toget­her with the God-Man Jesus joint­ly reve­al the full ima­ge of man” (Archpri­est S. Bul­gakov, The Unbur­nt Bush, p. 141)-is likewi­se a vain deceit and a seduction of phi­los­op­hy. In Christ Jesus the­re is neit­her male nor fema­le (Gal. 3:28), and Christ has rede­e­med the who­le human race; there­fo­re at His Resur­rection equal­ly did “Adam dan­ce for joy and Eve rejoi­ce” (Sun­day Kon­takia of the First and Third Tones), and by His Ascen­sion did the Lord rai­se up the who­le of human natu­re.

Likewi­se, that the Mot­her of God is a “com­ple­ment of the Holy Tri­ni­ty” or a “fourth Hypost­a­sis”; that “the Son and the Mot­her are a reve­la­tion of the Fat­her through the Second and Third Hypost­a­ses”; that the Vir­gin Mary is “a cre­a­tu­re, but also no lon­ger a creature”-all this is the fru­it of vain, fal­se wis­dom which is not satis­fied with what the Church has held from the time of the Apost­les, but stri­ves to glo­ri­fy the Holy Vir­gin more than God has glo­ri­fied Her.

Thus are the words of St. Epip­ha­ni­us of Cyprus ful­fil­led: “Certain sen­se­less ones in their opi­ni­on about the Holy Ever­Vir­gin have stri­ven and are stri­ving to put Her in pla­ce of God” (St. Epip­ha­ni­us, “Against the Anti­di­ko­ma­rio­ni­tes”). But that which is offe­red to the Vir­gin in sen­se­les­sness, inste­ad of pra­i­se of Her, turns out to be bla­sp­he­my; and the All-Imma­cu­la­te One rejects the lie, being the Mot­her of Truth (John 14:6).

The Orthodox Veneration of The Mother of God

THE ORTHODOX CHURCH tea­ches about the Mot­her of God that which Sacred Tra­di­tion and Sacred Scrip­tu­re have infor­med con­cer­ning Her, and daily it glo­ri­fies Her in its temp­les, asking Her help and defen­se. Knowing that She is plea­sed only by tho­se pra­i­ses which cor­re­spond to Her actu­al glory, the Holy Fat­hers and hymn-wri­ters have entre­a­ted Her and Her Son to teach them how to hymn Her. “Set a rampart about my mind, 0 my Christ, for I make bold to sing the pra­i­se of Thy pure Mot­her” (Ikos of the Dor­mi­tion). “The Church tea­ches that Christ was tru­ly born of Mary the Ever-Vir­gin” (St. Epip­ha­ni­us, “True Word Con­cer­ning the Faith”). “It is essen­ti­al for us to con­fess that the Holy Ever-Vir­gin Mary is actu­al­ly Theo­tokos (Bir­th-giver of God), so as not to fall into bla­sp­he­my. For tho­se who deny that the Holy Vir­gin is actu­al­ly Theo­tokos are no lon­ger belie­vers, but discip­les of the Pha­ri­se­es and Sad­du­ce­es” (St. Ephraim the Syrian,“To John the Monk”).

From Tra­di­tion it is known that Mary was the daugh­ter of the aged Joa­chim and Anna, and that Joa­chim des­cen­ded from the roy­al line of David, and Anna from the pri­est­ly line. Notwit­h­stan­ding such a nob­le ori­gin, they were poor. Howe­ver, it was not this that sad­de­ned the­se righ­teo­us ones, but rat­her the fact that they did not have chil­dren and could not hope that their des­cen­dants would see the Mes­si­ah. And behold, when once, being dis­dai­ned by the Hebrews for their bar­ren­ness, they both in gri­ef of soul were offe­ring up pray­ers to God­Jo­a­chim on a moun­tain to which he had reti­red after the pri­est did not want to offer his sacri­fi­ce in the Temp­le, and Anna in her own gar­den weepi­ng over her bar­ren­ness-the­re appea­red to them an angel who infor­med them that they would bring forth a daugh­ter. Overjoy­ed, they pro­mi­sed to con­secra­te their child to God.

In nine mont­hs a daugh­ter was born to them, cal­led Mary, Who from Her ear­ly child­hood mani­fe­sted the best qua­li­ties of soul. When She was three years old, her parents, ful­fil­ling their pro­mi­se, solemn­ly led the litt­le Mary to the Temp­le of Jeru­sa­lem; She Her­self ascen­ded the high steps and, by reve­la­tion from God, She was led into the very Holy of Holies, by the High Pri­est who met Her, taking with Her the gra­ce of God which rested upon Her into the Temp­le which until then had been wit­hout gra­ce. (See the Kon­takion of the Entry into the Temp­le. This was the newly-built Temp­le into which the glory of God had not des­cen­ded as it had upon the Ark or upon the Temp­le of Solo­mon.) She was sett­led in the quar­ters for vir­gins which exi­sted in the Temp­le, but She spent so much time in pray­er in the Holy of Holies that one might say that She lived in it. (Ser­vi­ce to the Entry, second sti­cheron on Lord, I have cri­ed, and the “Glory, Both Now…”) Being ador­ned with all vir­tu­es, She mani­fe­sted an examp­le of extra­or­di­na­rily pure life. Being sub­mis­si­ve and obe­di­ent to all, She offen­ded no one, said no cru­de word to any­o­ne, was fri­end­ly to all, and did not allow any uncle­an thought. (Abrid­ged from St. Ambro­se of Milan, “Con­cer­ning the Ever-Vir­gi­ni­ty of the Vir­gin Mary.”)

Despi­te the righ­teo­us­ness and the imma­cu­la­te­ness of the life which the Mot­her of God led, mani­fe­sted their pre­sen­ce in Her. They could not but be mani­fe­sted: Such is the pre­ci­se and fait­h­ful tea­ching of the Ortho­dox Church con­cer­ning the Mot­her of God with rela­tion to ori­gi­nal sin and death.” (Bis­hop Igna­ti­us Bri­an­cha­ni­nov, “Expo­si­tion of the Tea­ching of the Ortho­dox Church on the Mot­her of God.”) “A stran­ger to any fall into sin” (St. Ambro­se of Milan, Com­men­tary on the I I 8th Psalm), “She was not a stran­ger to sin­ful temp­ta­tions.” “God alo­ne is wit­hout sin” (St. Ambro­se, same sour­ce), “whi­le man will always have in him­self somet­hing yet nee­ding cor­rection and per­fection in order to ful­fill the com­mand­ment of God; Be ye holy as I the Lord your God am Holy (Levi­ti­cus 19:2). The more pure and per­fect one is, the more he noti­ces his imper­fections and con­si­ders him­self all the more unworthy.

The Vir­gin Mary, having given Her­self enti­re­ly up to God, even though She repul­sed from Her­self eve­ry impul­se to sin, still felt the weak­ness of human natu­re more power­ful­ly than others and ardent­ly desi­red the com­ing of the Saviour. In Her humi­li­ty She con­si­de­red Her­self unwort­hy to be even the ser­vant-girl of the Vir­gin Who was to give Him bir­th. So that not­hing might distra­ct Her from pray­er and heed­ful­ness to Her­self, Mary gave to God a vow not to beco­me mar­ri­ed, in order to plea­se only Him Her who­le life long. Being betro­t­hed to the elder­ly Joseph when Her age no lon­ger, allowed Her to remain in the Temp­le, She sett­led in his hou­se in Naza­reth. Here the Vir­gin was vou­chs­a­fed the com­ing of the Archan­gel Gabri­el, who brought Her the good tidings of the bir­th, from Her of the Son of the Most High. Hail, Thou that art full of gra­ce, the Lord is with Thee. Bles­sed art thou among women … The Holy Spi­rit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overs­ha­dow thee. where­fo­re also that which is to be born shall be holy, and shall be cal­led the Son of God (Luke 1:28–35).Mary recei­ved the ange­lic good tidings hum­bly and sub­mis­si­ve­ly. “Then the Word, in a way known to Him­self, des­cen­ded and, as He Him­self wil­led, came and ente­red into Mary and abo­de in Her” (St. Ephraim the Syri­an, “Pra­i­se of the Mot­her of God”). “As ligh­t­ning illu­mi­na­tes what is hid­den, so also Christ puri­fies what is hid­den in the natu­re of thin­gs. He puri­fied the Vir­gin also and then was born, so as to show that whe­re Christ is, the­re is mani­fest puri­ty in all its power. He puri­fied the Vir­gin, having pre­pa­red Her by the Holy Spi­rit, and then the womb, having beco­me pure, con­cei­ved Him. He puri­fied the Vir­gin whi­le She was invi­o­la­te; where­fo­re, having been born, He left Her vir­gin. I do not say that Mary beca­me immor­tal, but that being illu­mi­na­ted by gra­ce, She was not dis­tur­bed by sin­ful desi­res” (St. Ephraim the Syri­an, Homily Against Her­e­ti­cs, 41). “The Light abo­de in Her, cle­an­sed Her mind, made Her thoughts pure, made cha­ste Her con­cerns, san­cti­fied Her vir­gi­ni­ty” (St. Ephraim the Syri­an, “Mary and Eve”). “One who was pure accor­ding to human under­stan­ding, He made pure by gra­ce” (Bis­hop Igna­ti­us Bri­an­cha­ni­nov, “Expo­si­tion of the Tea­ching of the Ortho­dox Church on the Mot­her of God”).

Mary told no one of the appea­ran­ce of the angel, but the angel him­self reve­a­led to Joseph con­cer­ning Mary’s mira­culous con­cep­tion from the Holy Spi­rit (Matt. 1: 18–25); and after the Nati­vi­ty of Christ, with a mul­ti­tu­de of the hea­ven­ly host, he anno­un­ced it to the shep­herds. The shep­herds, com­ing to wors­hip the new-born one, said that they had heard of Him. Having pre­vious­ly endu­red suspi­cion in silen­ce, Mary now also liste­ned in silen­ce and kept in Her heart the sayings con­cer­ning the gre­at­ness of Her Son (Luke 2:8–19). She heard for­ty days later Symeon’s pray­er of pra­i­se and the prop­he­cy con­cer­ning the wea­pon which would pier­ce Her soul. Later She saw how Jesus advan­ced in wis­dom; She heard Him at the age of twel­ve tea­ching in the Temp­le, and eve­ryt­hing She kept in Her heart (Luke 2:21–5 1). Even though full of gra­ce, She did not yet ful­ly under­stand in what the ser­vi­ce and the gre­at­ness of Her Son would con­sist The Hebrew con­cep­tions of the Mes­si­ah were still clo­se to Her, and natu­ral fee­lings for­ced Her to be con­cer­ned for Him, pre­ser­ving Him from labors and dan­gers which it might seem, were exces­si­ve. There­fo­re She favored Her Son invo­lun­ta­rily at first, which evo­ked His indi­ca­tion of the supe­ri­o­ri­ty of spi­ri­tu­al to bodi­ly kins­hip (Matt. 12:46–49). “He had con­cern also over the honor of His Mot­her, but much more over the salva­tion of Her soul and the good of men, for which He had beco­me clo­t­hed in the flesh” (St. John Chryso­st­om, Com­men­tary on John, Homily 2 1). Mary under­stood this and heard the word of God and kept it (Luke 11:27, 28). As no other per­son) She had the same fee­lings as Christ (Phil. 2:5), unmur­muring­ly bea­ring the gri­ef of a mot­her when She saw Her Son per­secu­ted and suf­fe­ring. Rejoi­cing in the day of the Resur­rection, on the day of Pen­tecost She was clo­t­hed with power from on high (Luke 24:49). The Holy Spi­rit Who des­cen­ded upon Her taught (Her) all thin­gs (John 14:26), and instructed (Her) in all truth (John 16:13). Being enligh­te­ned, She began to labor all the more zea­lous­ly to per­form what She had heard from Her Son and Rede­e­mer, so as to ascend to Him and to be with Him.

The end of the eart­hly life of the Most Holy Mot­her of God was the begin­ning of Her gre­at­ness. “Being ador­ned with Divi­ne glory” (Irmos of the Canon of the Dor­mi­tion), She stands and will stand, both in the day of the Last Jud­g­ment and in the futu­re age, at the right hand of the thro­ne of Her Son. She reigns with Him and has bold­ness towards Him as His Mot­her accor­ding to the flesh, and as one in spi­rit with Him, as one who per­for­med the will of God and instructed others (Matt. 5:19). Merci­ful and full of love, She mani­fests Her love towards Her Son and God in love for the human race. She inter­ce­des for it befo­re the Merci­ful One, and going about the earth, She helps men. Having expe­ri­en­ced all the dif­fi­cul­ties of eart­hly life, the Inter­ces­sor of the Chri­sti­an race sees eve­ry tear, hears eve­ry gro­an and entre­aty directed to Her. Espe­ci­al­ly near to Her are tho­se who labor in the batt­le with the pas­sions and are zea­lous for a God-plea­sing life. But even in wor­ld­ly cares She is an irre­pla­ceab­le hel­per. “Joy of all who sor­row and inter­ces­sor for the offen­ded, fee­der of the hungry, con­so­la­tion of tra­vel­lers, har­bor of the storm-tos­sed, visi­ta­tion of the sick, pro­tection and inter­ces­sor for the infirm, staff of old age, Thou art the Mot­her of God on high, O Most Pure One” (Sti­cheron of the Ser­vi­ce to the Hodi­gi­tria). “The hope and inter­ces­sion and refu­ge of Chri­sti­ans,” “The Mot­her of God uncea­sing in pray­ers” (Kon­takion of Dor­mi­tion), “saving the wor­ld by Thine uncea­sing pray­er” (Theo­tokion of the Third Tone). “She day and night doth pray for us, and the scep­ters of king­doms are con­fir­med by Her pray­ers” (daily Nocturne).

The­re is no intel­lect or words to express the gre­at­ness of Her Who was born in the sin­ful human race but beca­me “more honorab­le than the Cheru­bim and bey­ond com­pa­re more glo­rious than the Serap­him.” “See­ing the gra­ce of the secret myste­ri­es of God made mani­fest and clear­ly ful­fil­led in the Vir­gin, I rejoi­ce; and I know not how to under­stand the stran­ge and secret man­ner whe­re­by the Unde­fi­led has been reve­a­led as alo­ne cho­sen above all cre­a­tion, visib­le and spi­ri­tu­al. There­fo­re, wis­hing to pra­i­se Her, I am struck dumb with ama­ze­ment in both mind and spe­ech. Yet still I dare to pro­claim and mag­ni­fy Her: She is inde­ed the hea­ven­ly Taber­na­c­le” (Ikos of the Entry into the Temp­le). “Eve­ry tongue is at a loss to pra­i­se Thee as is due; even a spi­rit from the wor­ld above is fil­led with dizzi­ness, when it seeks to sing Thy pra­i­ses, 0 Theo­tokos. But sin­ce Thou art good, accept our faith. Thou knowest well our love inspi­red by God, for Thou art the Pro­tector of Chri­sti­ans, and we mag­ni­fy Thee” (Irmos of the 9th Can­ti­c­le, Ser­vi­ce of the Theophany).