Veneration of the Virgin Mary, Part 7

This is Part 7 of a seven (7) part series on The Veneration of the Virgin Mary, also called the Mother of God, or Theotokos (Greek for God Bearer) in the Orthodox Christian Church.

Part 1     Part 2   Part 3    Part 4    Part 5    Part 6    Part 7

Related blog posts on Jesus Christ’s Geneology:  Women in Jesus’ Geneology  also, Old Testament Priesthood as compared to New Testament Priesthood.

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PART 7

The Virgin Mary is venerated in the Orthodox Church not because she is the greatest exception, but because she is the greatest example. (Unknown)

The Orthodox Faith venerates the Mother of God utilizing Old Testament prefiguring images of her in the hymnody of the Church to teach the faithful about God’s Divine Plan for the Redemption of His People through her.   She is worthy of veneration because she is the beauty and excellency of all of the generations of Israel who in the fullness of time prepared herself so she could receive her own Salvation while accepting to bring salvation of all mankind into the world through the Incarnation of God, “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word” at the Annunciation of God coming to Earth to save His people which prefigure the words of Rev. 22:20 of the Church awaiting the Second Coming of the Savior: “Amen ….. Come Lord Jesus”

Throughout these classes, we spoke of how the Virgin Mary is the perfect example of a person traveling the road to Theosis, union with God, and we also pointed out that this will only be fully realized at the Second Coming of the Lord.  We learned that the essence of what we were created to be, our humanity, will not change at the Second Coming.  It instead will still be entirely human…but in a new and glorious form.  It will be the form in which God originally created man in the beginning.  With regard to Theosis, St Anastasios says “….That which is of God is that which has been lifted up to a greater glory without its own nature being changed.”[1]

In an Orthodox wedding service there are two parts, the first part is the Betrothal.  In Old Testament Israel, the Betrothal was a legal and binding promise and the “couple” was considered married even though the consummation of the marriage (the Crowning) had not come to fruition.  The Church of the present age is the betrothed of God awaiting the consummation of the marriage with Her Bridegroom (the crowning) in her life to come.

It is my hope that these lessons have been of some benefit in understanding how the Orthodox Tradition of the veneration of the Mother of God is a natural fulfillment of the Old Testament narratives as heard in the Liturgical tradition of the Orthodox faith.

The Theotokos is the Bride of God, the Mother of God, the New Jerusalem, the Church, the Mother of all Christians, the Protection of Christians, and the Mediatress of Christians before the throne of Her Son.  She is worthy of veneration by the members of the Body of Her Son (the Church) because through her perfect obedience to the will of God, she freely cooperated with divine grace in order to be able to travel the road of union with God.  Because of her perfect obedience to the will of God, our humanity was joined with God’s Divinity through the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ, and raised to the heights of God.  Because of the Theotokos’ perfect obedience to God, we too may have the opportunity to freely cooperate with Divine Grace for the salvation of our souls.

Scriptural Passages and Hymnody for this part
New Testament Old Testament Hymnody
John 3:23-3:35

Rev.19:7

Rev. 21:2

Rev. 21:9

Rev. 22:17

Romans 7:1-6

Mt 22:1-14

2Cor 11:2

Eph 5:22-32

1 Cor 5:7

Mt 22:2

Mt. 25:1-13

Mt 5:12

1 Pet  4:13

Rev. 19:9

Rev. 3:4,

Rev. 3:5;

Rev. 7:14

Rev. 19:8

Rev. 19:9

Mt 26:29

Lk 13:29

Lk 22:30

Mt 5:18

Mk 13:31

1 Co 7:31

2 Pet 3:10-13

1 Jn 2:17

Rev. 5:9

Rev. 21:5

Rom 8:19-22

2 Cor 5:17

2 Pt 3:13

Heb 11:10

2 Cor 6:16

Rev. 22:20

Rev. 22:17

Is 54:1-8

Ezk 16:7-14

Hos 2:1-23

Hos 2:19

Is 65:17-25

Is 2:1-4

Jer 38:33

 

Ninth Ode from Pascha

 

Excerpts from the Divine Liturgy, Matins and Vespers.

 

 

End.

Glory to God for all things +

Bibliography

Abydos, Bishop Gerasimos of. At the End of Time: the Eschatological Expectations of the Church. Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2004.

Dalmais, Irénée Henri, Pierre Jounel, and Aimé Georges Martimort. The Liturgy and Time. New  Edited by A. G. Martimort, I. H. Dalmais and P. Jounel. Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1986

Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Nabu Press, 2011

Hapgood, Isabel Florence, ed. Service Book Of The Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church. 5th ed. Englewood, NJ: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Arch., 1996

Kangelaris, Demetri, and Nicholas Kasemeotes, trans. The Service of the Small Paraklesis to the Most Holy Theotokos. Brookline, MA.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1997

Elowsky, Joel C., and Thomas C. Oden, eds. Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture: New Testament Iva John 1-10. Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 2006.

Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schussler. The Book of Revelation, Justice and Judgment. Philadelphia: Fortress Pr, 1985.

Hainsworth, Fr. John. “The Ever Virginity of the Mother of God.” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith9174 (accessed November 1, 2011

Harakas, Stanley Samuel. The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers. Minneapolis, Minn.: Light & Life Pub Co, 1988

Harrington, Wilfrid J. Revelation (Sacra Pagina Series – Paperback). Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008

Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible. Translated by James Hastings.  Hendrickson Publishers, 2005.

Hapgood, Isabel Florence, Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church. Englewood, New Jersey: Antiochian Orthodo Christian Archdiocese of North America, 1996

Josephus, Flavius. The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem. Teddington, Middlesex TW118HH, Echo Library, 2009.

Kronstadt, St. John. My Life in Christ, or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and of Peace in God. Kindle Edition, 2011. http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Serenity-Contemplation-Reverent-Self-Amendment/dp/0884650189 (accessed November 15, 2011)

Leondis, Rev. Alexander G., Rev. Socrates C. Tsamutalis, and Rev. James C. Moulketis, trans. The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom and Hymnal. Midland Park, NJ.: NIKA Publishing, 1989.

Lossky, Vladimir. In the Image and Likeness of God. Edited by John H. Erickson. Crestwood, N.Y.: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001

Mary, Mother, and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, trans. The Festal Menaion. South Canaan, Pennsylvania: St Tikhons Seminary Pr, 1998

Maximos of Pittsburgh, His Eminence Metropolitan. “The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church.” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8038 (accessed November 13, 2011

Maximovitch, St. John, and John Maximovitch. The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God. 4 Revised ed. Platina, CA: Saint Herman Pr, 1997

Meyendorff, John. Marriage: an Orthodox Perspective. 2d expanded ed. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2000

Monastery, Holy Transfiguration, trans. The Great Horologion: Book of Hours. Brookline, MA.: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1997.

Packer, A.M., D.Phil., James I., Merrill C. Tenney, A.M., Ph.D., and William White, Jr., Th.M., Ph.D., eds. The Bible Almanac. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980.

Patriarch of Alexandria, St. Cyril. Commentary On the Gospel of Saint Luke. Translated by R. Payne Smith. Studion Publishers, Inc., 1983

Roberts, Rev. Alexander, and James Donaldson, eds. Apocryphal Gospels, Acts and Revelations. Translated by Alexander Walker, Esq. Vol. 16 of Ante-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to Ad 325. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing LLC, 2004.

Schaff, D.D., LL.D., Philip, and Henry Wace, D.D., eds. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Vol. 14. Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994.

Schmemann, Alexander. For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004.

Schmemann, Alexander. Of Water: A Liturgical Study of Baptism. Crestwood, NY: St.Vladimir Seminary Press, 2000

Schmemann, Alexander. The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy. Crestwood, N.Y.: St Vladimirs Seminary Pr, 1997

St. John the Baptist, Essex, UK, The Stavropegic Monastery. Mary the Mother of God: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas. Edited by Christopher Veniamin. South Canaan, PA.: Mount Thabor Publishing, 2005.

Stavropoulos, Archimandrite Christoforos. Partakers of Divine Nature. Translated by Rev. Dr. Stanley Harakas. Minneapolis, MN.: Light and Life Publishing Company, 1976

Tarazi, Paul Nadim. Historical Traditions. Vol. 1 of The Old Testament: An Introduction. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991.

Tarazi, Paul Nadim. The New Testament: an Introduction, Johannine Writings, Crestwood, N.Y.: St Vladimir’s Seminary Pr, 2004.

Tarazi, Paul Nadim. The Old Testament, Introduction: Prophetic Traditions. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1994.

Tenney, Merrill C., Steven Barabas, and Peter deVisser, eds. Pictorial Bible Dictionary. Nashville, Tennessee: The Southwestern Company, 1975.

The Festal Menaion. South Canaan, Pennsylvania: St Tikhons Seminary Pr, 1990

Vaporis, translated by N. Michael. The Service of the Sunday Orthros. Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1991

Vaporis, N. Michael, and Evie Zachariades-Holmberg. “The Akathist Hymn and Small Compline.” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/chapel/liturgical_texts/vaporis_akathist (accessed September 14, 2011)

Weinrich, William C., and Thomas C. Oden, eds. Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture New Testament XII Revelation. Downers Grove, IL.: Inter-varsity Press, 2005.

Wilcock, Michael. The Message of Revelation: I Saw Heaven Opened. Leicester, England.: IVP Academic, 1984

Wilson, Mark. Charts On the Book of Revelation: Literary, Historical, and Theological

Perspectives (Kregel Charts of the Bible and Theology). Grand Rapids, MI.:  Kregel Academic & Professional, 2007

Archimandrite Christoforos Stavropoulos, Partakers of Divine Nature, trans. Rev. Dr. Stanley Harakas (Minneapolis, MN.: Light and Life Publishing Company, 1976),17-19
END.

GLORY TO GOD FOR ALL THINGS.

 

Veneration of the Virgin Mary Part 5

This is Part 5 of a seven (7) part series on The Veneration of the Virgin Mary, also called the Mother of God, or Theotokos (Greek for God Bearer) in the Orthodox Christian Church.

Part 1     Part 2   Part 3    Part 4    Part 5    Part 6    Part 7

Related blog posts on Jesus Christ’s Geneology: Women in Jesus’ Geneology also, Old Testament Priesthood as compared to New Testament Priesthood.

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God’s Divine plan for man’s salvation culminated in the birth of the Virgin Mary who was the beauty and excellency of all of the generations of Israel.  From the time of the Virgin Mary’s birth she was identified with the Community of Israel, both the community of the Old Covenant and the community of the New Covenant; and she is venerated in the Church’s hymnody as the Temple and Ark of God, the Mother of God, the New Jerusalem, and the Mother of the Church.

The Virgin Mary is one flesh with her Divine Son, Jesus Christ.  Since the Virgin Mary is the Lord’s Mother, the Lord took his humanity, body and blood, from her.  The Virgin Mary is a reflection of the divine image which God had given mankind in the beginning of creation.   She is one flesh with her Divine Son.  The Church teaches that the Orthodox Christian becomes a child of the Lord by adoption and puts on the new nature of Jesus Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism.  In Gal 3:26 – 4:7, St. Paul directly relates the Sacrament of Baptism as the path to becoming one with Christ Jesus.   When a person is baptized, they put on Christ and are baptized into His Body, the Church.  In other words, through baptism, the faithful enter the Church and become sanctified members of the mystical body of Christ, one flesh with the Lord.   When a person is baptized, the major Hymn that is sung at Baptism is “Osi is Christon…”  “All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  This hymn comes from the New Testament St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians 3:27.   Many Orthodox biblical scholars think the hymn of, “Osi is Christon…” was already being sung at the early Christian baptisms during the procession of the newly regenerated into the assembly.  This hymn continues to be sung at every Orthodox baptismal service to this day[1].

After the Sacrament of Baptism, the Christian begins and long a difficult journey to salvation.  The baptized Christian must struggle with his free will so that in true cooperation with God, he will be able to reach the condition of unity with God.  This condition of untiy with God is called, Theosis, which is the process of choosing that all of the Christian’s opinions, thoughts, words actions, their whole life, is turned in God’s direction.

Since Mary Theotokos is one flesh with her divine Son, she is therefore, necessarily the Mother of those baptized into His body, the Church.   The Holy Eucharist is a concrete realization of the unity of human nature with Christ, and concurrently, of unity with all the members of the Church.  When the Christian partakes of Holy Communion, he/she mystically partakes of the Body and Blood of the Savior – we relive the miracle of His divine incarnation through Mary, Theotokos.   When the Lord clothed himself with humanity’s flesh and blood through the Virgin Mary, the Lord perfected humanity.  He made perfect the Old Covenant in the now New Covenant, by uniting humanity with his Divinity and transfiguring it into a new and glorious form.  When the faithful partake of the Lord in Holy Communion, they become by mystical Grace, part of His body and blood, and become united with the members of the church, the body of Christ, the New Jerusalem, and God becomes their Father and the Theotokos becomes their mother.  Eve, as the mother of the race of Adam, became subject to the devil, death and corruption.  However, the Virgin Mary, Theotokos, Eve’s anti-type, is the Mother of Christians who are freed from the destructive influences and powers of evil, having become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4).

The Orthodox faith has taught for centuries that the Mother of God is our Mother too.   St. Gregory Palamas in his Homily 37 on the Dormition of the Mother of God, says, “the Mother of us all” for she “alone, placing herself between God and the whole human race….she stands on the borders of created and uncreated nature, being the first to realize in her own life the fact of human divinization, she represents the way and the prototype of the God-oriented man.”

God’s Divine plan for man’s salvation culminated in the birth of the Virgin Mary who was the beauty and excellency of all of the generations of Israel.  From the time of the Virgin Mary’s birth she was identified with the Community of Israel, both the community of the Old Covenant and the community of the New Covenant; and she is venerated in the Church’s hymnody as the Temple and Ark of God, the Mother of God, the New Jerusalem, and the Mother of the Church.

[1] Note:  “Osi is Christon…” is also chanted in the Church at the Feast days of Christmas, Epiphany, St. John the Baptist, The Saturday of Lazarus, Easter and Pentecost.

Related blog posts on Jesus Christ’s Geneology:  Women in Jesus’ Geneology  also, Old Testament Priesthood as compared to New Testament Priesthood.

 

Veneration of the Virgin Mary Part 3

This is Part 3 of a seven (7) part series on The Veneration of the Virgin Mary, also called the Mother of God, or Theotokos (Greek for God Bearer) in the Orthodox Christian Church.

Part 1     Part 2   Part 3    Part 4    Part 5    Part 6    Part 7

Related blog posts on Jesus Christ’s Geneology: Women in Jesus’ Geneology also, Old Testament Priesthood as compared to New Testament Priesthood.

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PART 3

  1. Overview

As we have seen in the previous parts of this series, in the New Testament, “Adam” comes to signify the “old man”, the fallen and sinful condition of all humanity.  Jesus Christ, in His person and work, is the beginning of the “new man”.  We are told in scripture, 2 Cor 5:17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”.  Seeing the first Adam as representative of our fallen condition, and the second Adam (Jesus Christ) as bringing about our new and redeemed human condition has led our Church to view Christ’s incarnation, teaching, crucifixion, and especially His resurrection as a restoration of “Adam” – that is the restoration of humanity.

We have also seen how the very first Christians – even back to the Grandparents of the Lord, Joachim and Anna and the High Priest Zacharias – used Old Testament imagery as applied to the Virgin Mary in recognition of how she is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies and that this process of recalling Old Testament Scripture was used over and over again throughout the history of the church to the present day.

  1. Scriptural Old Testament imagery used in the hymnody of the Church in relation to the Mother of God.

The hymnody of the church uses a great deal of Temple and Ark of the Covenant imagery in relation to the Mother of God.  More so than any other object, the Ark is used to typify the Theotokos.   St. Gregory Palamas in his homily on the Nativity of the Mother of God writes,

“Today a new world and a mysterious paradise have been revealed, in which and from which a New Adam came into being, re-making the Old Adam and renewing the universe…..today the living Tabernacle of God…the inspired human Ark of the true Bread of Life sent down from heaven for us….But, who is the new world, the mysterious paradise, the inspired Tabernacle and Ark of God, ….?  It is the Maiden who before and after childbearing is eternally virgin…”[1] \

Saint Cosmas takes up the theme of comparing the Virgin Mary to liturgical vessels and chants at the Dormition of the Mother of God, Matins Canticle Six, First Canon, ”Thy Son, O Virgin, has truly made thee dwell in the Holy of Holies as a bright candlestick, flaming with immaterial fire, as a golden censer burning with divine coal, as the vessel of manna, the rod of Aaron, and the tablet written by God, as a holy ark and table of the bread of life.”[2]

On the Feast of the Entrance of the Virgin into the Temple, one of the lessons read during Vespers for this feast of the Mother of God is 1 Kings 8:1-11.  This passage describes the dedication of Solomon’s temple (c.960BC).  This designated reading at this feast day to the Mother of God aligns the dedication of Solomon’s temple in the old covenant of the Lord with his people to the dedication of the new temple in the new covenant of the Lord with his people which is given through the person of the Virgin Mary.

In the New Testament, the Ark is mentioned in the Letter to the Hebrews and the Book of Revelation. Hebrews 9:2-4 states that the Ark contained “the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.” Revelation 11:19 says the prophet saw God’s temple in heaven opened, “and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple.”

A number of Biblical commentators connect the verse of Revelation 11:19 with the Woman of the Apocalypse in Revelation 12:1, which immediately follows, and they state that the Virgin Mary is the “Ark of the New Covenant” in this passage.   Carrying the Savior of mankind within her, she herself became the Holy of Holies. This is the interpretation given by many Fathers of the Church in the fourth century.  At Vespers for the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple it is chanted in church, “Into the holy placed the Holy of Holies is fittingly brought to dwell, as a sacrifice acceptable to God.[3] It is also heard in church at the same service, “..for Joachim brings within today in glory the Temple and Throne of the King of all, and he consecrates as an offering to God her whom the Lord has chosen to be his Mother.”[4]  Also, during this service we hear other correlations made equating the Virgin Mary with the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, the Bridal Chamber of God the Word, the golden vessel containing the true manna, the flesh in which Divinity resides.[5]

A little history about the Ark and the Temple of Solomon is worth recalling at this point.    The Ark is described in Ex. 25:10-22 as a box surmounted by two figures of cherubim as we discussed during our first week of class.  Provisions were made for gold-plated acacia wood staves permanently inserted and fixed through golden rings so that it could be carried.  The initial purpose of the chest was to hold the “testimony” to God’s salvation.  The ark was a throne for the invisible God Who was seated on the wings of the cherubim.  Within the chest were the two stone tablets of the “covenant of the Lord” (Ten Commandments – 1 Kings 8:21); a homer (which is about two quarts) of manna was contained in a golden pot (Ex. 16:33-34) as a memorial to God’s provision; and, the rod of Aaron which bloomed blossoms and produced almonds as “a testimony … against murmurings” to the exclusive priesthood of the sons of Aaron and the authority of Moses and Aaron. (Numbers 17:10).

The dwelling place of the God of Israel, was originally the portable shrine called the Ark of the Covenant, which was placed in the Tabernacle tent.  In the history of the Ark, it leads the Israelites through the desert.   After King David unified Israel, he brought the Ark to Jerusalem, the new capital, with the intent of building temple as a permanent place for the Ark.  In I Chronicles 21-22, David purchased a threshing-floor for the site of the Temple.  God told King David that because his reign was of blood,  he would not be permitted to build a temple in his lifetime.  The task of building therefore passed to David’s son and successor, Solomon.  1 Kings 6:1-38, 7, and 8 describe the construction and dedication of the Temple under King Solomon.

King Solomon requested the aid of King Hiram of Tyre to provide both the quality materials and skilled craftsmen. During the construction, a special inner room, named the Holy of Holies, was prepared to receive and house the Ark of the Covenant (1 Kings 6:19); and when the Temple was dedicated, the Ark described 1 Kings 8:9 only contained the Tablets of Stone.  Aaron’s rod that “budded” is no longer in the Ark and neither is the jar of manna (1 Kings 8:6-9).  The time frame is approximately the 10th century BC.  From that period of time, there is no mention of the Ark apart from the Prophet Jeremiah approximately around 627 BC, who prophesied of the persecutions and destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the captivity of the Jews in Babylon.  Scripture tells us that Jeremiah prophesied:   “in those days, they shall no more say, “The Ark of the Covenant of the Holy One of Israel”:  It shall not come to mind; it shall not be named; neither shall it be visited…” (Jer. 3:16)

Around 587 BC, before the next destruction of the Temple, II Macc. 2:4-6 informs us that the Prophet Jeremiah was told by God to hide the Ark.  This scriptural passage says,  “being warned of God, commanded the Tabernacle and the Ark to go with him, as he went forth into the mountain where Moses climbed up…and he found a hollow cave, wherein he laid the tabernacle, and the Ark, and the altar of incense, and so stopped the door…..Some followed the prophet and tried to mark the way, but they could not find it”( II Macc. 2:4-6).   For centuries following, the location of the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle and Holy Altar appears to have remained hidden in a cave on Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai).

Around 19 BC, Herod the Great renovated the Temple which had again been previously destroyed by the 70 years of Israelite captivity (Dan. 9:1-2), and the temple became known as Herod’s Temple.  The Works of Josephus, The Wars of the Jews,[6]further clarifies there was no Ark in Herod’s renovated temple.   According to tradition, this renovated temple, with no Ark of the Covenant, existed during the time the Virgin Mary would have gone to live in it when she was 3 years old.  St. John Maximovitch writes that the child Mary entered the newly-restored temple into which the glory of God had not descended as it had upon the Ark or upon the First Temple, the Temple of Solomon[7].  This statement seems to verify Josephus writing on the Wars of the Jews which state that the Ark of the Covenant was not in the new temple.  Sacred Tradition further indicates that the Virgin Mary lived in the Holy of Holies during her time in the temple.   The Holy Fathers of the Church have commented that fact that there was no Ark of the Old Testament in the Holy of Holies at this time did not matter, because the Old Covenant is replaced with the New Covenant with the Virgin Mary who at this point resides in the Temple until the Annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel that she had been chosen by God to bring salvation into the world and her betrothal to Joseph.  The Hymnody of the Orthodox Church verifies the Tradition of Mary being the “Living Ark” of God in the feast day of her presentation to the Temple on November 21.

  • Small Vespers, Nov. 21, “….into the Holy of Holies receive ye a Virgin, the spotless Tabernacle of God the Almighty”.[8]
  • Great Vespers, Nov. 21, “…Today let us, the faithful, dance for joy, singing to the Lord with psalms and hymns, venerating His hallowed Tabernacle, the living Ark, that contained the Word who cannot be contained…”[9]
  • Matins, Nov. 21, “…The Temple of God, the heavenly Tabernacle, accomplished her entry into the temple of the Law …..”[10]
  • Old Testament types of Mary.

Old Testament types of Mary which relate to the Lord dwelling in her womb include the Jar of manna (EX 16:33, 34); Aaron’s rod that budded (Nm 17:1-13); the tablet of the Law “written with the finger of God” (Ex 31:18 – The Fathers of the Church say the “finger of God” is the Holy Spirit).

Other Old testament phrases one hears in Orthodox church services related to the Virgin Mary are:

  • “The ladder reaching from earth to heaven (Gn 28:10-17)”, the Burning Bush and the Firey Throne in the Akathist Hymn and other hymns to the Mother of God. God spoke from the burning bush and lived within the Virgin, but His Divine immaterial fire (the light of God) did not consume either but instead cleansed and enlightened her soul.   The “burning” is the immaterial fire, the light of God, that cleanses and enlightens our souls.
  • A “sweet smelling fragrance” is another phrase that is used in relation to the Theotokos primarily heard in the Akathist Hymn and other hymns to the Mother of God. This refers to incense used in temple worship of God, and in the case of the Virgin Mary, it refers to her virginity and perfect obedience to the Will of God.
  • Dismissal Hymn of the Forefeast of the Entrance of the Virgin Mary: “By blossoming forth the only Ever-virgin as fruit, today holy Anna doth betroth us all unto joy, instead of our former grief; on this day she doth fulfill her vows to the Most High, leading her with joy into the Lord’s holy temple, who truly is the temple and pure Mother of God the Word.[11]
  • Kontakion of the Forefeast, “The whole world is filled today with joy and gladness on the Theotokos’s auspicious and resplendent feast, whereon with great voice it crieth out: The heavenly tabernacle is she in truth.[12]
  • There is also the imagery of the Gate with reference to the Theotokos. The Old Testament passage, Ezekiel 43:27-44.4, is the only Old Testament passage read at all four of the major feasts of the Theotokos. This reading tells about the East Gate of the heavenly temple remaining shut even as the Lord God of Israel, and He alone, goes in and out through it.  The Fathers of the Church see this as prophetic of the Lord entering Mary’s womb and being born nine months later with her virginity remaining intact – and, it is also prophetic of Palm Sunday when the Lord entered Jerusalem from the East from the Mount of Olives
  • In Ezekiel 44:2-3, Prophet Ezekiel says, “And the Lord said to me, This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no one shall pass through it; for the Lord God of Israel shall enter by it, and it shall be shut. For the Prince, He shall sit in it, to eat bread before the Lord; He shall go in by the way of the porch of the gate, and shall go forth by the way of the same.  At the church service for the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple we hear, “Today the house of God receives the Gate through which no one may pass; so it has brought an end to the worship commanded by the shadow of the law.”[13] In order to understand this phrase church, review Ezekiel 43:1-12.  Ezekiel was led out from the east gate, the glory of the Lord entered, and then the gate was shut.

In modern times, the East Gate is located on the east walls of the old city of Jerusalem, leading to the temple mount.    Some consider this to be the place of the Last Judgment because historically, judgments were rendered in the gates of the city as we learn from Gen.19:1, 23:10. Since scripture says that the Messiah was to come from the East (Matthew 24:27), some biblical scholars concluded that his judgment would be at the eastern gate. This is one reason for the many Muslim, Christian, and Jewish graves on the Eastern slopes of the Temple Mount, in the Kidron Valley, and on the Western slopes of the Mount of Olives.  Some Muslims place Allah’s final judgment at this location also. Jews are still waiting for the Messiah to arrive through the eastern gate  – and Christians have for centuries associated the East Gate with Palm Sunday (the Messiah’s arrival) and also with the Second Coming of the Lord (Luke 19:35-38).

There is some speculation among historians that the current East gate was built possibly as early as in the 6th   century AD by the Byzantines – or perhaps the 7th century AD by the Arabs – over the ruins of the Second temple gate, and this “new” gate has been sealed (some say by the Arabs) since the 16th century.

“Today a new world and a mysterious paradise have been revealed, in which and from which a New Adam came into being, re-making the Old Adam and renewing the universe…..today the living Tabernacle of God…the inspired human Ark of the true Bread of Life sent down from heaven for us….But, who is the new world, the mysterious paradise, the inspired Tabernacle and Ark of God, ….?  It is the Maiden who before and after childbearing is eternally virgin…”[14]

References:

[1] The Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist, Essex, UK, Mary the Mother of God: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas, ed. Christopher Veniamin (South Canaan, PA.: Mount Thabor Publishing, 2005, 2

[2] Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, trans., The Festal Menaion , 519

[3] Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, trans., The Festal Menaion , 164

[4] Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, trans., The Festal Menaion , 164

[5] Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, trans., The Festal Menaion , 164

[6] Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (Teddington, Middlesex TW118HH,: Echo Library, 2009), 351

[7] St. John Maximovitch, The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God.,

[8] Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, trans., The Festal Menaion, 165

[9] Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, trans., The Festal Menaion, 166

[10] Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, trans., The Festal Menaion, 184

[11] Holy Transfiguration Monastery, trans., The Great Horologion: Book of Hours (Brookline, MA.: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1997), 317

[12] Holy Transfiguration Monastery, trans., The Great Horologion: Book of Hours (Brookline, MA.: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1997), 317

[13] Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, trans., The Festal Menaion, 179

[14] The Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist, Essex, UK, Mary the Mother of God: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas, ed. Christopher Veniamin (South Canaan, PA.: Mount Thabor Publishing, 2005, 2

Related blog posts on Jesus Christ’s Geneology:  Women in Jesus’ Geneology  also, Old Testament Priesthood as compared to New Testament Priesthood.

Scriptural references and hymnody for this part
New Testament Old Testament Hymnody
2 Corinthians 5:17

Hebrews 9:2-4

Revelation 11:19

Revelation 12:1

Matthew 24:27

Luke 19:35-38

 

Genesis 28:10-17

Genesis 19:1, 23:10

Isaiah 11:1

1 Kings 8:1-11

1 Kings 8:21

Exodus 16:33-34

Exodus 25:10-22

Exodus 25:31

Exodus 16:33, 34

Exodus 31:18

Ezekiel 43:27-44:4

Ezekiel 44:2-3

Ezekiel 43:1-12

 

Numbers 17:10

Numbers 17:1-13

1 Chronicles 21-22

2 Chronicles 36:22-23

1 Kings 6:1-38, 7, 8

1 Kings 6:19

1 Kings 8:9

1 Kings 8:6-9

Jeremiah 3:16

II Maccabees 2

Ezra 1:1-4

Ezra 4

Ezra 5

Daniel 9:1-2

 

Vespers and Matins for the Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God, November 21.

 

Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God.

 

 

All of the educational information and posts on this website are copyrighted by the Author, Dr. Christine Cheryl Kerxhalli.  You are free to use anything in your ministry that is posted on this site as long as a link is provided to this website and the author is given appropriate credit

 

 

The Christian Symbol of the Fish

The Christian Symbol of the Fish.  The Ichthys
Explanation of the Christian Symbol of the Fish with the Greek lettering inside the image.

In the earliest of Christian times, when Christians were heavily persecuted, the fish symbol came to represent Christianity long before the Cross symbol was in use.   The symbol of the fish was used to identify oneself as a Christian to others, mark burial places of the saints and martyrs and would also indicate the location of where a prayer meeting was held.

There are many different interpretations as to why or how the fish symbol originated, some of which can be traced back to a time long before Jesus Christ came into the world – as far back as the third and fourth century BC with the stories of the mythical Orpheus of Thrace that was described as a fisher of men.  Many other ancient cultures and religions used the symbol of the fish as well to denote various observances.  But, in the case of Christianity, the fish symbol was most likely adopted from the writings of the Apostles which speak of the miracles that Jesus preformed in feeding the multitudes and the calling of the first Apostles, Simon Peter, James and John (Luke 5:1-11, Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20) who were referred to as the “reputed pillars” of the Jewish Christian community in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians (Gal. 2:1-10).  Most Orthodox Christian theologians also think that the great catch of fish in Luke 5:1-11, Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20, fulfills the prophesy in the Old Testament of Jeremiah 16:16, “…says the Lord….behold ….I will send many fishermen, and they will fish them.”.

The Christian Fish symbol is also aligned with Jesus’ Resurrection and the story of Jonah and the Whale of the Old Testament (Jonah 1:17- 2:10) through the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians 15:1-58; and, the Gospels of Matthew (12:38-40) and Luke (11:29-30) (KJV).

IΧΘΥΣ is an acronym for Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ – phonetically pronounced: Isous Christos, Theou Yios, Soter – in English: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.  Some believe the acronym inside the fish started to become popular in the 1970s.  But I believe the existence of the acronym inside the fish was in use long before that time; and, although I cannot find a reference now, I remember as a child seeing the Fish symbol  with the IΧΘΥΣ written inside in documents that dated well before the 1970s, perhaps even as early as the 1950s or before.  At some point, modern culture converted the Greek acronym IΧΘΥΣ written inside the first symbol to simply the English word Jesus and other variations also exist in contemporary society today.

References:  Lawrence Farley, The Gospel of Luke, Good News for the Poor, Conciliar Press; Walter Liefeld, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol. 8; Zondervan; Paul Tarazi, Luke and Acts, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, KJV.