August 22, 2023

The Most Holy Theotokos and Orthodox Tradition (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The honor and glory of the Most Holy Theotokos can be seen diffused within Orthodox Tradition, that is, in the dogmatic teaching of the Church, but also in its hymnography. The Panagia is always hymned as the Mother of the Son and Word of God.

In the Symbol of Faith her contribution to the incarnation of the Son and Word of God is recognized. We confess: "Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnated by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man." That is, Christ took on flesh for our salvation by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.

This speaks of the virginity of the Panagia. But even before the First Ecumenical Synod, where the first articles of the Symbol of Faith were drawn up, the Church paid special respect to the Mother of Christ. From the 2nd century she was called "Virgin", "Virgin Mary", "Mother of the living", "Mother of the faithful", "Blessed Virgin", "Spotless Church", "Holy Theotokos", "Theotokos Virgin Mary", etc.

Especially from the Third Ecumenical Synod, in which the Orthodox theology was developed for the Most Holy Theotokos, and after this Synod, all the greatness of our Panagia was presented, who gave her flesh to God and conceived with the Holy Spirit the Son and Word of God and is the Holy Theotokos and the Ever-Virgin Mary.

This is how the Theometoric feasts developed especially from her conception to her glorious dormition together with the ascent of her body to the heavens. It is a triumphant event, a matter of joy and cheerfulness for the entire Church. The Theotokos Mary is "greater than the holy of holies", she is "higher than the heavens", she is "god after God, holding the second position to the Trinity."

Saint Symeon the New Theologian writes that God, in order to create the foremother Eve, took the animated side from Adam which He rebuilt into a woman, and therefore He did not breathe life into her, as He did to Adam. In the same way, He received from the holy Theotokos "animated flesh" and the fashioner and creator God united it with His own incomprehensible and inaccessible essence and built it into His own holy Temple. Thus, the fashioner of Adam became a man without alteration or change. And just as Adam was created from the earth without human sperm, so also Christ assumed a body from His daughter, Mary the ever-virgin and Theotokos and accepted it from her "without seed".

In another of his homilies, Saint Symeon the New Theologian writes that God the Word took flesh from the pure Theotokos, and instead gave her not flesh "but an essentially holy spirit". And just as from the side of Adam came the woman and all mortal people from her, so also "the man Christ God" was made from this woman, the Most Holy Theotokos, and from her all become immortal.

There is no Saint and Father of the Church who does not honor the Most Holy Theotokos and does not hymn her contribution to the history of the salvation of the human race.

This glory of the Theotokos is also seen in her Dormition, which is and is called glorious. Today we celebrate the death of the Panagia and we call it the Dormition, and indeed the glorious Dormition. We connect the Dormition of the Theotokos with her metastasis to the heavens, and her eternal presence in the Church and humanity.

And this, among other things, shows that Christ, with His victory over death, became the medicine of immortality for all those connected with Him. What happened with the Panagia, by analogy, can also happen to us, when we connect with Christ and receive His Body and Blood as a "medicine of immortality".

The way in which the Panagia conceived Christ shows, analogously, the way in which we also spiritually conceive Christ in our hearts. And the way in which the Most Holy Theotokos was glorified, even during her Dormition, shows proportionally the way those who are connected to the God-man Christ will be glorified.

All these are not theoretical truths, but living realities. Celebrating the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos and her ascent into heaven, we too receive courage, strength, hope, faith that Christ is the true life and those who are connected to Him are not afraid of sickness and death.

I wish you all many years and may the Panagia be a helper and protector in our lives.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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