In care se arata, printre altele, ca dogma pururea-fecioriei Maicii Domnului sta sau cade impreuna cu Dogma Sfintei Treimi, amandoua fiind diferite de prejudecata moderna despre dogma, ca aporie scolastica medievala de tot rasul vulgului, asa cum intalnim in paginile Bibliei hazlii a lui Leo Taxil. Nu intamplator in Ortodoxie toate se numesc taine, omul insusi fiind-si siesi cea mai mare taina. Parintele Rafail Noica spunea: "Uita-te-n oglinda si spune-mi, ce vezi? Un pacatos? Nu, ci un sfant in facere."
<<ON THE TITLE THEOTOKOS OR
"MOTHER OF GOD"
Let us come now, with reverence and awe, to the greatest mystery of all __ the virgin birth of Him Who pre- existed all existence, of Him Who is Existence itself. We do not propose to explain the mystery, to tell how the womb of a woman born in like manner as us could "contain Him Whom the whole universe cannot contain." Rather, we hope merely to clear up some of the questions arising from the facts.
Mary is the "mother of God." The title "Theotokos" means, literally, "the one who gave birth to God."
At first consideration, and without some prayerful and Scriptural thought about these titles, they may sound shocking. How can a human, born under the fallen nature, be "the mother of God." Surely we should call her only, "the mother of Jesus," or, "the mother of Christ."
When we ask the question, "should we call Mary `mother of God,' or only `mother of Christ'," we suddenly realize that this question is not about Mary, but about Jesus Christ Himself. The actual question is this:
"Is Jesus only a special, anointed, Grace-filled servant of God, or is He, in very truth, God incarnate?"
In other words, "Do we believe in the Holy Trinity or not?" If we believe in the Holy Trinity, and Christ is truly God incarnate, then, of course, Mary is the "mother of God," the "Theotokos. If we reject the dogma of the Trinity and we believe that Jesus is only a specially anointed prophet, then we would refuse to call Mary "Theotokos," or "mother of God." We cannot have it both ways without playing blasphemous word games with the nature of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
We will not pause to discuss this point at length, for it is simply resolved by the question, "Do you believe in Jesus Christ as your God and Saviour, or do you consider Him to be only a special human prophet?" We will take time only to repeat that this mystery cannot be grasped without prayerful, Scriptural contemplation of the matter.
Some sectarians suggest that it would be better to think of Mary as the mother of only the human side of Jesus, the man. Such a suggestion is made from weak human emotions and without thought or any form of Scriptural consciousness. If we said that the child in Mary's womb was not the complete Person, the incarnate God, then we are faced with several problems. First, it would mean that, for a time, Jesus was not God, then later, He became God. This is what some of the Gnostic heretics taught, and it is really Theosophy to say this. In the case of most sectarians, however, it is said only from ignorance and lack of serious thought about the matter. The other problem is that in Christian arguments against legalized "cosmetic" abortions, we argue that the fetus is a complete person, body and soul at conception. The teaching that only part of Jesus' nature was present in Mary's womb, and that His nature was completed later, after His birth, would seem to help justify random abortion, for it means that the fetus is not the complete person. Moreover, if we accept two "births" of Jesus, one in which He was born only as a human, then Jesus was also under the fallen human nature, and Himself in need of redemption. His second "birth" in which God entered Him and made Him half God and half man, would be a completely occult, "new age" type of concept.
Thus, to be an actual Christian, and not a neo-gnostic who only borrows the name "Christian," one must accept that Mary is truly the Theotokos, the mother of God.
PROPHETIC REASONS FOR
The history of the Church, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, has given us a fulness of understanding about the Nativity of Christ and the holy virgin. We know that the virgin birth was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah (7:14), and that Mary was betrothed to the aged Joseph, a close relative of hers. We know how she was raised in the temple itself in a consecrated manner. Since every aspect of the New Testament, of the plan of our redemption, is foreshadowed and indicated in the Old Testament, we ought to find some reason for these things, some explanation for them in the Law and the Prophets __ as indeed we do. For, the Law itself is only a revelation about man's condition and a revelation of, and preparation for, the redemption of mankind. Apart from those things spoken of directly by the Prophets, as Isaiah says, "A virgin shall bear a child," the Law itself contains less clear, but no less profound revelations. There is nothing recorded in the Scripture "accidentally," every incident has meaning and purpose. The Law reveals the nature of our redemption.
Sacred Tradition has given us certain aspects of the life of Mary and Joseph which seem to confuse and even anger many sectarians, so that they condemn virginity itself and blaspheme the Nativity of Christ. They demand, "show us some precedent for this in Scripture, for we do not accept the guidance of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Church."
Orthodox Christians might well stare in shock at the blasphemy of people who, while professing to believe in Christ, assert that the womb which was the palace, the chalice and the resting place of the Most High God, the pre-eternal Source of all being, might later have experienced penetration, yielding to the passions of fallen humanity. And what other babe could have dwelt in that awesome womb which the very God of holiness and purity Himself had inhabited?
"But," they ask, "what precedent is there for such a thing, and what revelation is contained in this unusual betrothal to a near relative?"
For virgin births, there is no precedent, nor was there a precedent for the creation of universes before God did it. The will of God is its own precedent. Never- theless, for the preservation of inheritances, there is not only precedent, but law. And surely Christ was the hope and inheritance of Israel. Let us look at the Law, then, and see what this precedent is and what it reveals to us about the nature of our redemption.
The promise of the Messiah was the hope and inheritance of Israel and, very specifically, of the tribe of Judah, the house of David. This inheritance, clearly, was to come forth from a woman who was yet a maiden, without the involvement of a man, as the Prophet Isaiah so clearly testifies. Now, the law concerning inheritances falling upon a woman is clearly prophetic, the more so since all such laws of the Old Testament make God the ultimate owner and source of authority over all property. According to the law, if an Israelite had no son then his daughter would receive the inheritance (Numbers 27:8:11). However, it was considered vital that the inheritance not pass out of the family and especially that it not pass out of the tribe. To prevent this from happening, if a woman was the bearer of the inheritance, she was required to marry a man of her fathers house (Numbers 36:6-8). The case of the daughters of Zelophehad makes this clearer, for they were betrothed to their own first cousins in order to preserve the inheritance in their own tribe and in their father's "house" (Numbers 36:11). Yet, God specifically forbade all marriages with near relatives, and not only with blood relations, but even with relations of affinity, as we read in Leviticus and elsewhere (Leviticus 18:6, etc). What was the reason for this great contradiction? Women were instructed to betroth themselves to men too closely related to them for lawful intercourse and childbearing __ sheer incest, unless the daughters were expected to remain virgins even after their marriage.
Quite simply, the sanctity and preservation of inheritance stood above, or rather, as a special provision to, the former law, and the woman was expected, it would seem, to make this sacrifice for the sake of the inheritance. It did not abolish the former law or set it aside, and so the woman was, if the whole law was to be fulfilled, expected to spend her life as a virgin.
In the case of Mary, who bore the ultimate inheritance of the holy nation, the law itself came into its fullest meaning, and she was betrothed to an elderly widower of very close kin. Both were of the house of David, as must certainly have been the case since she had no brothers and was, therefore, also the bearer of her father's inheritance. But she, having been dedicated to God and having a vow of virginity already, remained within the bounds of the other law also.
So the betrothal of Mary to an elderly relative of the same tribe and house, a relative much too close for intercourse to be lawful, is provided for in the law. This law itself is prophetic of her special mission as bearer of the Messiah, the heritage of Israel.
THE MEANING OF THE
"HER FIRSTBORN SON"
If Mary thereafter remained a virgin, and bore no more children, why is Jesus called "her firstborn son" (Matthew 1:25)? Certainly, sectarians trying to apply their own rationalism in ignorance have made a point of this expression. The expression "firstborn son" is, however, not merely an indication of the first in a sequence of births, but a specific title under the Law. It applies and is carried by the son whether he has younger brothers or not, and special provisions appear in the Law making specific requirements of the "firstborn." The fact that the title "firstborn" bore a special significance and was not intended to reflect simply "the first child of a series," is clear from the fifth chapter of Chronicles. Jakob invested Joseph (a younger son) with the rights of "firstborn," and Reuben, the eldest son, "was not reckoned as firstborn" (1Chronicles 5:1, Orthodox Bible). Under the Levirate law, a woman whose husband died, leaving her childless, married the next younger brother of her late husband. If she bore a son by this second marriage, the son was legally the "firstborn son" of the dead former husband, and he obviously was not the father of the child or of any subsequent children the woman might bear (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). If we look once more at the "Law and Prophets," we will understand how the Scripture uses the term "firstborn," and we will understand how this special title applies to Mary and her Child.
God does not distinguish the "first-born" child by whether it is the first child born of a series of children, but by the special spiritual position of that child. In His testimony to Israel, "Sanctify to Me every firstborn which first opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of people and of animals, for it is Mine" (Genesis 13:2). Thus we see that "firstborn son" is not just a random expression, nor does it signify the first of a series of sons. It is a title which refers to a special child who has a special significance in Israel's relationship with God. Pharaoh had only one child, his son. This son was slain among the "firstborn" of Egypt. As the firstborn of Egypt were destroyed, even so, the firstborn of Israel were sanctified. This law is prophetic, revealing the coming of the Messiah, the Saviour.
Christ, as the "firstborn son" was sanctified to God, and this was the fulfilment of the prophecy which the Old Testament law contained. There is more to this matter, however, for not just Christ, but every child who was the first to "open the mother's womb" was sanctified. Let us turn again to the prophetic law and see how we must understand this title of "firstborn son" in relation to Christ, particularly to the verse at Matthew 1:25. Notice that, in this verse, Jesus is not called Joseph's firstborn, but only Mary's firstborn. Evidently, we should look again to the Law and see how the position of the "firstborn son" relates to Mary's special betrothal as "bearer of the inheritance."
We find, again, in the Laws of redemption, evidence of our answer. For, property which has been sold or "alienated" must be redeemed to the family of its original owner. This was to be done at any time but, in the Year of Jubilee, it was absolutely required. The obligation of redeeming alienated or sold property fell to the legal "firstborn son", to the one who bore the position, whether he was the first one born of a sequence or not (Leviticus 25:23-24).
Are we not, in fact, the "inheritance" of the Father, in need of redemption? "Save, O Lord, Thy people and bless Thine inheritance," the Psalmist sings in the spirit of prophecy. And, "Israel is the rod of His inheritance", as Jeremy somewhere says. Moreover, are we not all "sold under sin" (Romans 7:14) and "who shall redeem me from the body of this death?"
Thus, Christ is the "firstborn son", and as such bears both the right and the responsibility of redeeming for the Father that which had been alienated from the Father, to redeem from the bondage of death and the power of "him who had the power of death, namely Satan" that which was "sold under sin."
We see, therefore, both the nature of Mary's betrothal, its lawful role in the preservation of the "inheritance of Israel," and the necessity for the Christ to bear the office and title of "firstborn son."
THE TRADITION THAT MARY WAS RAISED AND EDUCATED
IN THE TEMPLE
In the Orthodox Christian Church, it has always been held, on the basis of Sacred Tradition, that Mary was raised and educated in the Temple. The story of her entry into the temple is recounted every year on the feastday of commemorating the event. It seems worthwhile noting here certain circumstances that make the idea of her being educated and serving in the temple not only plausible but likely.
According to the traditional story, Mary was the daughter of the priest Joachim and his wife Anna. In the Gospel of Luke we learn that Elizabeth, Mary's kinswoman, was of the house of Aaron (Lk.1:5; 36), and therefore both she and Mary were of the priestly class, and related to the priests who served in the temple. This means that Mary was not only the daughter of a priest, but related to other branches of the priestly families. Here uncle, Zachary a priest (Lk.1:5). Aunt Elizabeth was, therefore, doubly related to the priestly house: both through birth and through marriage. Mary must have been just as closely related, and if her mother was also related to the house of Aaron and the priesthood, the Mary was well connected to the temple and it certainly would not have been unusual for her to have both served in the temple in some capacity and been educated in the temple. As to her having entered into the Holy of Holies, this is strictly a matter of Tradition and faith. We have, however, established that there is no reason to doubt that she could have been educated and served in some womanly capacity in the temple.
THE MEANING OF THE WORDS
"HE KNEW HER NOT UNTIL
AFTER" HER SON WAS BORN
Understanding all this, we need hardly entertain the question, "Why, then, does Matthew say of Joseph, `and he knew her not up to [eos] her having brought forth her firstborn son' (Matthew 1:25; Luke 2:7)." This verse seems to be often translated as "he knew her not until after..." This is not, however, a required connotation, because the Greek original, eos__, indicates the meaning, "he had no sexual relations with her prior to her giving birth." The Evangelist makes this statement in order to assure us that Joseph had no part in the conception of Jesus. The term eos ou does not require the understanding that he certainly had relations with her after Christ was born. It merely indicates that, as regards the birth of Jesus, Joseph had not had relations with Mary prior to the birth, thus, he was not the father of Jesus. This is merely a usual turn of phrase, the use of a standard and familiar form of expression. This same term is used elsewhere in the Bible as a standard expression, and it clearly does not indicate what sectarians claim it does. At 2 Samuel 6:23, for instance, we read, "And Milchal, the daughter of Saul, had no child until [eos] her death. Did she, then, have children after her death? No, and neither did Joseph "know" Mary after the birth of Jesus. At Genesis 8:7, we read that Noah "sent forth a raven; and it went forth and did not return till [eos] after the water had gone from off the face of the earth." We know from Scripture that in fact, the raven never returned to the ark. It says that it did not return "until after," but in fact, it never returned at all. The Scripture says that "Joseph knew her not till after...", but in fact, he never "knew" her at all. The Bible says, "The Lord said to my Lord, `Sit at my right hand until [eos__] I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" (Mark 12:36). Does this mean that Christ will cease to sit at the right hand of the glory of the Father once His enemies have been overcome? Of course not. Another word could have been used had the Evangelist specifically meant to say that Joseph did not have relations with Mary until after Christ was born. The Bible does not say that "Joseph knew her not until after she brought forth her first born, but then he did." The Bible says, "He did not know her before (up until) she had brought forth her firstborn," meaning simply and clearly, "Joseph was not the father. He had not come together with her before her pregnancy, thus he was not involved in the conception of Jesus." This is a proper understanding of the Greek original of this Scripture, for it is in full accord with the Scriptural prophecy and with the nature of Jesus Christ, in whom "the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily" (Colossians 2:9).
The Sacred Tradition concerning these matters is certainly derived from Mary's own testimony and, like all things in the Church, it is guided and guarded by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Mary was, in fulfilment of the Law, betrothed to her own uncle (as the Holy Spirit guided Sacred Tradition tells us), a marriage which, according to the Law did not allow for sexual intercourse between them, because she was the bearer of the inheritance, the Messiah. Christ is called the "firstborn son" because it is the title given to the one responsible for the redemption of that which has become alienated or fallen into bondage, namely, mankind which was alienated from the Father, having been of its own deeds "sold under sin."
THE MEANING AND IDENTITY
OF THE "BROTHERS OF JESUS"
Who were the "brethren of the Lord" (Matthew 12:46-47), and if He had brothers, why do we call the Theotokos, "evervirgin"?
The "brethren" of Jesus are mentioned several times in the New Testament. Four are mentioned by name. To explain who they were is not difficult, because the Scripture itself names four of them and identifies their parentage. Matthew (13:55) and Mark (6:3) list, as brethren of Jesus __ James, Joses, Simon and Jude.
We know for certain that James and Joses were not sons of Mary or Joseph, for the Scripture identifies them, as children of a different Mary, who was the wife of Alpheus-Cleopas (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40).
James is also referred to as "the son of Alphaeus", in the listing of the Apostles (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13).
The relationship between these "brethren" (including "sisters") must be seen in the light of Hebrew-Aramaic tradition, according to which even cousins were brothers and sisters. This is the case also in Greek and Slavic languages and cultures to this day, so we do not have to speculate about it. This is a fact we know very well from our own families and lives. We have a perfect example of this in the Old testament Scripture. The word used to describe the relationship between Lot and Abraham at Genesis 14:16 is "adelphi__", which can only be translated as "brother." Nevertheless, we know that Lot was Abraham's nephew. Of course, since Abraham's father was Lot's grandfather, older cultures in general would consider them brothers. The Greek word, "Adelphos" and "Adelphe" are only attempts to translate an unknown Aramaic word __ and no one has any idea what the actual word was which is rendered in Greek and English as "brothers" or "brethren." Indeed, if we left even the names of these four in their original, most people would not recognize them. Their real names are Jakob, Iyoseph, Yehudah and Symeon.
Certainly, James and Joses were the sons of Miriam (Mary) and Alphaeus, as was Jesus' "sister." Symeon is also called "Simon Kan'an" __ The Zealot.
There could have been no "first blood" brothers of Christ, otherwise He would not have given care of His mother to John the Theologian (John 19:26).
The Old Testament prophecies explain the virginal marriage and ever-virginity of Christ's mother, and we also have the testimony of the Holy Spirit speaking through the Church that Mary was "ever-virgin."
THE MEANING OF THE WORDS
"MARY'S SISTER WAS
STANDING NEAR THE CROSS"
Our Orthodox history teaches us that the Holy Virgin Mary was the only child of Saints Joakhim and Anna, but at John 19:25, we read, "Standing near the Cross of Jesus was His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary of Alpheus, and Mary of Magdala." If our Church history is correct, how could Mary have had a sister?
The first clue to your answer is that both women are named Mary. No family has two daughters and gives them both the same name. Therefore, it is evident that the relationship between the two women has to be something different than our modern English concept of "sister."
The second clue to your answer is that the Bible clearly identifies this Mary of Alpheus (Cleophas in the KJV), as the mother of Jesus' "brothers." The name Alpheus or Cleophas is the same as Alpheaus in the Aramaic language which Jesus spoke. The brothers of Jesus mentioned at Mark 6:3 are elsewhere clearly identified as sons of Alphaeus and his wife Mary of Alpheus __ the "sister" of the Virgin Mary. Read, for example, Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. Then read Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40,47; 16:1; Luke 24:10 and especially Matthew 13: 55.
Now two things are clear to us from what we have read:
First, Mary of Alpheus (Cleophas) is related to the Virgin Mary in some close way, but if she was an immediate "sister", she could not have the same first name.
Second, The "brothers" of Jesus do not have the same mother as He had. These "brothers" are children of a woman called the Virgin Mary's sister, they are not children of the Virgin Mary herself.
Mary of Alpheus (Cleophas) could have been a first cousin (in which case, she would still be called "sister" in most Eastern languages), or she could have been a sister-in-law (Joseph's sister).
For a good example of the use of the terms "brother" and "sister" for near relations in Hebrew culture, read Genesis 14:16. Here, Lot is referred to as Abraham's "brother," although we know very well that Lot was the son of Abraham's immediate brother. In other words, even nephews were referred to as "brothers" in many cases. In the Greek Septuagint of the Old Testament, the word used to describe the relationship between Lot and Abraham at Genesis 14:16 is "adelphi__", which can only be translated as "brother." A similar word is used at John 19:25 to describe the relationship between the two Marys.
It is interesting that the reference to Mary of Alpheus (Cleophas) as the Virgin Mary's sister proves the Orthodox Christian teaching about the ever-virginity of Mary the Theotokos. Clearly, the Virgin Mary had a very near relative of the same name who was the mother of Jesus' "brothers", and therefore, the Virgin Mary bore no other children than Jesus Christ.
THE MEANING OF OUR VENERATION OF THE THEOTOKOS
AND OF OUR REQUEST FOR
There is only one Lord and Saviour of mankind, Jesus Christ, as the Scripture says, "There is salvation in no- one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Nevertheless, we are called upon to be "co-workers with Christ in salvation" (2Corinthians 6:1), and we can "save" others by leading them to the Source of Salvation, and rescuing them from falling away from salvation, as Apostle Paul says: "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means and in any way, save them" (1Corinthians 9:22). And, he wrote to Bishop Timothy, "Look well to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, hold to them; for by so doing you will save both yourself and those who hear you" (1Timothy 4:16). Moreover, in the same context, we often use the expression, "Most Holy Theotokos, save us." No one would suggest that we are our own saviours, or that Apostle Paul, the holy Bishop Timothy or the Theotokos are saviours in place of Christ, even though the Divine Scripture clearly says that they can "save" others.
Nevertheless, all Orthodox Christians are called upon to serve in the process of the salvation of each other and of the world, both through their prayer, the active witness of a life of Christian love and struggle, and by the very act of working out their own salvation. The saints who have become filled with Grace and received the greater gifts of the Holy Spirit, are foremost in this process of mutual salvation. Sectarians who are angered at our Orthodox veneration of the Most Holy Theotokos (and of the saints) and who spew malice on our pleas for their intercessions are ignorant of the true nature of redemption. They hold a totally pagan notion that Christ saved us by offering Himself as a vicarious, punitive sacrifice, to fulfil the Father's "justice" and satisfy His offended honour. Indeed, the Protestant/Latin teaching really comes down to the doctrine that Christ died to save us from God the Father. In reality, however, salvation consists in the union of the faithful with the life of God, in the Body of Christ (the Holy Church), where the evil-one and his power are being progressively and really destroyed in the life of co-suffering love and mutual struggle of true believers. Since our redemption from the bondage of death into this new, grace- filled life of the Church consists also in the restoration of the human nature, to those who will struggle to acquire it, the lives, deeds and intercessions of the saints are of obvious value in saving us. They "save" us because there is a single, unified nature of all humanity. It is fallen and enslaved, and the liberation and restoration of any unit of this universal nature to perfection, its real union with the perfect nature in Christ, is part and parcel of the redemption and salvation of the whole. The Holy Virgin Theotokos who is the very apex of new creation, is venerated as such, and as such, serves most greatly in the process of salvation. Thus, we call upon her for her help in our struggle to be saved, and venerate her as the foremost of our race, as one wholly united with God, one who has now received, by Grace, full union with the restored perfect human nature. If their concept of redemption was not clouded by paganism and Hellenic philosophy, then sectarians would not challenge our veneration of the Theotokos, the "Mother of God", but would embrace it also, as being a clear teaching of the Holy Scriptures.
1. We call upon the Theotokos for her intercessions for the same reason that we call upon each other and the saints and angels for theirs. The Holy Scripture commands us to intercede for one another (1Timothy 2:1-2).
2. We call upon the Theotokos for her help in our salvation ("Most Holy Theotokos, save us") in the same context that Apostle Paul and Bishop Timothy are able to save the faithful (1Corinthians 9:22; 1Timothy 4:16).
3. The Holy Virgin is called "Theotokos" (Mother of God) on the basis of Scripture (Luke 1:31-35, and especially verse 43). Moreover, the prophecy of Ezekiel is precise in the matter (Ezekiel 44:2). Few of the Protestant sects would dare to deny that the Child whom Mary bore is truly God and, therefore, they must confess that Mary is the "Theotokos" the "Mother of God").
4. Sectarians revile the Theotokos and deny her veneration because they have no truly Christian knowledge and understanding of the Holy Scripture, and from sheer, careless mistranslations of the Scripture which they pridefully persist in. An excellent example is the section concerning the wedding at Cana, which so many sectarians twist and seek to turn against the Holy Virgin.
Using the sadly mistranslated passage at John 2:1-11 in the King James Version, sectarians claim that this section demonstrates Christ's own disregard for His mother. In the KJV, this passage has Christ responding to His mother's remark about the fact that there was no more wine for the wedding guests with, "Woman, what have I to do with you?"
First of all, Christ Himself would have been guilty under the law had he addressed His mother in this fashion, for "to honour the father and mother is the first commandment with promise."
Most important, however, is the actual text. The correct translation reads:
"And when the wine was all gone, the mother of Jesus said to Him, `They have no more wine.' Jesus said to her, `Dear lady, what is that to you and Me? My time is not yet come.'
"His mother said to the servants, `Whatever He says to you, do it.'"
The term which has been erroneously translated from the Greek as "woman" in this passage is actually a term of deep respect and endearment. Christ spoke in an affectionate manner in this passage, and that is very clear in the original Greek.
Let us think about this passage in a sober and prayerful manner for only a moment. What does the verse actually demonstrate? Christ asks, "Why should we care if the wine is gone? What difference does it make to us?" Then He makes it plain that the time for Him to work miracles has not yet arrived. In the order of God's plan, it is not yet time for Him to begin this work. But as we read on in this chapter, we discover that He does work the miracle. Why? Because of Mary's intercession. And think of it. Because of the intercession of the Theotokos, the order of God's plan is changed. Christ works the miracle before the time has come. How powerful then, are the intercessions of the Theotokos shown to be. Moreover, she is shown to be His first apostle, since she instructs the servants, "Whatever He tells you, do it.'
5. Even at the moment of His death on the Cross, Jesus took thought for His mother and gave her special place (John 19:26-27).
6. The Theotokos was honoured even before the Nativity of our Saviour (Luke 1:41-45).
7. If the Holy Scripture proclaims that "all generations" shall call Mary blessed (Luke 1:48), then certainly those who refuse to call her blessed do not belong to the generation of Grace, the generation of the Living.
8. The Virgin is called the "Queen" in prophecy, by David, "At Thy right hand stood the queen, arrayed in vesture of inwoven gold, adorned in many colours" (Psalms 44:8), etc. Thus, she is honoured occasionally in prayers as the "heavenly queen." Of course, she is the mother of the King, and the title "heavenly queen" is just another confession of our faith that the Child Jesus born of her is truly God our King. Sectarians will sometimes attempt to apply the words of Jeremy the prophet (Jeremiah 44:17, 25) to condemn our use of the term "heavenly queen" when referring to Christ's mother. But Jeremy was here condemning the worship of the pagan fertility goddess Easter by the astrology cults, which considered Easter to be an actual deity. Therefore, it is dishonest and immoral of sectarians to use this Scripture in such a false manner to condemn the mother of our Saviour.
Protestants often use the verse at Luke 11:27-28, in their arguments against the Theotokos. In the NIV, the verse reads, "...a woman in the crowd cried out, `Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.' He replied, `Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.' The KJV and RSV read, "Yea rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it."
Are these the actual words of Christ? How should we respond to Protestants who use this verse to challenge us.
This verse is something like the one recording the wedding at Cana, which we discussed above.
Let us look at Luke 11:27-28 and see what it actually says. In the Greek original, the key word is "menoun." The primary meaning of this word is "this is quite true" ( or, "in very truth,"). It may also be translated as "yea, verily" __ "yes, in very truth." Contrary to the sectarian interpretations of this verse, it actually reads:
"And a certain woman in the crowd lifted up her voice and said to Him: `Blessed is the womb which has borne Thee, and blessed are the breasts which you nursed upon. He Himself, however, said: `yes, truly, howbeit, blessed [also] are the ones who hear the word of God and keep it'."
There is, you see, a considerable difference here. Christ does not at all downplay the blessedness of His mother; He affirms and confirms it. Indeed, we see that the Theotokos is here seen to be thrice blessed. She is blessed as the one who bore Christ, blessed again as the one who nursed Him, and blessed above all other humans as the one who heard the word of God and kept it more than any other person.
It is obvious that where protestantism dis- agrees with Orthodoxy, one can simply dismiss the Protestant view out of hand.
AN IMPORTANT POINT
OF SOUND DOCTRINE
As we mentioned before, the Sectarian prejudice against the veneration of the Theotokos is based on their false idea of the nature of redemption. Certainly the same is true of the sectarian prejudice against God's saints.
Salvation is not merely a matter of Christ having paid some penalty to satisfy God's need for "justice" and vengeance, on our behalf. We were not redeemed from God by Christ, we were redeemed to God. Redemption consists in the restoration of the fallen human nature, redeemed from its bondage to sin. Salvation consists in assimilating that restored nature, which is in Jesus Christ. It is wrought by our struggle, with God's help, to acquire the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Those special people whom we venerate as "saints", including the Theotokos, are venerated precisely because of the fulness of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. But apart from this, the veneration of saints is an essential element in our being penetrated with a deep understanding of the nature of redemption. Our awareness of the glory of the Theotokos and the saints, and our veneration of them, is actually a confession of the true doctrine of redemption. The saints, like the Theotokos, have shown us the true path of salvation and, having become truly participants in the perfect nature, indeed, in God Himself, they have become vessels of Divine Grace.
Recently, some sectarian group accused us of "praying to dead saints." We responded with the words of Christ Himself, "You greatly err, for you do not know the Scripture or the power of God. For God is a God of the living and not the dead...have you not read in the book of Moses how God spoke in the bush to him, saying `I am the God of Abraham, of Isaak and of Jakob'? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: you therefore do greatly err" (Mark 12:24, 26-27).
Thus, if the righteous ones of the Old Testament, from before the "age of Grace" are still numbered among the living, how much more are those of the New Testament alive. They are living testimonies to the victory of Christ over death and the certainty of mankind's redemption by Jesus Christ, our God.
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING to obtain a fuller and truly Scriptural understanding of our view of the Most Holy Theotokos:
THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS (Prayerful Contemplations)
The Akathist for the `Theotokos, Joy of Canada'.
We would like to mention also that there are a number of books and booklets about the Theotokos which are not sound and which engender doubt and incredulity in North American readers, especially younger readers and people with an education. Among these are stories borrowed from pagan mythology in which the name of the "hero" has been changed from that of a pagan goddess to the Virgin Mary. Such is, for example, the story of the Virgin Mary's "descent into hell." This story is actually borrowed directly from the pagan cult of Easter. In the ancient Babylonian mythology, the goddess Easter descended into hell, and the fake story about the Theotokos is taken directly from that myth. There are a number of mythological stories about the Virgin's life which were popular in peasant societies. The fact is, we know almost nothing about Mary's life after the day of Pentecost. There are as many peasant tales about it as there are about the childhood of Jesus. For example, there is the tale of the Child Jesus striking another child dead because the other child made fun of Him. All that we actually know about the life of Mary can be written in a book of a hundred pages or less. The sermons one could preach about her and the great lessons one could learn from her, the record of her love and miracles: these could fill many volumes.
We would recommend to readers that they content themselves with the Scriptural records about the Virgin Mary and the very few facts which are certainly known, and the record of the multitude of miracles which God has shown forth through her. The rest, God has chosen to conclude in silence and mystery, and those who have sought to breach this silence have done no service. The truth which has been revealed is wondrous beyond measure, the mythologies only detract from the reality and undermine the faith of many in that which is true.>> (http://www.synaxispress.ca/)