Posts Tagged ‘Theotokos’

The Lord’s Mercy and the Virgin Mary’s Salvation

March 5, 2009

I really like this guy’s videos  (he’s the same creator of the breathtakingly beautiful Arabic  Christmas video  I posted in December).   Brother in Christ, Kalamation, if you’re out there, I’d love to hear from you. 

Below is a common prayer of intercession used by Orthodox, Melkite and Byzantine Catholics during Evening Prayers and at other times.   Kalamation’s video uses a simpler text than I’m familiar with from the  Jordanville prayerbook  version  by Holy Trinity Monastery, but who cares when it’s in Arabic chant.  I’m really partial to Russian style singing, but for prayerful contemplation nothing beats Arabic chant.   The Jordanville translation reads

O Lord, have mercy on us, for we have hoped in Thee.   Be not angry with us greatly, neither remember our iniquities, but look upon us now as thou art compassionate, and deliver us from our enemies. For Thou art our God, and we Thy people, all are  the work of Thy hands, and we call upon Thy name, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

The door of compassion open unto us, O blessed Theotokos, for hoping in thee, let us not perish; through thee may we be delivered from adversities, for thou art the salvation of the Christian race.

The salvation of the Christian race.   That expression always sends up red flags and protestations from non-Orthodox (or as the case may be, non-Roman Catholic, Melkite, Byzantine Catholic, etc…).  I’ve been saying this beautiful prayer for years, and I’ll admit that as a former Lutheran I still have trouble with it sometimes.   The Akathist to the Theotokos also commonly uses the refrain “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!”  Former Protestants understand the Pavlovian response to anything that sounds like it takes away from the saving work of Christ.    It only reminds me that the process of acquiring an Orthodox mindset and letting go of incomplete beliefs is a lifelong struggle.  I do not have any doubts about my Orthodox faith, only doubts about my ability to accept the truths of the Church as they have been undersood since the beginning.

But for all the times I’ve hesitated at the boldness of these words, let me make it perfectly clear that Orthodox Christians do not believe the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, is our redeemer, co-redemptrix, or source of salvation – rather, she is the source of the Saviour.  The words “save us” or “thou art the salvation” refer to her prayers of intercession as one who is closest to the True Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.  By accepting the role of Mother of God, she made possible our salvation through the conception and birth of Christ, and she continues to assist in our ongoing salvation through her prayers to her Son. 

November 15 Nativity Fast

November 15, 2008


Today starts the Nativity Fast or the St. Philip’s Fast as it is less commonly known (coming the day after the celebration of the feast of St. Philip the Apostle).  We now begin 40 days of fasting and increased prayer, but also joyful watching and waiting so that at the end we can sing

Make glad, O ye righteous! Greatly rejoice, O ye heavens! Ye mountains, dance for joy!  Christ is born; and like the cherubim the Virgin makes a throne, carrying at her bosom God the Word made flesh.  Shepherds, glorify the newborn Child! Magi, offer the Master gifts!  Angels, sing praises, saying: ‘O Lord past understanding, glory to Thee!’
            (First sticheron of the Praises, Nativity Matins)

Before we can rejoice in the culmination of this fast, we must remember how it started –  with the Annunciation.   The Archangel Gabriel’s pronouncement to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-35) was a message not intended just for a young Gallilean girl 2,000 years ago, but was to become the most meaningful news for the whole of humanity.

Luke 1:26-35

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

The Theotokos spent the next nine months preparing for the birth of her son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I don’t know if she fasted, but prayer must have always been with her.  (As an aside, our modern fasting practices exclude pregnant women and nursing mothers, but this is the Theotokos we’re talking about, who had been miraculously fed during her young life in the Temple.)   The purpose of prayer is to enter into greater communion with God and to live according to his will.  It is amazing to think that a young woman who showed the greatest faith and reliance on the will of God, was now the bearer of God.  She achieved the most perfect communion with God by literally being the Mother and bearer of God.

I wish everyone a blessed journey through the Nativity Fast and I ask forgiveness of anyone I have offended by my words.