God, Who is Love, as Saint John the Theologian writes, created all things out of that love. He created the heavens, the stars, the planets, including this Earth, and all life existing therein. Today with our expanded scientific achievements we behold much more of His creation than ever before with the use of increasingly powerful telescopes and reflectors. We witness billions of galaxies that appear to be expanding. Our imaginations, moreover, run wild in projecting the possibility and the probability of the existence of other intellectual creatures, humanoids, if you will, in other places of the heavens. We see the portrayal of our fantasies as the movie industry depicts various life forms in other galaxies and the representation of warring creatures battling between the forces of good and evil among the stars.
Our concern, however, is with this planet and the destiny of humankind relative to the Word of God, the Holy Bible. On the basis of our faith, as well as recorded history, we are concerned with God's entrance into the world, as we call the Earth, and the unique role that the Ever-Virgin Mary accepted regarding our salvation.
In pursuing this subject, we must rely heavily on Holy Scripture, for it is there, primarily, where we find the story of creation and mankind's destiny unfolding. The story begins with the first book of the Bible, Genesis. The first five books of the Old Testament, as we know, are attributed to Moses. In Genesis we read of the crown of God's creation, man (anthropos). Male and female God created them. In man's creation we read that God breathed into his nostrils and man became a living soul. In the Septuagint Greek Scriptures, which I am using for this presentation, we read that God breathed upon his face the breath of life and man became a living soul.
The creation story is well-known to us. Adam and Eve, our progenitors, were in communion with God from the very beginning. They were created in God's image with the potential of becoming in God's likeness. If they were created in the image of God from the very beginning, obviously they were intellectual beings, with cognition, decision-making power, and free will. Here we do not see man's evolution from a lower animalistic life. They had the freedom to partake of all that the garden offered to them, except the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What was the source of evil? From the same Holy Scriptures we know that evil came about in God's earlier creation of the angelic world. Briefly stated, it was the most powerful and greatest angel of God named Lucifer, or Eosforos, who acted contrary to God's will and broke the bond of harmony and unity with God. Many angels followed Lucifer and also fell from God's grace. Here, then, was the beginning of sin and evil.
Upon seeing God's new creation on Earth, Satan entered the garden in the form of a serpent. He beguiled Eve and consequently Adam to break God's one command and to eat from the forbidden tree. Because of this act, they broke their harmonious union with God and realized that they had brought sin and death into the world and upon themselves.
The difference between the angelic world and our world is that the angels had one opportunity to choose to be with God or against Him, since they are bodiless, spiritual creatures; whereas we have been given two opportunities since we are comprised of two components, a soul and a body. This is why God never forsook the people on Earth, but was planning their redemption all along. From Genesis we read:
"And the Lord God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, you are cursed above all cattle and all the beasts of the earth; on your breast and belly you shall go and you shall eat earth all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed." (Genesis 3:15-16)
Using the Septuagint Holy Scriptures it is important to note that the word sperma is used rather than spvros which is the word for seed. The one word denotes the procreative attributes of the male, while the other denotes those of the female. Although it is correct to say that sporos is also used for the male attributes. It would seem that the one word would be used regarding the serpent as male and the other regarding the woman as female. We must conclude from this, as we will later see, that the use of the word sperma was deliberate, indicating that the offspring of the woman was to be from a virgin conception and birth. Here, then, in the first Book of the Bible, we see the first reference regarding the ever-virginity of Mary.
From this quotation we realize that God in His infinite wisdom was to provide for another woman and her offspring to restore His original plan for man's eternal existence in His Kingdom, and thereby annul Satan's beguilement of Eve. We must remember that God has prepared His Kingdom even before the foundation of this world.
An indeterminate number of eons passed from this scene in the Garden of Eden to the origins of the Hebrew people. In reading the genealogy of Christ as recorded in Saint Luke's Gospel which traces God's people from Jesus Christ back to Adam himself and then coming back down the many thousands of years, we are convinced that God never forgot nor forsook His people, but continued to provide for them. Through the ages He sent patriarchs and prophets, judges and kings, for their preservation, as well as the fulfillment of the prophesies. The Hebrew people became a great nation and were the only monotheists in the world, worshipping the one, true God. As their history developed, they emerged as the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, becoming God's chosen nation called Israel.
Among the innumerable prophesies in Holy Scripture regarding the redemption and salvation of God's people, we look to First Chronicles wherein Nathan the Prophet relayed God's words to David the King, saying:
"And it shall come to pass when your days shall be fulfilled and you shall sleep with your fathers, that I will raise up your seed (spvrma) after you which shall be of your bowels (koilia) and I will establish his kingdom." (1 Chronicles 17:11)
Here we see from the Septuagint Greek Scriptures that the reproductive attributes of both male and female are given to David regarding his descendants.
Such prophesies continue in a regular fashion throughout the Old Testament. However, it is correct to say that of all the books in the Old Testament, it is the Book of Isaiah the Prophet that stands out more than all the others regarding the virgin birth of Christ the Messiah and His holy mission. This is why Isaiah has been recognized by many as the fifth Evangelist. Probably the best known reference in Isaiah regarding the Ever-Virgin Mary is this:
"Behold a virgin shall conceive in the womb and shall bring forth a Son and you shall call his name Emmanuel." (Isaiah 7:14)
Before proceeding, in regard to the role of the Ever-Virgin Mary it is needful to cite another reference from the Book of Psalms. In the 131st Psalm we read, "The Lord swore in truth to David and he will not annul it, saying, 'Of the fruit of your body (ek karpou tis koilias sou) will I set a king upon your throne." (Psalm 131:11)
Without any question, when we see the attribution of the male reproductivity directed to the female, as in the Book of Genesis, and the female reproductivity directed to the male, as in this passage from Psalm 131, we cannot say that these are human errors, but a preordained purpose to indicate the deliberate reversal of the natural order of birth giving. These reoccurrences stress again and again the unique role of the Ever-Virgin Mary in the birth of Jesus Christ and God's faithfulness in preserving the genealogical lineage of David and the defeat of Satan's temporary success in the garden.
Let us now proceed more directly to the place of the Ever-Virgin Mary in the Church and her all-important role in the salvation of the human race.
At the cosmic-changing event of the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel greeted the Virgin Mary while she was in prayer. We read in Luke's gospel, "The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose named was Joseph of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary." (Luke 1:26, 27)
Mary had been born of aged parents who had been childless and who believed that God had not looked upon them with favor. Nevertheless, Joachim and Anna persisted in their love for God and throughout their lengthy lives had given much more to the temple than the anticipated tithing. Moreso than Abraham and Sarah, their ancestors, Joachim and Anna never lost faith in God. They had already made the commitment that upon receiving the blessings of a child, that they would turn the child over to the temple service.
In response to their unfailing hope and love, God rewarded them with a daughter whom they named Mariam or Mary. At the age of three Mary was taken to the temple to live there, as her parents had promised. Mary proved to be most devout, spending much of her time in prayer. From the writings of the Protoevangelium and oral tradition, it was said that Mary conversed regularly with angels during the years she lived at the temple.
Therefore, it was not at all surprising to her, soon after she was betrothed to Joseph and had moved to Nazareth, that the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her. She was not at all troubled to see Gabriel. She was troubled at what he said to her. She was being called by God. Why would God pay attention to one who saw herself as the least of God's people? She was no one to be considered, especially by God. She had to be overwhelmed when the Archangel Gabriel informed her that she was to give birth to the Son of God Who would sit on the throne of his father David and that there would be no end to his kingdom. Her pure and humble reply was, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" Gabriel then informed her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and that the power of the Most High God would overshadow her. Wanting to please God Whom she greatly loved, she freely and willingly responded to Gabriel, "Let it be to me according to your word." She was confident that the words spoken to her had come from God.
It is at this point of the Annunciation that the Orthodox Church believes that Mary had been made immaculate by the Holy Spirit, in order to conceive Christ in her womb so that she would give flesh to the Son of God while yet remaining a virgin. The Prophet Isaiah refers to her remaining a virgin even during conception and the birth of Jesus when he writes, "Before the travail pain came on, she escaped it, and brought forth a male. Who has heard such a thing? And who has seen after this manner?" (Isaiah 66:7,8)
This is the reason why the Church has always taught that the holy Ever-Virgin Mary was a virgin before conceiving, during conception, and after giving birth to Jesus. This is why we call her Ever-Virgin.
Orthodoxy further believes that her immaculate condition which came upon her was for the purpose of giving birth to Jesus Christ. This immaculate state did not prevent her from dying the sleep of death, even though she had no personal sins. The fact that she, too, was a descendant of our progenitors, Adam and Eve, made her a recipient of our fallen nature in the body which all have inherited from them. She, too, had a human father and mother. In the Synaxarion of her feast day of the Dormition and the Assumption, we are told that all the Apostles in a miraculous way arrived in Gethsemane just before she died. She had returned home a number of years after her journey with Saint John to Asia Minor and the region of the Aegean. She wanted to spend her final days with relatives and neighbors. The Theotokos told the Apostles that she was leaving and going to see her Son and that she did not want them to grieve for her. She considered it a joyful occasion to depart. After blessing them, her soul departed from her body. The funeral procession took her body to the designated place of burial in Gethsemane. After her entombment the Apostles stayed by her tomb for three days and all the while they were hearing angels singing. The Synaxarion records that one Apostle was not there for the funeral and burial. He is not identified. He asked to see her body as the others had and they accepted to remove the stone slab. Upon looking in they saw only the burial shroud; her body was not there.
The Orthodox Church has always believed that the body of the holy Theotokos was taken up to heaven by her Son and our God and that she experienced the resurrection of her mortal body coming into reunion with her soul because of her preeminent role in bringing Christ into this sinful world for our salvation. This belief has always been a part of the oral Tradition of the Church and gives equal if not greater significance to Holy Tradition with Holy Scripture.
When the holy Theotokos visited her cousin, Elizabeth, when Elizabeth was six months pregnant, John the Baptist leaped with joy in her womb when he heard Mary's voice greeting his mother. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, exclaimed, "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb (evlogimenos o karpos tis koilias sou)." (Luke 1:41,42)
During the first three months of her conceiving, Mary stayed with Elizabeth to help with the birth of John the Baptist. Therefore it was at the point of her conception of Jesus that John the Baptist had recognized her voice and that Elizabeth said to Mary, "But why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43) In that most significant moment, Mary responded to Elizabeth saying,
My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of his maidservant; for behold, henceforth, all generations will call me blessed. (Luke 1:46-48)
Mary always looked upon herself as a lowly vessel, a person of extreme humility. She knew of God's great love for her parents by taking away their shame and by granting to them a child. How could she not express more fervently her great love for such a caring God? Her life in the temple was a total offering of herself and her thanksgiving to God. Through her fervent prayer life Mary recognized God not only as the Sustainer of her earthly life, but as her eternal Savior, as Isaiah describes God.
Truly she was amazed at Gabriel's greeting. Why would she be a select vessel, a chosen tabernacle of God, when it was she who owed everything, her total being to God? Yet in Gabriel's greeting she well understood God's love when he said to her, "Rejoice, you who are full of grace, the Lord is with you." As the Holy Spirit came upon her, her very being experienced God's immeasurable love and mercy. And in this unique and mysterious experience she recognized a humble God, a God Who bends the heavens and comes down to His people. In her deep humility she recognized God's humbleness and understood why He had called her. She was created in His image and as she was attaining to His likeness, as one is able to do in this imperfect life, through her own humility she recognized a loving and a humble God. She experienced how natural it was for one who attains true humility to be able to converse with God. Truly He is a God Who casts away the powerful and the proud and embraces the humble and the weak. She said it before Elizabeth as the Holy Spirit embraced them: "He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly." (Luke 1:53)
Therefore, with confidence in God she prophetically cried out, "For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He Who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name." (Luke 1:46-48)
We know and believe that the Theotokos was never married to Saint Joseph. She was only betrothed to him. This is the reason we address Joseph as the Betrothed of Mary (O Iosif tou Mnistoros). Until a few hundred years ago in the Orthodox Church, the Betrothal Service was a separate service without the anticipated sacrament of marriage, as is done today. This was a custom carried over from the Jewish tradition, just like we continue today to have the entrance of children into the temple forty days after their birth. If a couple did not plan to be married, the union was never consummated and the marriage bed was never considered. In those days the sacredness of the marriage bed was stressed and respected. We see this most clearly in Paul's letter to the Hebrews when he writes, "Marriage is honorable among all and the bed undefiled." (Hebrews 13:4) We can well imagine, then, how Joseph felt when he realized that his betrothed was with child.
It should never be a topic of discussion for those who believe that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh to consider that the holy Theotokos would have had other children. Joseph, on the other hand, had a series of dreams which made him realize that the angel who spoke to him was God's messenger and that Mary his betrothed had truly become God's holy tabernacle. Being steeped in his religious traditions and teachings, and having received his betrothed, Mary, from the Temple, Joseph saw the hand of God in the inexplicable event.
Yet there are those who prefer to believe that the Ever-Virgin Mary had other children with Joseph. This is an impossibility, for as previously mentioned, they were never married. The rationale used in such a belief, among other things, is due to faulty translations of the New Testament. The bothersome word in the chapter of Saint Matthew's Gospel recording the Nativity of Christ is the preposition eos which could mean a number of things such as until, as far as, even or simply to. In regard to Joseph the translators write "...and he did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn son." (Matthew 1:35)
The inference is that Joseph knew her afterwards. What Saint Matthew conveys here was that Joseph never went near Mary while she was carrying Jesus. Furthermore the preposition eos should be translated in the same way it is in the final sentence of the same gospel where the Lord says "...lo, I am with you always even to the close of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
Here the word eos is translated even, otherwise if it were translated until, as with Joseph, the implication would have been that the Lord would remain until the close of the age, and thereafter He would not be with His Apostles. Therefore the translation regarding Joseph should read "and he did not know her even though she had brought forth her firstborn son," (Matthew 1:25) if we are to follow the logic of the translators at the end of Matthew's Gospel. It may be added here that if the Theotokos had other children, then the law would have required her other children to care for her after the death of Jesus on the Cross. However, it was to John the Beloved to whom Jesus directed His holy mother to go and it was John who took her to his home.
The fact that Saint Joseph has never been recognized as the husband of the Theotokos is clearly seen in the iconography of the Orthodox Church. In every icon of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, Joseph is never with Mary and the Christ Child; he is always alone contemplating the event. In some icons, an old, bent-over man is seen facing Joseph who is Satan, telling Joseph that the virgin birth was not possible. Yet even Joseph's stance confirms the mystery of the virgin birth of Christ.
Mary, the holy Theotokos, is the highest personage in all of God's creation. She is above all the bodiless powers of the angelic world even though they were created long before man inhabited the Earth. In His foreknowledge God saw that His highest and most powerful creature, the former Lucifer, would entice Eve the virgin in the garden by beguiling her with a lie and that Satan would succeed. Therefore God waited until another Virgin, the holy Theotokos, would appear who would nullify the error of Eve.
Satan the devil never realized that the Theotokos would come forth as the new Eve, the mother of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ. We can understand this better when we recall the temptations which Christ the Lord faced in the wilderness before Satan. Satan asked Him "If you are the Son of God, prove it by what I am asking you to do." Satan did not even realize what the title Son of God meant. How could he? In his pride and arrogance he could never envision the all powerful and omniscient God humbling Himself and entering into His own Creation. Not until the Lord descended into Hades and there shattered the power of Hell and death did Satan understand that as he had tricked Eve in the Garden of Eden, a place of beauty and light, he had been tricked by the Son of the Virgin Who entered into the realm of ugliness and darkness and released all who were in captivity there and who were awaiting His arrival.
As the Church developed on Earth, the essential role of the Ever-Virgin Mary in the salvation of God's people became more and more understood, especially after the person of Jesus Christ was defended in the face of heretical beliefs and accepted in the first two ecumenical councils which established in the Creed that He is both perfect man and perfect God. The Church had known from the beginning that Jesus Christ is both perfect man and perfect God. However, heresies persisted during the first centuries of the Church and the true faith had to be clearly defended and put into writing as the ecumenical councils succeeded in doing. By demeaning the role of Mary as certain heretics argued, the Lord Himself was demeaned. One title given to her was Christotokos meaning that she had given birth to a man only and not to the Eternal Logos. Although the title Theotokos had been implied from the beginning and also used by several fathers of the Church including Saint Gregory the Theologian, it was the Council in Ephesus in AD 431 which clearly recorded what the Church always believed.
The word Theotokos means the one who brings forth God. According to Holy Scripture, it is the male who gives birth and the female who brings forth or bears. In this case the Holy Spirit brought about the conception of Jesus Christ and it was the Theotokos who brought Him forth into the world. The title Theotokos, then, is correct both theologically and physiologically. The Theotokos truly became the mother of God in the flesh, the God-Man (Theanthropos) Jesus Christ.
Tradition records that the holy Theotokos traveled with Saint John the Evangelist during his missionary travels to Asia Minor, especially around Ephesus, since it was John who cared for her, as we know. It is also recorded that she traveled to Mount Athos which today is also known as the Periboli tis Panagias, the Garden of Panagia. The fact that the church in which the Third Ecumenical Council was held in AD 431 was named after the Theotokos is a strong indication that she was known in that region. This is much like the name Andrew being well known in the Black Sea area as well as in Patras, Greece, or the name George being popular in Lebanon, Syria and the Near East. They were known to have been there and to have left their imprint.
The Orthodox Church today adorns the holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, the Panagia, with an almost unending list of titles, engomia, and exalted names which are all beautiful and appropriate jewelry which decorate her person. Among some names or titles we encounter are that she is the daughter of God the Father, the mother of God the Son and the Bride of God the Holy Spirit. These titles take our minds to Psalm 45 which says:
Listen, O daughter and see and incline your ear; forget also your people and your father's house. Because the king has desired your beauty; for he is your Lord. (Psalm 45:10,11)
How true these words are regarding the holy Mother of God who in fact left her father's house at the age of three and went to live in God's house, the temple. God truly desired her beauty, her humility, her faith, and her love, and had foreseen her role in the redemption of His people. It is significant that the phrase "incline your ear" is recorded in this psalm. For it was in the hearing of Eve that sin and death came into the world and it was in the hearing of the New Eve who inclined her ear to the words of God from Gabriel. Eve was in a hurry to taste of the forbidden fruit, but Mary waited patiently for the fulfillment of God's words. And in her patience she knew in her heart that when God wills, the order of nature is overcome.
In the service of Oblation when the priest cuts a portion from the prosforon commemorating the holy Theotokos, he quotes from the same psalm and says,
the queen stood by at your right hand clothed in vesture wrought with gold, and arrayed in divers colors. (Psalm 45:10)
Yes, the Church recognizes the Ever-Virgin Mary in a regal manner, although the word queen has never been formally used. One reason for this is because in the Biblical tradition, a queen never ruled the nation of Israel. However if there was a mother of a king, she was honored with the title of queen mother, but she never ruled. The Church, instead, uses the equivalent of this name by recognizing her as Platytera ton Ouranon or She who is wider than the heavens. How appropriate it is that she who contained Him Who can not be contained now encompasses all of God's creation. This description places her above all of God's creatures and we see her sitting at the right hand of the Lord Jesus Christ much like a queen mother, while Saint John the Baptist sits at His left.
As we recall from the Holy Gospels, the two thrones to the right and left of Christ in His glory were requested by James and John when the Lord was with them. However the Lord responded to them and said "...to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by my Father." (Matthew 20:23) It is from these words of Christ that from the earliest tradition of the Church the icon called the Deisis was written which depicts the Mother of God on His right and John the Baptist on His left. Probably the most beautiful icon of the Deisis is found in Agia Sophia in Constantinople on the right balcony of the great church.
The holy Theotokos is certainly the most exalted and sanctified vessel in all of God's creation. She became the human bridge by whom God came to be with His people. She became the only gateway through whom the Lord Jesus Christ descended into Hell and the region of death and shattered the dark gates of that region. She became the mother of Life who stood before the wood of the Cross as our Savior opened the way to the Tree of Life.
The Panagia is the greatest intercessor for God's people. We see this exalted position from the role she played at the wedding at Cana in Galilee when she approached her divine Son and simply said "They have no wine." Due to her motherly concern over the fact that the wine had run out, she changed His intended time table regarding His public ministry. We are familiar with the discourse. She said "They have no wine." And His response was, "Woman, what have I to do with you. My hour has not come." He certainly was not planning to begin His ministry at a wedding. But their eyes had met and with confidence she told the servants, "Whatever he says to you, do it." (John 2:4,5) And there for the very first time He publicly displayed His powers over nature.
Two things stand out here. One is that the holy Mother of God is a most powerful intercessor. If Jesus heard her regarding the replenishing of wine at a wedding, certainly in regard to one's salvation He hears her. The other point is that He calls her woman. This is significant for as He began to contemplate the beginning of His ministry, He saw Himself as the New Adam Who would correct the results of the original sin and reinstate humanity to its original purpose and destiny. Therefore, as Adam in the garden called Eve woman, so also, Jesus saw His mother as the new Eve and the mother of the unending Life. Eve became the mother of a life that was transformed to sin, imperfection, and death. However, the holy Theotokos became the mother of Jesus Christ Who is the Truth, the Way, and the Life.
It was the Panagia and Ever-Virgin Mary who became the hope of fallen humanity. Saint Paul writes:
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying out, 'Abba, Father.'" (Galatians 4:4-6)
Since all of us are created in time and are the natural offspring of Adam and Eve, including the Ever-Virgin Mary of the lineage of David the King, we are not natural children of the Church. We are all adopted. The holy Theotokos was adopted as Christ's divine mother and the rest of saved humanity is adopted as divine sons and daughters of the Church. How do we know this? We turn again to the Fifth Evangelist, Isaiah, as we read:
"Rejoice barren one who do not bear; break forth and cry, you who do not travail: for more are the children of the desolate than of her who has a husband." (Isaiah 54:1)
Here we can look upon the all-holy Theotokos as a microcosm of the Church since she is without a husband. She, together with all who are saved compose the Body of Christ, Christ Himself being the head.
As has been mentioned, the titles describing the Theotokos as well as the poetic expressions are almost endless. One poetic expression in Greek is mesitria or mediatrix. Its interpretation has always been that in regard to this life, the holy Ever-Virgin Mary saves us from worldly perils. Since the Church on earth is the militant Church, the struggling Church, we call upon her at almost every ending petition of the worship services, together with all the saints to help us, before we intone the ekfonisis to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
What the holy Mother of God accomplished by her obedience to God "let it be to me according to your word" was the mystery of the eternal marriage between uncreated nature (God) and created nature (man). Because of her, all who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Master, Redeemer and Savior and have the desire of living in obedience to Him will live forever before His glorious presence. Saint Paul briefly describes this mystery when he speaks of marriage and equates it to Christ Who is the Bridegroom and the Church which is the Bride. (Ephesians 5:30)
As a husband and a wife become one through the union of holy matrimony, so Christ becomes one with His people. The Church is lovingly subject to Christ, as He is subject to the Father, and as the Ever-Virgin Mary was subject to the Holy Spirit. Now we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones because He partook of our created nature from the holy Theotokos and sanctified it.
Our Lord speaks of this oneness in His high priestly prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prays to the Father thus:
"I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that You sent me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one." (John 17:20-22)
This, then, was the purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ entering into His own creation. We could not save ourselves, and therefore He waited for the fullness of time and the Holy Virgin Mary, the beloved daughter of Joachim and Anna. She, then, is truly our sanctified and exalted gateway, the divine ladder, our loving lady and holy mother. It is because of her that we who are lower than the angels will one day judge angels. Certainly we are never worthy of such an awesome responsibility. But it is God Who determines these things. Paul the Apostle clearly states, "Do you not know that we shall judge angels?" (1 Corinthians 6:3)
If the myriads of fallen angels led by Satan the devil have brought so much havoc and misery, horror and death upon this world for thousands upon thousands of years, is it not in God's wisdom to have their victims rise above them through such a spectacular event and witness against them?
As man's eternal destiny rises up into the heavens where God's angels rejoice, we envision that magnificent expectation with uncontainable joy and we magnify and glorify the holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, the all-holy one, who made possible the fulfillment of God's divine plan for our eternal habitation in the mansions of the Father.
The many words, laudations and exaltations of her and to her are not really enough to make one truly appreciate her divine role for our sake. Selecting only one of the many expressions regarding the holy Mother of God from the writings of Saint Andrew of Crete, he proclaims,
"Today there come glad tidings of joy. Things below are joined to things above. Adam is renewed and Eve is set free from her ancient sorrow. The tabernacle of human nature which the Lord took upon Himself, making divine the substance He assumed is consecrated as a temple of God. O Mystery! The manner of His emptying is unknown. The fashion of His conceiving is ineffable. An angel ministers at the wonder; a virgin womb receives the Son. The Holy Spirit is sent down; the Father on high gives His consent; and so the covenant is brought to pass by common council. In Him and through Him we are saved. Together with Gabriel, let us cry aloud to the Virgin, 'Rejoice, you who are full of grace; the Lord is with you! From you Christ our God and our Salvation has taken human nature, raising it up to Himself.'"
Therefore, as we ponder on nature having been set aside in the Birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may put on immortality, we magnify the holy Theotokos by crying out to her "Xaire Nymfi Anymfevte! Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!"
Prepared by Metropolitan Isaiah, Presiding Hierarch of the Diocese of Denver on May 25, 1999. Delivered at Orientale Lumen III, Washington, D.C. Thursday June 17, 1999