August 1, 2023

The Six Characteristics of the Panagia as a Model for our Lives (Metr. Nicholas of Mesogaia)

 By Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki

How great the person of the Panagia is! She shows us the way and gives us the manner of deification, that is, how each person can reach the state of assimilation with God and communion with Him. The Panagia is both a model of life and a source of strength who covers us with her intercessions in this journey. But how does such a thing happen?

There are six characteristics that refer to the person of the Panagia.

The first is her Humility. It is clearly seen in the Gospel, in her response to the Archangel Gabriel: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to your word" (Luke 1:38), that is, her immediate surrender and submission to the inconceivable and incomprehensible will of God, is full of humility and without a trace of self-will.

The second peculiarity of the Theotokos is her Virginal Purity, not only in her body, but more generally in her life. We call her Virgin, Spotless, Undefiled, Immaculate, Unstained, Pure, Blameless, and so on. Saint Gregory Palamas, in his discourse on the Entry of the Theotokos, describes this purity of the Mother of God and among other things says that she was not even contaminated by worldly knowledge. That's why she didn't go to school, but was educated about spiritual things in the temple. She studied heavenly science and wisdom at the university of the sanctuary. She was not defiled by the conversations, by the inversion, by the thickness of worldly communication, but lived in utter silence, utter obscurity.

And this brings us to the third element of the Theotokos: her Obscurity and Silence. It is known that in the Gospels the person of the Theotokos hardly appears at all. In fact, in Mark's Gospel there is not a single hint of her existence and life, while in Matthew's and Luke's, which has the most evidence, completely sparing references are made, mainly about the event of the Lord's birth. According to John, only her conversation with the Lord at the time of the miracle of Cana is mentioned, as well as the dialogue of the Lord with John and the Panagia from the cross: "Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” (Jn. 26:27). Finally, there is a reference to the "Mother of Jesus" again by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:14), while the apostle Paul does not mention a single word about her.

So invisibly did the person of the Theotokos pass by, while being a most powerful catalyst of the divine economy in the life of humanity. She didn't say many words, nor did she create tensions, nor did she want to give evidence about the Lord's divinity after His crucifixion and resurrection. She lived quite gently, as her biographers tell us in her synaxarion, for a few more years. Her completely quiet life is followed by the earthquake of her dormition, her miraculous departure from this world, with the gathering of the apostles "in a whirlwind of divine origin."

So the third peculiarity of the life of the Mother of God and the characteristic of the person who wants to walk the path to union with God, is obscurity and secret silence.

There are three more that I will simply mention, borrowing them from characteristic names that the Church has given her. One is Theotokos, the second is Unmarried and the third is Ever-virgin.

One peculiarity therefore is Theotokos, the birthgiver of God, who gave birth to Christ. This is what every believer is called to do in their life, to secretly give birth to Christ, to be an "epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men" (2 Cor. 3:2).

The second peculiarity is Unmarried, which means that she had no experience of marriage, she had no conjugal connection to bring Christ to life. In a similar way, every believer, who wants to live the life of their sanctification and to pass into the state of deification, must become according to human measure, as the Fathers say, "inexperienced" of nature, that is, to be free, to participate in as little as possible in physical urges, physical states and even sensations. The inexperience of nature, the freedom from natural thickness, leads to the experience of grace.

And the last element, Ever-Virgin, is the permanence of grace. The Panagia was not only a virgin until birth, but she also remained a "virgin after giving birth", as the troparia say. She always remained a virgin, that is to say, she was ever-virgin. This permanence of the state of grace is the last element, which could be a prototype of our own path to theosis.

If this is how we too live with the example of the Mother of God, in terms of her humility, her virginal purity, her obscurity, her secret silence, but also if we can share in the mystery and state of giving birth to God within us, of being as far as possible inexperienced of nature, i.e. unaffected by enslavement to it, and being ever-virgin, i.e. always a partaker of grace, we too will be found worthy in this world to secretly experience our union with God, to pass into the state of communion with God, that is, of deification.

And when one day our own death will come, then it will not be an end, but a sleep, a repose and a transition from the thick to the thin, from the temporal to the eternal, from the human to the divine, from the perishable to the imperishable.

May God grant this to all, in the spirit that there may be substantial fruition in our Supplications, and may our Panagia deliver us from needs, sorrows, pains, daily difficulties, but above all, may she be for everyone the secret model of another life in grace and in spirit. Amen!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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