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.

________

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 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.

_______________

PART 6

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 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.

_________

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 4

This is Part 4 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.

____________

PART 4

Overview

This part will explore the Orthodox practice of identifying the Virgin Mary’s role in God’s Covenant with His people through her role as being part of the community of believers of both the Old and the New Covenant.   By extension of this association, this lesson will additionally explore the hymnody of the Orthodox Church that calls the Virgin Mary the Temple, the Ark of God, the Mother of God, the New Jerusalem, the Mother of the Church, biblical historical perspective of God’s Covenant with His people.

The only way for an Orthodox Christian to understand the Old Testament is in light of the New Testament and this will also be true as the only way to understand the role of the Virgin Mary in bringing mankind’s salvation into the world.  From this viewpoint, the following paragraphs will explore the Biblical historical perspective of the Old Covenant with God’s people as originally established with Moses as the mediator between God and His people and correlate those events with the Biblical historical perspective of the New Covenant with God’s people with the Virgin Mary as the mediator between God and His people.

From the very beginning of Christian church history, believers gathered regularly for prayer and this was regarded as characteristic of their way of life.[1]   In the book of Acts, the gathering of the community for prayer is mentioned often and this is further evidenced in the Epistles by St. Paul and his directives and correctives for the assembly in 1 Cor 11, 14.    The tradition of the gathering of the faithful together was actually begun over 1300 years earlier than the book of the Acts of the Apostles by God Himself in the book of Exodus.  The book of Exodus provides a witness to God’s action to deliver the Hebrew people from Egypt’s bondage and to bind them to Him in a covenantal relationship.  From a Christian perspective, we know from the New Testament that the Old Covenant was replaced with a New Covenant between God and His people when the Virgin Mary accepted to bring the salvation of mankind into the world.   Just as Moses’ perfect obedience to God’s Will brought salvation to the Israelites from Pharoah’s bondage, the Virgin Mary’s perfect obedience to God’s Will brought salvation to God’s people from the bondage of sin and death.  With the Virgin Mary’s perfect obedience to God’s Will,  the advent of the New Covenant was begun with the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then became fully ratified when Christ gave Himself for His people to free them from the bondage of sin and death and lead them to true freedom as the children of God (Roman 8:21).

The very first gathering of the Israelites in the wilderness at the foot of Mt Sinai when they escaped from Pharaoh’s bondage was called by God Himself through Moses.  During this gathering, scripture tells us that the people actually heard God’s voice, received the Law from Him, and promised to obey it.  In the New Testament, Mary was called by God to bring the Salvation of mankind into the world and like Moses in the Old Testament, in perfect obedience to God’s Will, she accepted to be the agent to bring into existence the New Covenant with God’s people.  When Jesus Christ was born, like the people of the Old Testament, God was with His people in the New Testament.  The people of the New Testament heard God’s word and He walked beside them in their daily life, just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden and as God interacted with His people in the New Testament.

  • The Virgin Mary’s identification with the  community

Some biblical scholars have remarked that the Virgin Mary’s words in Luke 1:46-55, often referred to as Mary’s Magnificat, were modeled on the Psalms, in particular, the Song of Hannah 1 Sam 2:1-10.    Mary’s opening words are, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.   Similar wording is found in the Old Testament in Hannah’s song, I Sam 2:1-2.  Although not identical to Mary’s Song, it is similar in nature: “My heart rejoices in the LORD  … I rejoice in Your salvation”

Samuel’s mother was Hannah and his father was Elkanah. Hannah, at the beginning of 1 Samuel, is barren and childless. In the story (I Sam 1:1-18), Hannah prays to God for a child.   Eli, a priest of Shiloh and the last of the Israelite Judges before the rule of kings in ancient Israel[2], is sitting at the foot of the doorpost in the sanctuary at Shiloh and sees Hannah apparently mumbling and thinks Hannah is drunk.  Hannah explains that she was praying and in her prayer had promised that if the Lord were to let her have a child, the child would be dedicated to Him.   Eli blesses her after she promises the child to God and subsequently Hannah becomes pregnant; her child is called Samuel.   True to her vow to God, 1 Sam 1:11, after Samuel is weaned, she leaves him in the Priest Eli’s care when he was 3 years old.  It is at the presentation of Samuel to the priest, that Hanna worships the Lord with the song that biblical scholars entitle, “Hannah’s Song”.

Unique to Samuel’s birth, and not evident in other births until Jesus Christ, is a song extolling God’s special intervention toward His people and this is heard in both Hannah’s Song (1 Sam 2:1-10)[3] and Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).  Some biblical scholars have thought that Luke, or a scribe, made some mistake in ascribing the Magnificat to Mary, rather than to her older cousin, Elizabeth, whose situation more nearly mirrors that of Hannah who was also barren woman.  But upon further investigation, although the Virgin Mary and Hannah have two different situations, there is continuity between the two songs in that the salvation of the community of Israel is the primary emphasis.  The mindset of both of these women was not isolated to their personal situation; they both identified themselves with the Israelite community and the promise of the salvation of their people.

From the very beginning at Mt. Sinai when God gathered the community of Israelites for the first assembly, the Israelites considered themselves in relation to their community – all was accomplished for the Community of Israel, God’s chosen people.  The “community” was an important part of the entire history of the Israelites.  The Scripture of both the Old and New Testament provides evidence that woman images are often used to represent various communities.  For example:  In Hannah’s case, the Priest Eli misunderstood Hannah’s prayer while moving her lips as being drunk and thought she was a pagan Canaanite woman who were typically identified as, “daughters of corruption”.   When accused accordingly, Hannah defended herself to Eli and the Priest gives her his blessing, but she was identified initially, although in a negative way, with a “community” of people.   Hannah’s song is one of looking forward to the Salvation of the Israelites, and identity between Mary and community of Israel is implicit in Luke 1:54 in Mary’s Magnificat as Mary’s comment clearly aligns herself with being the vessel through which God will save the community of Israel.

Another example of a woman as being identified with community is in the Gospel of John 4:1-42 when Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman at the well.  John makes a clear parenthetical phrase at the end of verse 9 that what was unexpected about Jesus conversing with the Samaritan woman was not that she was a woman, but that she was a Samaritan.  This reference is a clear identification of the woman as a representative of her community.   The community of the Samaritans were a mixed race and traditionally enemies of the Jews.  Although they worshiped the God of Israel and were also awaiting the Messiah, they accepted only the first five books of the Old Testament as their Scripture and did not accept any prophets after Moses.  After Moses, the only prophet they expected was the Messiah who Moses foretold (Dt. 18:15-18).  The woman at the well perceives Jesus to be a prophet.  She then ends their conversation with, “….I know that the Messiah is coming (who is called Christ).  When He comes, He will tell us all things….”, and Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”(John 4:25-26).     John 4:5-42 is read on the fifth Sunday of Pascha, called the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, and the woman is clearly identified in the Gospel as a representative of the Samaritan community.

The identity between Mary and the community of Israel became implicit long before the hymnographers of Fourth Century AD used the phraseology in church hymns.   In the New Testament, Luke 1:54, The Virgin Mary identified herself with the community of Israel when she says, “He has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever”.  The identity between Mary and Israel is implicit as Mary’s comment aligns herself with being the vessel through which the Israel of God, the Church, will receive God’s mercy as God had promised to Abraham and his descendants.    Additional identification of Mary with the community of Israel is found in Lk 1:67-69.  In this passage, Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied aligning the Mother of God as the “horn of salvation” for the people of Israel.    Zacharias recognized that the people of Israel would be redeemed through the Mother of God who will raise a “horn of salvation”[4] in the house of David for the people of Israel; and, that his son John (the Baptist) will go before the Lord to prepare His way.

If one thinks about it in this way, the identity of Mary, the Mother of God, with the community of Israel as heard in the hymnody of the church becomes easily understandable.  An example of Fourth Century hymnographers usage of “New Jerusalem” in hymns as a typological form referring to the Theotokos is evidenced in the ninth ode of Pascha, “Shine, shine O New Jerusalem!  Exult now and be glad O Zion! Be radiant O pure Theotokos in the resurrection of your son!”   Another example of the Virgin Mary as being identified with a community in the hymnody of the church is composed by St. Andrew of Jerusalem which is heard at Matins of the Nativity of Christ when the Virgin Mary is referred to as,  “…thou Living City of God the King, in which Christ has dwelt, bringing to pass our salvation…”

  • The Virgin Mary identified with the Ark and the Temple

The Ark of the Covenant in Old Testament narratives carried the Word of God, and the Temple of God was built by Solomon from his father, King David’s, blueprints.   The Virgin Mary has been identified by theologians as the Ark and Temple of the New Covenant because she housed the Word of God, Jesus Christ, inside her.   This reality of the Virgin Mary physically carrying God has become a typological form for the Old Covenant Ark of the Covenant and Solomon’s Temple which is expressed in the hymnody of the Church developed in the Fourth Century AD. Some examples of this expression in the hymnody of the church are:

  • “Rejoice, all-glorious temple of Him Who is above the Seraphim” (Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos)
  • “Rejoice ark made golden by the Spirit” (Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos)

Conclusion:

The New Testament Christians identified the Virgin Mary with the Community of Israel, both the community of the Old Covenant and the community of the New Covenant; and, by extension of the practice of the early Christians, the Fourth Century hymnographers incorporated these images into the hymnody of the Church that is heard today.  The Virgin Mary is venerated in the Church’s hymnody as the Temple and Ark of God, the Mother of God, the New Jerusalem, the Mother of Church.

References:

Irénée Henri Dalmais, Pierre Jounel and Aimé Georges Martimort, The Liturgy and Time, New ed., ed. A. G. Martimort, I. H. Dalmais and P. Jounel (Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1986), 91

Notes:  In the Old Testament, Hannah’s son, Samuel is viewed by rabbinical literature as a Hebrew Judge, a priest, and the first of the major prophets who began to prophesy inside the land of Israel.  Politically, Samuel lived between two eras:  the Theocratic era, era of the Judges – and – the Monarchy era, the era of the Kings.  The Judges of the Theocratic era were believed to have been appointed by God as representatives of Him to handle tribal or national situations/ difficulties and to act as military leaders in times of war.  The judges were not elected by the people and they did not assume leadership through heredity. Samuel being a Priest, Judge and Prophet anointed the first two kings of the Kingdom of Israel:  Saul (1 Sam 10:1) and David (1 Sam 16:13).:

Paul Nadim Tarazi, The Old Testament: An Introduction, vol. 1 (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991), p.108

Note:  The “horn….” is seen as a symbol of effective strength which can be found in the Old Testament book of Psalms:  Pss. 17(18):1-3; 91(92):10-11; 131(132):17-18.  It’s usage represents a king who would bring salvation.

Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, trans., The Festal Menaion (South Canaan, Pennsylvania: St Tikhons Seminary Pr, 1998), 285

N. Michael Vaporis 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 August 15, 2011).

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
1 Corinthians 11, 14

Romans 8:21

1 Peter 2:4-10

Matthew 16:18

1 Peter 2:4-10

Rev. 1:6, 5:9-10, 20:6

John 4:23

Acts 2:42, 2.47

Luke 1:46-55

Luke 1:46-55

John 4:1-42

John 4:25-26

John 4:5-42

Revelation 12

Revelation 11:19

 

Acts 7:44

Hebrew 8:1-5, 9:24

Revelation 19:7-8, 21:9-10

Revelation 17:4, 18:16

Luke 1:54

Luke 1:67-69

Galatians 3:27

Galatians 3:26-4:7

2 Peter 1:4

Deuteronomy 4:10, 9:10, 18:16, 23:1-8

Exodus 19:17-18

Deuteronomy 4:12-13

Leviticus 8:3

Numbers 8:9

Joshua 8:30-35

2 Chronicles 20:5-14

1 Kings 8

2 Chronicles 6-7

2 Chronicles 29-30

2 kings 22-23

Nehemiah 8-9

Leviticus 23:16

Exodus 19:6

Isaiah 61:6

 

1 Samuel 2:1-10

1 Samuel 2:1-2

1 Samuel 10:1

1 Samuel 16:13

1 Samuel 1:1-18

1 Samuel 1:11

Deuteronomy 18:15-18

Exodus 25:9, 40, 26:30, 27:8

1 Chronicles 28:19

Song of Solomon 9:8

Song of Solomon 6:4, 10

Jeremiah 2:2

Genesis 37:9

Isaiah 7:14

Psalms:17(18):1-3; 91(92):10-11; 131(132):17-18

Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God.

 

Ninth Ode of Pascha.

 

Hymn of Baptism, “All who are Baptized…”

 

 

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.

_____

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 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

 

Akathist Hymn Prayers to the Mother of God (Theotokos) and our Lord – intoned byzantine style in English and Greek

The following videos features the intoned Prayers in Byzantine Style to the Mother of God (Theotokos) and our Lord Jesus Christ as heard during Great Lent in the services for Great Compline and the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos according to Greek Orthodox usage. The first video is intoned in English. The second video is intoned in Greek

A source for an English Translation is available at  https://www.goarch.org/-/the-akathist-hymn-and-small-compline

Greek Text with Phonetics is available at this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/txftqjv0mwq63mv/Prayers%20to%20Mother%20of%20God%20and%20The%20Lord_Greek_Phonetics.pdf?dl=0

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.

 

 

 

 

How an Orthodox Christian makes the sign of the Cross

This is a helpful pictorial aid for religious education and home schools that explains how an Orthodox Christian positions their hand when making the sign of the Cross.

How an Orthodox Christian makes the sign of the Cross
How an Orthodox Christian positions their hand to make the sign of the Cross

How an Orthodox Christian positions their hand when making the sign of the cross