August 14, 2023

The Mother of God in the Orthodox Church (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The Panagia has a prominent position both in the theology of the Church and in her adoration. It should not be ignored that an Ecumenical Synod, specifically the Third Ecumenical Synod, which was convened in Ephesus in 431 AD dealt with her position in the Church in relation to the theology of Christ and not independently of Him. Thus, there is an amazing theology about her person.

The basic belief of the Church is that God is Triune, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are Three Persons uncreated. The Son and Word of God, "one of the Trinity" became human, i.e. took on human nature and became God-man. This means that He united in His being the divine and the human nature, i.e. the uncreated and the created. Precisely this assumption of the human nature in His Person happened by the Panagia, which is why she is considered "the boundary between the uncreated and the created nature."

The Most Holy Theotokos with the conception and birth of Christ gained special honor and glory in the Church, precisely because she is the Mother of Christ, to Whom she gave human nature. This means that she did not ascend to the position of "Goddess", nor did she become a "Co-Redemptrix", nor is she included in the Holy Trinity as constituting the "Quartet" to God. She is the Mother of Christ, who was honored by Christ Himself and is honored by the entire Orthodox Church, precisely because He took on human nature from her.

Also, the Most Holy Theotokos did not claim any pastoral ministry in the Church, nor does she have the High Priesthood of Christ, which Christ gave to the Apostles and they to their successors, rather she remained humble in the Church enjoying, moreover, great honor as the Mother of Christ, having surpassed all human things, since in her "nature and time are both renewed."

Characteristic is the great honor enjoyed by the Most Holy Theotokos on the Holy Mountain, which is considered "the garden of the Panagia." The Holy Mountain, while it is forbidden (avaton) for women, it is not, however, because of the underestimation of women, but because of their own stricter asceticism and their struggle to overcome the transitory elements of the sexes, nevertheless the Panagia is very much honored there, having a great place in the life and adoration of the monks. This is because she transcended all things human, without becoming God by nature. She is "the god after God, holding the second position to the Trinity."

Let us mention the case of an hagiorite monk, Saint Silouan the Athonite, who writes about the Panagia: "Her love was perfect. She loved God and her Son infinitely, but she also loved the people with great love." "And this Immaculate Mother the Lord gave to us. She is our joy and our hope. She is our spiritual Mother, and she is close to us by nature as a human being, and every Christian soul is drawn to her with love."

Consequently, the Most Holy Theotokos shows the height of Orthodox anthropology, how man becomes a god according to Grace, transcending the five divisions, according to Saint Maximus the Confessor, i.e. the divisions - from bottom to top - between male and female, paradise and the world, heaven and earth, invisible and visible, uncreated and created. This means that from the existing divisions we can reach their transcendence with the uncreated Grace of God.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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