August 21, 2023

The Glory and Honor of our Mother the Panagia (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

After Christ, the Panagia has great honor and glory, because, as our holy Fathers say, the Panagia is the border between the uncreated and the created nature, that is, she is the border between God who is uncreated and all creation which is created. The Panagia is the most beautiful gift that God gave to man, but also the best fruit of creation, given by creation to God.

We see this glory of our Panagia in all the troparia we chant these days in the Church, but especially today, the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. But of course, we see the glory and honor of our Panagia every time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated. Because immediately after the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, we remember all the Saints, for whom we offer the sacrifice and finally the liturgist says aloud: "Especially for our Panagia, the immaculate, most blessed, and glorious Lady the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary." That is to say, if we offer the Divine Liturgy to honor the Saints, we do so "especially" for our Panagia, who is immaculate, most blessed, glorious, the Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. And immediately after, the chanter chants "Axion estin", which refers to the Panagia, or some other Theometoric hymn, as today we chant "All generations bless the only Theotokos."

All Saints have glory and honor, but the glory and honor of the Panagia surpasses all the Saints - Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Venerables, Confessors. And this is because the Panagia is the person who gave human nature to Christ. Christ was conceived in the womb of the Theotokos, fed with her own milk, received her own caresses and kisses, was taught to walk and received her own cares while He was in his infancy. Christ was true God, but at the same time a true and perfect man and so His body developed just like ours, but without sin.

In the Divine Liturgy we see the majesty of our Panagia. Saint Cyril of Alexandria says that Christ in the Divine Liturgy is the Bridegroom and Master of Ceremonies. He is the One who marries humanity and the One who is the master of the ceremony, but yet the Panagia is the one who prepared the food and is the restaurateur and the feeder of the guests. In other words, we partake in the Divine Liturgy of the Body and Blood of Christ, but this Body was given by the Panagia to Christ and Christ deified it. It is precisely for this reason that Saint Symeon the New Theologian says that he who partakes of the Body of Christ also partakes of the flesh of our Panagia.

Then, according to one interpretation, the antidron, which we receive after the end of the Divine Liturgy, is a blessing of our Panagia, because the antidron comes from the offering (prosphoron), from which came the bread that became the Body of Christ. That is, just as Christ was born and came from the Panagia, so the bread that became the Body of Christ came from the prosphoron, which symbolizes our Panagia. And we, when we receive it, partake of her gifts and blessings.

In our Church, my beloved brethren, we have a Father, the heavenly Father, we have a brother and friend, Christ, as He Himself called us His brethren and friends, we have a spiritual mother who is the Panagia, and we have siblings who are like us, and these are the Saints. The Church is a spiritual family and of course an important place in this family is occupied by the Panagia, who shows us love, affection and kindness. And when we sin, she comforts us, strengthens us, exhorts us with kindness and love to repent. Whatever place our biological mother has in our lives, our spiritual mother also has such a place in the Church. Who among us has not tasted of her Motherly love? Who has not felt her spiritual caress and tender love? Who has not accepted her sweet words, her virginal sensitivity and motherly grace? That is why we, especially on this day, run to the Temples, especially to Temples that are honored in her name. We are attracted like a magnet by her love, her affection and her prayer.

And today we feel the need to chant: "O Theotokos, you always save your inheritance." Our Panagia, we are your inheritance, therefore we ask you to save us with your love and your Theometoric affection.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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