St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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Mary the Mother of Our Lord

FOR ALL THE SAINTS: Mary the Mother of Our Lord

Christians have always revered the Blessed Virgin.  “Blessed are you among women,” the Archangel Gabriel says to her, according to St Luke, and she has been so ever since.  She is the image of faithfulness and the model of the church.  The lovely irony is that Mary is worthy of praise precisely because she is receptive, humble, and obedient to God’s Word, points worthy of our constant contemplation and emulation.

Mary is commemorated five times each year.  She shares two feasts with her Son: Annunciation and Presentation (also called the Purification of Mary).  In recent years, Protestants have begun to see her again as a model for faith.  Her life is told in the apocryphal Protoevangelium of St James, read by Catholics and Orthodox, where we learn of her parents, Joachim and Anna; of her dedication in the Temple; of her betrothal to Joseph, a widower with children; and of the annunciation and birth of her son, Jesus.

During the fifth century arguments about the nature of Christ, St Cyril of Alexandria called Mary the Theotokos, “God-bearer.”  This term became a banner for true Christians.  St John of Damascus, an intellectual giant of the medieval church, said that everything we believe about Christ is summed up in the word Theotokos, because by it we affirm that God the unknowable and ineffable became fully human through Mary, the Birth-giver of God.

This confession is a needed safeguard.  We are tempted to embrace a false spirituality that separates body and soul, prizing the latter above the former.  Christian faith is about raising humanity from the mud – body and soul.  God transforms us to the heights of humanity.  Often we see ourselves as animals or machines or chemical impulses and, worse, we enact this impoverished self-definition.  Mary is our link to the full humanity of God, and in that light her prayer for us is all the more poignant, personal, and powerful.  She is the human instrument God uses to raise us up through Christ.

“Hail Mary full of Grace!  The Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”  This shout of praise is heard universally in the church, and especially at this time of the year when we celebrate the birth of her Son, our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ – born that we might have the fullness of life.

Published 17 Dec 05