On Sept. 8, The Church celebrated The Feast of The Nativity of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary. I’m not sure why but I found myself deeply contemplating (not easy with my shallow mind) this feast day in general and the Theotokos in particular.
As a good (sometimes) God-fearing (almost always) Protestant I never gave much thought to Mary other than at Easter and Christmas, those days when she intruded into the celebration and could not be ignored, diminished certainly, but not ignored. At that time anything to do with Mary smelled suspiciously of the Romans with their statuary and their candles and their incense (or Popery?). We were taught that the Romans (we never even knew the Holy Orthodox Church existed) did their best to elevate Mary to a full share in the Godhead and sought to change the Holy Trinity to the (un)Holy Quadripartite (I’m sure that’s not exactly the right word so please correct me Fr. Frank). I apologize for all the (excessive) parentheses.
My church experience prior to coming home to Orthodoxy was that we were in theory Trinitarian but in practice unitarian (not those Unitarians of the watered down gospel) in that the focus is almost solely on Christ to the exclusion of God the Father and The Holy Spirit.
In broadening my views on Mary I came to understand in a much deeper way how through Christ’s humanity and our shared humanity we need not fear death. The concept of sharing is His humanity for some reason just never seemed significant. I know this sounds a bit preposterous and points out quite clearly my cranial density but I eventually began to grasp that we are the beneficiaries of Christ’s full humanity (He having sprung from Mary’s womb).
As for venerating and lifting up the Theotokos, who better in the history of humanity to lift up? She is the God-bearer. Her unhesitant acceptance, her embrace of what God the Father through the Holy Spirit would make manifest through her is the model for us all.
I no longer flinch at, “Most holy Theotokos, save us.” I am comforted by:
“Remembering our all-holy, immaculate, most blessed, and glorious Lady, Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary with all the Saints, let us commend ourselves and each other, and all our life unto Christ our God.”
“It is truly right to bless you, O Theotokos,
ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God:
more honorable than the cherubim, beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim —
without corruption you gave birth to God, the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify you!”
And all God’s people said, “Amen.”