Veneration of the Virgin Mary, Part 6

This is Part 6 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.



In the Old Testament Moses was called by God to be the agent in delivering the Hebrew people from the bondage of Egyptian slavery.   In so doing, Moses became a mediator and an intercessor of God’s Old Covenant with His people.   In the New Testament, the Virgin Mary was called by God to be the agent in delivering the Hebrew people from the bondage of sin and death.  In so doing, she became a mediator and intercessor of God’s New Covenant with His people.

The hymnody of the Orthodox Church often entreats the Theotokos to intercede on mankind’s behalf before the Lord for deliverance from harm and evil.  An example of this is the Protection of Christians hymn, Prostasia ton Christianon, that is often heard at the Divine Liturgy: 

”O Protection of Christians that maketh not ashamed, O Mediatrix never-failing with the Creator: Despise not the sinners’ voice of supplication; but in that thou art good, come speedily to the aid of us who faithfully call upon these; make haste to our petition and further our prayer, O Birth-giver of God, who ever protectest them that do thee honour.”[1]

 A Mediator, from a religious standpoint, is one who acts as an intermediary between God and man.  Christ is the perfect Mediator as the Son of God and true Man, because He partakes of both natures.  There is also the important aspect of a mother-son relationship that is highlighted in the hymnody of the Orthodox faith.

A scriptural passage that is frequently heard in Church is in relation to the intercession of the Mother of God, the Assembly of the faithful, and the messianic banquet.  This scriptural passage is from John 2:1-2:11 which records the wedding of Cana where the Mother of God intercedes for the wedding party about the lack of wine for the guests and the miracle of changing the water in to wine becomes Jesus’ first miracle recorded in scripture.

“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”.

Obviously, the disciples were invited together with Jesus and His mother to the wedding.  So, one could also say that there was an assembly of the community to witness the first wedding in Jesus’ Ministry.  The timeframe of the wedding of Cana says, “On the third day”…the phrase “the third day” means two days later from the previous timeframe.  An ancient biblical commentator, Theodore of Mopsuestia says that the first day was that of His baptism in which Andrew and his companion (who is believed to be John the author of the Gospel), followed him and then passed the night with him.  The second day relates the events concerning Philip and Nathaniel.  The third day points to the events of this wedding party at Cana.  Immediately after his baptism, Jesus left with his disciples and went to live in Galilee.[2]  St. Cyril of Alexandria said that the wedding was not held in Jerusalem but outside of Judea, as it were, in the country of the Gentiles —“Galilee of the Gentiles”, as the Old Testament prophet Isaiah prophesied in IS 9:1.    St. Cyril says that it is obvious that the synagogue of the Jews rejected the Bridegroom from heaven and that the church of the Gentiles (gladly) received Him.[3]  The wedding taking place on the third day also has resurrectional implications showing that the marriage of God and His Church will be fulfilled in Christ’s Resurrection.

As we read in the scripture of the wedding, the wedding feast ran out of wine.  The Cana incident is frequently chosen to illustrate the Theotokos’ intercession.  Based on the scripture itself, the Theotokos takes the initiative and alone mentions the lack of wine and essentially acts as the intermediary between her Son and the bridegroom.

There are many differing opinions among biblical scholars about this, but if you consider her words at the time, they indicate that she knows the family of the bridegroom well enough to take such an initiative over the people serving at the Feast…. she knew the wine ran out and wished to relieve the embarrassment of the family.  Again, this points to a community of believers who are intimately known to each other and looked out for each other’s welfare.  The Theotokos doesn’t ask her Son per se to do anything ….she points it out to Him and then fully expects Him to do whatever He needs to do to correct the situation.  This again reflects the familiarity of the families involved and that Jesus is just as familiar with the family as is Mother is.

 Jesus addresses His mother as “woman” in this Gospel, but this address is not disrespectful of Her.    Jesus would not have been disrespectful of His mother because that, in fact, would be breaking a commandment.  St. John Chrysostom says that when Jesus was 12 years old and Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple teaching the elders (Luke 2.51), Jesus greatly honored his mother and did what she told Him since Luke writes in his Gospel that Jesus was “subject to His parents”.    The venerable Bede says, “The miracle of the water becoming wine is Jesus’ first miracle and it is performed at His Mother’s request which indicates that he honors His mother.   Jesus not only addresses His mother as “woman” in this passage, He uses the term again when she is standing at the foot of the Cross with the disciple John.  Jesus said to John, “Behold thy Mother” and to His mother He said, “Woman behold your Son”.  Other usage of the term woman is of course seen with Eve who is called woman by Adam before the Fall, therefore, it was respectful in its usage relative to Eve.  Eve (which in Greek is Zoe) is the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20).   Mary is the new woman and often referred to by theologians as the new Eve.  She is the Mother of the new humanity restored and deified through the incarnation of the eternal Son, Who is the new Man, the New Adam.

The wedding at Cana is significant in the Gospel of John.    In the Old Testament, marriage feasts were used to symbolize the union of God with His Bride, Israel (Is 54:1-8, Ezk 16:7-14; Hos 2:1-23).   In reviewing Jesus’ lineage, Mt 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38, these genealogical records bear witness to the fact that the chain of the generations of the ancient Israelites was leading to a goal….the coming of Christ, the Messiah … that in the framework of God’s plan for mankind’s history; human fertility was a means for bringing man back to God.   In biblical history, marriage was not only a function determined by society but was also leading to a point when God, “…Who out of the root of Jesse, according to the flesh, produced the Ever-Virgin Mary, and from her were Incarnate – born for the salvation of the human race,[4]”….and do you know where this is all said?….right in the Orthodox wedding service of today.

So reflecting on Old Testament Judiasm, the Isrealites saw the essential meaning and goal of marriage as procreation.  The most obvious and necessary sign of God’s blessing of a Jewish marriage was seen in the continuation of the race…which is why – as we have discussed over the last few weeks – barrenness was such an issue for Sarah, Rebekkah, Rachael, Hannah, and, Elizabeth.    The early Israelites did not have a clear understanding of life after death.  Within their paradigm, God’s promise to Abraham (Gen 22:17-18) implied that life could be perpetuated through progeny, therefore, the central importance was that of childbirth.  Marriage of the early Israelites could be monogamous or polygamous and maintaining concubines was also accepted because it secured the continuation of the race (Gen. 16:1-3).  And, then there was also the obligation for a man to “raise the seed” of a dead brother by marrying his widow (called “Levirate”), and thus securing for the dead brother a partial survival in the children of his wife. There is an interesting story about Tamar and Judah that encompasses this Tradition of the Ancient Israelites (Gen 28:1-20).  Tamar is one of the women listed in Jesus’ Genealogy in the Book of Matthew.

Monogamous marriage, based on eternal love of a husband and a wife for each other, existed rather as an ideal image for the ancient Israelites.  It was implied in the story of creation, in the Song of Solomon and in various prophetic images of the love of God for His people, but it never became a religious norm or requirement for these ancient people.[5]

With the wedding at Cana, the entire idea of marriage changes in the New Testament.  It changes from a witnessed agreement only leading to legal procreation of the human race, to a sacrament which can lead to the Salvation of the souls of the husband and wife.

Through the intercession of the Mother of God at the wedding of Cana, the first miracle that Jesus performs is done at her request to protect the people of God so they may be saved from embarrassment.

The Gospel of the wedding at Cana is read at every Orthodox wedding service.  In an Orthodox wedding, Marriage is a Sacrament of the Church.  As an Orthodox Christian, we are not only a physiological, psychological and social being; we are also a citizen of God’s Kingdom.  As such, all the decisive moments in our life involve God Himself[6] and the wedding of Cana is the first example of God’s involvement in the New Testament where God blesses the decisive moment of the married couple by performing His first miracle at their marriage by changing the water into wine for the couple.  This miracle that was performed by Jesus is significant and the Fathers of the church aligned this miracle with the Holy Eucharist when the simple elements of wine and bread mystically become the Body and Blood of Christ.

As such, for Orthodox Christians, God’s involvement in the lives of humanity is best realized in the Divine Liturgy with the Holy Eucharist as evidenced by the miracle of Jesus at Cana.  When we are baptized, we become a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  The Divine Liturgy begins with the exclamation, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” and so does the Sacrament of Marriage at the Service of the Crowning.  This is because in the early centuries, the marriage service took place within the context of the Divine Liturgy,   A Christian author of the second century, Tertullian, writes that marriage “was arranged by the church, confirmed by the Eucharist, sealed by the blessing and inscribed in heaven by the angels”.  Every Christian couple who wanted to be married went through the formalities of civil registration, which gave it validity in secular society; and, then through their joint participation in the regular Sunday liturgy, in the presence of the entire local Christian community, they received the Bishop’s blessing.  It was then that their civil agreement became also “sacrament”, with eternal value, transcending their earthly lives because it was also “inscribed in heaven”, and not only in a secular “registry”.  It became an eternal union in Christ.  Earlier, around 100 AD, the same procedure is implied in a letter of the famous bishop-martyr Ignatius of Antioch, “Those who get married must have unity with the knowledge of the bishop, so that marriage may be according to the Lord, and not by human desire”.[7]

We learn from Ephesians 3 that the Church itself – a mysterious union of God with His people – is the Sacrament, the Mystery of salvation.  When man is incorporated into this union through Baptism, this is a “sacrament” for the Mystery of salvation as applied to the individual person.  But we are told by the church fathers that all individual sacraments are completed in the Eucharist.  Actually, the Eucharist is itself a wedding feast, so often mentioned in the Gospels.  Cabasilas writes, “This (the Holy Eucharist) is the most-praised wedding, to which the Bridegroom leads the Church as a Virgin bride…when we become flesh of His flesh and bones of His bones”.  In the early Christian Church, Baptisms, Ordinations to the diaconate and the priesthood and the episcopate and also a marriage and all took place within the Liturgy.

In the fourth century a specific solemnization of the sacrament is mentioned by Eastern Christian writers, the rite of “crowning” performed during the Eucharistic Liturgy.

In the ninth century, marriage was separated from the Eucharistic Liturgy.  The process at that point for a couple was to enter into a civil marriage, then the Christian couple took the Eucharist and this communion was, according to Tertullian, the seal of marriage.

Over the centuries various changes occurred to the process of the sacrament of marriage, but within all the changes, however, within its canonical and practical tradition, the Church also remembered the fact that the Eucharist is the true “seal” of marriage as it was foreshadowed in the miracle of the wedding at Cana.

It should be noted that the wedding at Cana happened after Jesus’ baptism and the assembly of the wedding party could be seen as the first public gathering of God’s people as He begins His ministry on earth.  It is a type of Liturgy.  It had the 4 elements of a gathering of the people of God as the ancient Israelites assemblies did (refer to Lesson 4):

1) The Gathering was called either by God or in His Name

2) God is present in their midst

3) God spoke His word

4)  The covenant sacrifice which was a miracle bestowed by Him through His compassion for His people (at His mother’s request) to save the wedding party embarrassment by performing His first miracle of changing the water into wine – a foreshadowing of the Holy Eucharist.

In the Liturgy today, the Church, being concretely a gathering of the people, a gathering of the Community of God, becomes the Church of God.  Then Christ Himself leads the assembly, and the assembly is transformed into His body through the Holy Eucharist.[8]  With this reality in our religious life, the true meaning of marriage as a sacrament becomes understandable in the framework of the Eucharistic Divine Liturgy.[9]

Let’s look at how the Fathers of the Church during the first 1000 years after Pentecost perceived the Theotokos as an intercessor.

St. Irenaeus writes in his paper Against Heresies[10], “For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Virgin Mary set free through faith.” – He viewed the Virgin Mary as the advocate of the Virgin Eve.

St. Cyril of Alexandria who was a dominant figure at the Council of Ephesus, related the mediation of the Virgin to her office as Mother of God and her relationship with the Most Holy Trinity, when he wrote in his Homily IV, “…Mary Theotokos…It is through thee that the Holy Trinity is glorified and adored; through thee, the precious Cross is venerated and adored through the whole whole; through thee that heaven is in gladness, that angels and archangels rejoice, and that demons are put to flight; through thee that the tempter, the devil, is cast down from heaven; through thee that the fallen creature is raised up to heaven; through thee that all creation, once imprisoned in idolatry, has reached knowledge of the truth, that the faithful obtain baptism and the oil of joy, churches have been founded in the whole world, and that people are led to conversion.”.  …..”…(it is through thee) the Apostles announced salvation to the nations, and the dead are raised…”

In the 6th century, St. Romanos the Melodist constructed a Hymn on the Nativity, that also sets the doctrine of Mary’s mediation in a distinctive relationship to Adam and Eve which is a theme that is also brought out in every Sunday Matins service in the Evlogitaria, “O Virgin, you have given birth to the Giver of life; you have delivered Adam from sin, and to Eve you have brought joy in place of sorrow.  He who took flesh from you, who is both God and man, has raised up those who had fallen from life”.[11]

In the 8th century, St. Andrew of Crete called her, “Mediatress of the law and grace,”…”She is the mediation between the sublimity of God and the abjection of the flesh, and becomes the Mother of her Maker.”

In Rev. 22:16, Jesus says, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”  The ancient biblical scholar Oecumenius comments that “the root” and “the Offspring” of David are written in scripture for a reason.  Jesus is the “root” and cause of all things, in that He is and is known to be God.  Being the “root” of all things includes King David and ultimately the Virgin Mary who was the beauty and excellency of all of the generations of Israel and who could respond to God on behalf of His people and “yes” to do His Will and bring Salvation to His people.   So…Jesus is not only from the beginning…the “root” – He is also the Offspring of David through the Virgin Mary.

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.   She is 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.

[1]Isabell Florence Hapgood, Service Gook of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church, (Englewood, New Jersey, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America) 1996, 125

[2] Joel C. Elowsky, ed., Thomas C. Oden, Gen Ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament IVA, John 1-10, 89

[3] Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden, eds., Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture: New Testament IVA John 1-10 (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 88-89

[4] Orthodox Prayer book, trans. holzhausen & Gelsinger, ed. NMVaporis, Holy Cross Orthodox Press.

[5]John Meyendorff, Marriage: an Orthodox Perspective, 2d expanded ed. (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2000),13

[6] John Meyendorff, Marriage: an Orthodox Perspective, 2d expanded ed. (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2000), 10

[7] John Meyendorff, Marriage: an Orthodox Perspective, 2d expanded ed. (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2000), 22

[8] John Meyendorff, Marriage: an Orthodox Perspective, 2d expanded ed. (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2000), 10

[9] John Meyendorff, Marriage: an Orthodox Perspective, 2d expanded ed. (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2000), 10

[10] Saint Irenaeus, Against Heresies,  Book VI, Ante-Nicene Fathers, The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D.326 Vol. 1., Rev. Alexander Roberts, DD and James Donaldson, etd. (Grand Rapids, MI:  Wm B. Eerdmans Publ Co., 1987; repr), ch. 19 (1), 547

[11] translated by N. Michael Vaporis, The Service of the Sunday Orthros (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1991), 36-37

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

Scriptural Passages and Hymnody for this Part
New Testament Old Testament Hymnody
Revelation 12

John 2:1-2:11

Luke 2:51

Matthew 1:1-16

Luke 3:23-38

Revelation 22:16

Isaiah 9:1

Genesis 3:20

Isaiah 54:1-8

Ezekiel 16:7-14

Hosea 2:1-23

Genesis 22:17-18

Genesis 16:1-3

Genesis 28:1-20

Selected Hymns from Divine Liturgy


Excerpts from Sunday Matins.

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.



  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… 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… 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]


[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 Old Testament Priesthood as compared to the New Testament Priesthood

In my earlier post, we explored the women mentioned in Jesus Christ’s Genealogy from Matthew 1:1.  We explored the lineage of the Virgin Mary as given in the first five chapters of the Protoevangelium of James and discovered that she carried both the bloodline of the Tribe of Judah (King David) from her Father; and, the bloodline of the Tribe of Levi through her Mother Anna who was of the daughters of Aaron.

In ancient Israel, one tribe of the 12 tribes of Israel was set aside to perform priestly functions.  This was the tribe of Levi (Numbers 3).  Specifically, within the Levi Tribe, the sons of Aaron were further set aside to be the Liturgical Priests.  The Levites taught the people about the Hebrew faith and therefore lived within the other 11 tribes.  They did not inherit property from their father Jacob (later called Israel),  their sole responsibility was to live within the other tribes and teach the faith (Joshua 13:33).

Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8 speak of this priesthood.  The Old Testament priesthood was one of progeny.  To clarify, just Aaron was the first anointed Priest within the tribe of Levi and was known as Christos (the anointed one).  His sons were then acknowledged by a sprinkling.  Whenever the anointed priest died, his next eldest son became priest and so forth.

Jesus Christ, carries both the bloodline of the tribe of Judah (as foretold in the Old Testament) and the tribe of Levi (the tribe of the Priestly class) as discussed in the previous post.  Jesus Christ’s relative, John the Baptist (Luke 1:36)  (Son of Priest Zachariah (of the sons of Aaron) and Elizabeth (of the daughters of Aaron) were relatives to the Virgin Mary through her mother, Anna, who was of the daughters of Aaron.  Therefore, Zachariah and Elizabeth were of the Levi tribe and the sons and daughters of Aaron.  John the Baptist is referred to as the Forerunner, because he was approximately 4 months older than Jesus Christ, and he went before the Messiah to prepare them for Jesus Christ’s Ministry when Jesus became of age according to God’s plan.

In the Old Testament, it was prophesied by Isaiah and Ezekiel that the Lord God would come as a shepherd to His flock (Isaiah 40:11) (Ezekiel 34:12, 34:23) which is something the Old Testament priesthood was not – they did not go forth to evangelize and bring all into the faith.  The Old Testament priesthood promoted good works and proper teachings. and although the New Testament priesthood is all that, it is also now a shepherding task to bring  the flock back to God the Father – the salvation of mankind.

In John 10:7-16, Jesus Christ declares himself as the Shepherd and Jesus Christ’s ministry is precisely that, not only good works and proper teachings but also the shepherding of the people, the body of the Church – it is a priesthood of evangelism that reaches out to all people.   The New Testament priesthood is also a sacrificial priesthood in that the Shepherd lays down his own life for the salvation of his flock.   Jesus Christ is the New Testament High Priest (Heb 9:11).  Not one of progeny as the Old Testament Priesthood was, but one of the New Testament Priesthood, as High Priest and Shepherd so that God’s people may obtain salvation and inherit the Kingdom of God:

Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. ….. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.   “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 …….. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.  And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.    John 10:7-16

  Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32 NKJV

Related blog post :  The veneration of the Mother of God in the Orthodox Christian Church

Sources:  NKJV Holy Bible; The Ministry of the Church, Image of Pastoral Care by Joseph Allen, Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture; The Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, Co; Protoevangelium of James from Apocryphal Gospels, Acts and Revelations: Ante Nicene Christian Library translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to AD 325 Part 16. Reverend Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson


Sunday School Advent/Christmas program for Orthodox Christian Youth.

This is a Sunday School Advent/Christmas program that effectively includes all children in the Catechism program of the church, First Grade through Teens.
The purpose of the program is to create anticipation and preparation in awaiting the birth of our Savior during the 40-day Christmas Lenten period. “The Services of Christmas in the Orthodox Church” by Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann in the book The Services of Christmas: The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, by David Anderson and John Erickson; together with the book, Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home, by Rev. Fr. Anthony Coniaris, inspired the design of this Sunday School program.
Using Fr. Coniaris’ idea of an Advent Wreath in his book, “Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home” and applying appropriate adaptations to his suggestions to turn it into a program for all children to present to the adults of the parish during Advent, the program that was developed was entitled “PREPARING FOR HIS COMING”

Click the following link to view the program detail:  Christmas Advent Program for Orthodox Youth.  

Orthodox Christian Youth Craft for Christmas Lent – Christmas (Advent) Wreath

For Orthodox Christians, the fast period for the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ begins on November 15 and extends through December 25. Orthodox Christians often refer to this time as the Christmas Fast or Christmas Lent. This is a spiritual period of moderate fasting, prayer, scripture reading and reflection on the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the USA, other Christian traditions often use what is called an Advent Wreath to enrich the spirituality of the Christmas Lenten season as they await the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. According to those Christian traditions, a candle is lit every Sunday during the Christmas Advent (Lent) season marking the passing of time until the Nativity of the Lord. This craft project borrows that Advent Wreath Christian tradition and adapts it for use in the Orthodox Christian home during the forty-day (40 day) Christmas Lenten fast period while providing appropriate scriptural readings for each lighting.

Click this link for detailed information: A SAFETY Orthodox Christian Advent Wreath.

Orthodox Christian Safety Advent Wreath Orthodox Christian Safety Advent Wreath