On Being Saved Through Childbearing

image source: https://krishantheorthodoxsingh.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/astonishing-pictures-of-christian-palestine/

image source: https://krishantheorthodoxsingh.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/astonishing-pictures-of-christian-palestine/

Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid ca. 1055-1108

Not childbearing alone, but rearing them up… It is evident that a woman being virtuous is raising her children in virtue. Now if a virgin is being virtuous, doubtless she is being saved… Since the woman has been hindered from teaching… if she desires to be teaching, let her teach the children. But some say that the “childbearing” [1 Tim. 2:15] means that of the Theotokos. For she gave birth to the Savior, saving, they say, the women. (P.G. 125:364 BC [col. 40])


On How the Theotokos Taught the Church

St.-PhilaretSt. Philaret of Moscow 1821-1867

[A]lthough she, by the height of grace, presides invisibly and in spirit over the assembly of the Apostles,— by lowliness of heart, in the body, she suffered not herself to be visibly the object of any glory, accepted no pre-eminence, and placed herself on the same rank with the other women, teaching them by her example, the same that the Apostle Paul taught them afterwards by his word: “Let your women keep silence in the churches.”; “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach.” I should desire, I would say in passing, that our alienated brethren should take this example into serious consideration, they, who before the Judgment of Christ, having condemned without discrimination the whole hierarchy, and thereby punished themselves by a wilful renunciation of the Priesthood, do as the maximum of disorder, intrust the conduct of their divine service to virgins, who are undoubtedly not wise but foolish. For what virgin if not a foolish one, would dare to accept in the Church that which the holy Virgin the Mother of God dared not to undertake? (Select Sermons, Elibron Classics. Kindle Locations 4829-4837. Adegi Graphics LLC. Kindle Edition)

On the Ever-Virgin

icon from Mount Tabor Studios, Raymond Vincent

icon from Mount Tabor Studios, Raymond Vincent

St. Basil the Great 330-379

For it says: He did not know her until she had given birth to her firstborn son. Now this verse has given rise to the conjecture that, after rendering pure service in accomplishing the birth of the Lord through the Holy Spirit, Mary did not renounce the customary marital relations. But in our opinion, even if none of this harms the account of piety—for virginity was necessary for service in the economy, but inquiring into what happened next out of curiosity should be avoided by reason of its mystery—nonetheless, since lovers of Christ do not accept the opinion that the Mother of God ever ceased being a virgin, we think the following testimonies suffice. Let us return to: He did not know her until she had given birth to her son. In many instances the word “until” seems to suggest a kind of temporal boundary, but in reality it indicates indefiniteness. What did the Lord mean when he said: And behold, I am with you all days, until the close of the age? Indeed, not that the Lord was not going to be with the saints after this age! Rather, it means that the promise of the present age will not be rescinded in the age to come. So we say that in this case too the word “until” should be taken in the same way. Now when firstborn is said, by no means is he the firstborn in comparison to siblings who came after him. Rather, he is called the firstborn because he was the first one to open the womb of his mother. It is also clear from the story about Zechariah that Mary was always a virgin. For there is an account, and it has been handed down to us from the tradition, that Zechariah entrusted Mary to the place for the virgins after conceiving the Lord. Then he was slaughtered by the Jews between the temple and the altar. Charges had been brought against him by the people, on the grounds that by his actions he established that incredible and famous sign: a virgin gave birth and her virginity was not destroyed. (On Fasting and Feasts, Popular Patristic Series Book 50. Kindle Locations 606-627. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Kindle Edition)

On the Immaculate Conception and Sinlessness of the Theotokos

Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky 1893-1979

The growing idea of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary was intellectually linked with an evolving trend in the interpretation of Original Sin, but, more profoundly, it was rooted in a specific psychology and attitude developing historically within the bosom of the western Baroque. The veneration of Panagia and Theotokos by the Orthodox is by no means the same. It is grounded in a spiritual soil of an altogether different kind. (Ways of Russian Theology: The Kiev Academy)

Mary was chosen and elected to become the Mother of the Incarnate Lord… Can we properly define the nature and character of this preparation? We are facing here the crucial antinomy (to which we have alluded above). The Blessed Virgin was representative of the race, i.e. of the fallen human race, of the “old Adam.” But she was also the second Eve; with her begins the “new generation.” She was set apart by the eternal counsel of God, but this “setting apart” was not to destroy her essential solidarity with the rest of mankind. Can we solve this antinomical mystery in any logical scheme? The Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary is a noble attempt to suggest such a solution. But this solution is valid only in the context of a particular and highly inadequate doctrine of Original Sin and does not hold outside this particular setting. Strictly speaking, this “dogma” is an unnecessary complication, and an unfortunate terminology only obscures the undisputable truth of the Catholic belief. The “privileges” of the divine Motherhood do not depend upon a “freedom from original sin.” The fullness of grace was truly bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin and her personal purity was preserved by the perpetual assistance of the Spirit. But this was not an abolition of the sin. The sin was destroyed only on the tree of the Cross, and no “exemption” was possible, since it was only the common and general condition of the whole of human existence. It was not destroyed even by the Incarnation itself, although the Incarnation was the true inauguration of the New Creation. The Incarnation was but the basis and starting-point of the redemptive work of Our Lord. And the “Second Man” himself enters into his full glory through the gate of death. Redemption is a complex act, and we have to distinguish most carefully its moments, although they are supremely integrated in the unique and eternal counsel of God. Being integrated in the eternal plan, in the temporal display they are reflected in each other and the final consummation is already prefigured and anticipated in all the earlier stages. There was a real progress in the history of the Redemption. Mary had the grace of the Incarnation, as the Mother of the Incarnate, but this was not yet the complete grace, since the Redemption had not yet been accomplished. Yet her personal purity was possible even in an unredeemed world, or rather in a world that was in process of Redemption. The true theological issue is that of the divine election. The Mother and the Child are inseparably linked in the unique decree of the Incarnation. As an event, the Incarnation is just the turning-point of history, – and the turning-point is inevitably antinomical: it belongs at once to the Old and to the New. The rest is silence. We have to stand in awe and trembling on the threshold of the mystery. (Creation and Redemption, Volume Three in the Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, [Nordland, 1976] 176; 178; 181-183.)

also see: The Mariology of Nicholas Cabasilas by Constantine Tsirpanlis

and: St. Nicholas Cabasilas on the Mother of God by Met. Kallistos Ware

In his paper “The Sinlessness of the Mother of God in St. Nicholas Cabasilas” Orthodox Theologian Christopher Veniamin states, “…[T]hough certainly describable as ‘supranatural’ and even as ‘divine’ (cf. the troparion of the 8th Ode, Second Canon by Basil the Monk, Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple), yet the Holy Virgin’s birth is not described…as ‘virginal’ or ‘maidenly’. And this certainly seems to be in keeping with the earlier Patristic consensus, summed up in the words of St. John Damascene’s rhetorical exclamation: ‘O loins of Joachim most blessed, out of which came blameless seed’ (On the Nativity of the Theotokos PG 96, 664B.), and ‘Thou (sc. the Mother of God) from us (sc. Adam and Eve) hast inherited a corruptible body’ (On the Dormition of the Theotokos, ibid., 733C).”

The author also asserts: “The essential issue in the whole question of the sinlessness of the Mother of God must be the preservation of the uniqueness of Christ’s sinlessness. Christ’s salvific work would be debased or even nullified if we were to accept that someone else also fulfills the conditions of His sinlessness; if we were to accept, that is, that the Ever-Virgin was free born free from original sin… the secondary issue here is the determination of the exact moment at which divine grace began to act upon the Holy Virgin so as to cleanse and strengthen her, and it is largely on this point that Cabasilas presents a somewhat peculiar line of thought. And while some of his phrases and certain shifts of emphasis could be construed as resembling the opinions of the thirteenth century Scholastics, and even, at times, as diverging from Cabasilas’ immediate predecessors, such a view would not take into account sufficiently the fact his theological presuppositions belong to a fundamentally different world. Indeed, the diversity of opinion in the Patristic tradition is not necessarily mutually exclusive on the question of the Holy Virgin’s sinlessness and purity, as the work of Cabasilas’ contemporary, St. Gregory Palamas, clearly shows, with whom Cabasilas has much in common.” And in closing, Veniamin succinctly concludes, “It has been suggested that Cabasilas ‘overemphasizes’ and ‘over-extols’ the Mother of God, so as to result in a general exaltation of her person and the role she played in our salvation. But surely, this is nothing more than the effusion of Cabasilas’ profound veneration of the Most Holy Mother of God. What is certainly beyond dispute, however, is the fact that nowhere in the theology of St. Nicholas Cabasilas is the immaculate conception accepted, mentioned or inferred.” (The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation: “Theosis” in Scripture and Tradition, pp. 52, 58-59). Veniamin’s testimony is particularly weighty since he is the translator and editor of the English translation of the homilies on Mary the Mother of God by St. Gregory Palamas.

also see Panagia by Vladimir Lossky for another Orthodox perspective on the sinlessness of the Theotokos

On Our Champion Leader


St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

[T]he holy Theotokos was always a participant and a leader in every good thing. After the Ascension of Christ, she, the treasure house of all good things, being thus in her own country, took charge of every good thing, and while she was dwelling in the land, she was herself the model and leader of all good things. Thus, after his Ascension, the holy mother of Christ was the model and leader of every good activity for men and for women through the grace and support of her glorious King and Son. And that is why she then instructed the holy Apostles in fasting and prayer, and they were devoted to fasting and prayer and supplication until the fiftieth day was completed, and they were filled with the grace of the comforting Holy Spirit. And from there the worthy Apostles went forth to preach the Gospel, and they spread the word of life in Jerusalem and all Judea, and after a little while they went forth to the ends of the earth, wherever the Holy Spirit ordered them. And they made disciples of all nations and baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, according to the command of the Lord…

[S]he was not only an inspiration and a teacher of endurance and ministry to the blessed Apostles and the other believers, she was also a co-minister with the disciples of the Lord. She helped with the preaching, and she shared mentally in their struggles and torments and imprisonments…

[S]he was the blessed hope of the Christians of that time and those to follow, and until the end of the world she is the mediator and the helper of the faithful. Nevertheless, her care and ministry were especially abundant at that time, in order to strengthen and guide the new Law of Christianity and to glorify the name of Christ. And the trials that fell upon the churches, the seizure of the homes of believers, the execution of many Christians, the arrests and various torments, the deeds and travails of the Apostles who were dispersed here and there, all this affected her. And she suffered for them all, and by word and deed she ministered to them. And she was the model of goodness and the teacher of excellence in the place of her Lord and Son, and she was a mediator and intercessor with him for all the believers, and she asked that her mercy and assistance be spread forth over all. And she was a leader and a teacher to the holy Apostles, and when anything was needed, they would tell her. And they received direction and good counsel from her, to the extent that those who were near the environs of Jerusalem would return. One after the other they went before her and reported everything that they were doing and how they were preaching, and they accomplished everything according to her direction. But once they went forth to distant lands, they were sure from year to year to go to Jerusalem for Easter and to celebrate the feast of Christ’s Resurrection with the holy Theotokos. And each one of them reported the success of their preaching and the sufferings that befell them from the Jews and Gentiles. And again they went forth to the work of their preaching, armed with her prayers and teachings. Thus they did from year to year, so long as nothing significant happened to anyone that would pose a hindrance, except for Thomas: he could not come because of the great distance and the difficult journey from India. But all the others came from year to year to greet the holy queen, and armed with her prayers they went forth again to preach the Gospel…

[B]ecause of this our Lord Jesus Christ thought it fitting that his all-holy mother should remain in this world many years, so that the believers would be greatly strengthened by her grace and the church of Christians would exceed in praising the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the blessed and all-praised mother of God, honored by her Son with such great honor, reached old age, for the queen of all creatures was approaching the eightieth year of this fleeting life, and she did not cease from labor, prayer, and supplication to her Son, but from day to day she increased them, exceeding in every good work. She always appeared humble, and she increased her current activities and charitable work. As we have been well informed, after many years the bendings of her holy knees were still to be found in the marble of Zion, and whenever the bodily nature required a little sleep, her bed was a stone. In all this she had great poverty, and her generosity overcame the poverty. This golden and precious pair, with the one aided by the other: amazing abundance in great destitution, riches and generosity of heart in need. Nevertheless, her mercy was not only toward loved ones and acquaintances but toward strangers and enemies, for she truly was the mother of the merciful one; she was the mother of the Benevolent One and the Lover of humankind who makes the sun to shine on the good and the evil and sends rain on the righteous and sinners (Matt 5.45). She was the mother of the One who became flesh and was crucified for us, enemies and apostates, in order to spread His mercy upon us. She was the mother of the poor and needy and of the enrichment of all, because for our sake the Rich One was made poor in order to enrich us, the downcast and the poor. Now, then, may the discourse up to this point be about her deeds, her benefactions, and her glories. In all this I will say a lot very briefly: she gave birth supernaturally to a Son, the Word of God Incarnate, and her life and conduct also came to an end supernaturally, and in everything before this and everything after, she was made victorious by the abundance and wealth of her benevolence and good works. So greatly was she magnified: she became greater than all, as the sun is brighter than the stars. (The Life of the Virgin, 94, 97, 99, 102)

On the Absolute Sinlessness of the Theotokos

St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco 1896-1966

The teaching of the complete sinlessness of the Mother of God does not correspond to Sacred Scripture, where there is repeatedly mentioned the sinlessness of the “One Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ (I Tim. 2:5); “and in Him is no sin’.” (I John 3:5);, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” (I Peter 2:22);. “One that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15); “Him Who knew no sin, He made to be sin on our behalf” (II Cor. 5:21). But concerning the rest of men it is said, Who is pure of defilement? No one who has lived a single day of his life on earth (Job 14:4). God commendeth His own love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life (Rom. 5:8-10).

This teaching contradicts also Sacred Tradition, which is contained in numerous Patristic writings, where there is mentioned the exalted sanctity of the Virgin Mary from her very birth, as well as her cleansing by the Holy Spirit at her conception of Christ, but not at her own conception by Anna. “There is none without stain before Thee, even though his life be but a day, save Thou alone, Jesus Christ our God, Who didst appear on earth without sin, and through Whom we all trust to obtain mercy and the remission of sins.” (St. Basil the Great, Third Prayer of Vespers of Pentecost.) “But when Christ came through a pure, virginal, unwedded, God-fearing, undefiled Mother without wedlock and without father, and inasmuch as it befitted Him to be born, He purified the female nature, rejected the bitter Eve and overthrew the laws of the flesh” [St. Gregory the Theologian, “In Praise of Virginity”]. However, even then, as Sts. Basil the Great and John Chrysostom speak of this, she was not placed in the state of being unable to sin, but continued to take care of her salvation and overcame all temptations [St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on John, Homily 85; St. Basil the Great, Epistle-160] (The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God)

On Believing Simply

Hieromonk Seraphim Rose 1934-1982

Not too many years ago the Abbess of a con­vent of the Rus­sian Ort­ho­dox Church, a woman of righ­teous life, was deli­ve­ring a ser­mon in the con­vent church on the feast of the Dor­mi­tion of the Most Holy Mot­her of God. With tears she entre­a­ted her nuns and the pil­grims who had come for the feast to accept enti­rely and who­le­hear­tedly what the Church hands down to us, taking such pains to pre­serve this tra­di­tion sacredly all these centuries- and not to choose for one­self what is “important” and what is “dis­pensable”; for by thin­king one­self wiser than the tra­di­tion, one may end by losing the tra­di­tion. Thus, when the Church tells us in her hymns and icons that the Apost­les were mira­culously gat­he­red from the ends of the earth in order to be pre­sent at the repose and burial of the Mot­her of God, we as Ort­ho­dox Chri­sti­ans are not free to deny this or rein­ter­pret it, but must believe as the Church hands it down to us, with sim­pli­city of heart.

A young Western con­vert who had lear­ned Rus­sian was pre­sent when this ser­mon was deli­ve­red. He him­self had thought about this very sub­ject, having seen icons in the tra­di­tio­nal ico­no­grap­hic style depi­cting the Apost­les being trans­por­ted on clouds to behold the Dor­mi­tion of the Theo­tokos; and he had asked him­self the question: are we actu­ally to under­stand this “lite­rally,” as a mira­culous event, or is it only a “poe­tic” way of expres­sing the com­ing toget­her of the Apost­les for this event … or per­haps even an imag­i­na­tive or “ideal” depi­ction of an event that never occur­red in fact? (Such, indeed, are some of the questions with which “Ort­ho­dox the­o­lo­gi­ans” occupy them­sel­ves in our days.) The words of the righ­teous Abbess there­fore struck him to the heart, and he under­stood that there was somet­hing dee­per to the recep­tion and under­stan­ding of Ort­ho­doxy than what our own mind and fee­lings tell us. In that instant the tra­di­tion was being han­ded down to him, not from books but from a living ves­sel which con­tai­ned it; and it had to be recei­ved, not with mind or fee­lings only, but above all with the heart, which in this way began to receive its dee­per trai­ning in Orthodoxy.

Later this young con­vert enco­un­te­red, in per­son or through rea­ding, many people who were lear­ned in Ort­ho­dox the­o­logy. They were the “the­o­lo­gi­ans” of our day, those who had been to Ort­ho­dox schools and become the­o­lo­gi­cal “experts.” They were usu­ally quite eager to speak on what was Ort­ho­dox and what non-Orthodox, what was important and what secon­dary in Ort­ho­doxy itself; and a num­ber of them pri­ded them­sel­ves on being “con­ser­va­ti­ves” or “tra­di­tio­na­lists” in faith. But in none of them did he sense the aut­ho­rity of the simple Abbess who had spo­ken to his heart, unlear­ned as she was in such “theology.”

And the heart of this con­vert, still taking his baby steps in Ort­ho­doxy, lon­ged to know how to believe, which means also whom to believe. He was too much a per­son of his times and his own upbrin­ging to be able sim­ply to deny his own rea­so­ning power and believe blindly eve­ryt­hing he was told; and it is very evi­dent that Ort­ho­doxy does not at all demand this of one-the very wri­tings of the Holy Fat­hers are a living memo­rial of the wor­king of human rea­son enligh­te­ned by the grace of God. But it was also obvious that there was somet­hing very much lack­ing in the “the­o­lo­gi­ans” of our day, who for all their logic and their know­ledge of Patri­stic texts, did not con­vey the fee­ling or savor of Ort­ho­doxy as well as a simple, theologically-uneducated Abbess. (Introduction to the Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birth-Giver of God by St. John Maximovitch)

On the Most Supernatural Among Supernaturals

St. Mark of Ephesus ca. 1392-1444

Nevertheless, let one remove every rational account with respect to that which concerns the Theotokos, who alone is the most supernatural marvel among supernaturals realized from eternity, who is also higher than all rational discourse; for in a a true way God wished His own omnipotence to be manifested in this woman. (First Antirrhetic, II.16-19)

On the Orthodox Veneration of the Theotokos

Eastern Patriarchs to the Church of England, April 12th, 1718

Though they call the Mother of our Lord blessed, and magnify the Grace of God which so highly exalted her; yet are they afraid of giving the glory of God to a creature, or to run into any extreme by blessing and magnifying her: and do hence rather choose to bless and magnify God for the high grace and honor conferred upon her, and for the benefit which we receive by that means.

Here we may fairly cry out with David, They were in great fear where no fear was (Ps. 53:5). For, when we thus magnify and extol the holy Mother of God, and Ever-Virgin Mary, we do by no means give divine honor either to this most glorious creature, or any other, but acknowledge and adore one and one only Maker and Creator of all things visible and invisible; and serve, praise, and glorify Him alone as God the Almighty. For, we know how to make a distinction in worship, and give that of latria to God only, but that of dulia to the Holy Apostles, Martyrs and righteous and godly Fathers, honoring them as faithful servants and true friends of God: therein imitating the holy Psalmist David, who says, I greatly honor thy friends O God (Ps. 139: 17). For whom The Lord called His friends and children, (for He says, I no more call you servants, but friends and children and heirs, Jn. 15:15) the same we honor and worship, not with latria, but with dulia; and call upon them for their intercession, as persons that are living after death, and have received favor from God, and as seeing and hearing what is done here, even as the Angels. Hear what Eusebius Pamphilus says in his second Oration of the Life of Constantine the Great. Says he, The great Constantine in his Edict ordains that the estates of the Martyrs. If they have no heir, should go to the Church. And why did he make this order? It is, says he, by no means hard even upon the dead, that she for whom they have been laboring, should be the heir. Indeed we worship our Lady the Virgin-Mother of God with hyperdulia, but not as God; as the Theotokos and Mother of God, but not with latria: God forbid; that would be blasphemy. For God only do we worship with latria, and make her our intercessor with Him for sins committed after Baptism, and by her hope for remission from Him. But let not this affrighten you. For, no one that is not wholly ignorant and without understanding, could worship or serve the creature above the Creator, unless he was an idolator, a polytheist and a madman. For we honor also earthly princes, and crown them, and bow down to them with much reverence, and worship them with bended knee; and are not upon that account called men-worshippers, nor are we looked upon as people that honor the creature above the Creator. For, the worship we give them is that of dulia, as servants elect of God, and honored of Him, and therefore both being called, theostepheis. Nor are we found fault with this. Besides, a terrestrial prince seeing his friends and servant honored and worshipped by other inferiors, rejoices and abundantly recompenses the honor to them. For, we don’t pay them the same honor that is due to the king only, but such as is proper for the friends of a king. However, if this offends them, they may forbear saying, “Holy Mother of God, help us”; and instead of it, may say, “Merciful and Almighty Lord, assist the intercessions of Mary the Holy Virgin and Mother of God, and save us”; until in time they come to be reconciled to the other. (The Answers of the Orthodox of the East to the Proposals sent from Britain for a Union and Agreement with the Oriental Church. Points of Difference: Proposition 2)

St. Maximus on the Dormition of the Theotokos

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

As her giving birth was without corruption, so her death also took place without corruption. As her giving birth was beyond words and nature, so her Dormition took place in a manner beyond the temporal and natural order. And she was wondrous, because as her soul ascended to heaven without her body, so her body also without her soul, so that she showed to her Son and His servants both communion and separation. She ascended to Heaven by the grace and assistance of her Son before the general resurrection to draw our attention to the coming resurrection. She was assumed completely, but first her holy soul separately, when she gave it over to the Lord, and then the immaculate body, as the Lord willed. Thus we confess the human beauty that the desirable one possessed, and the glorious grace with which her Son glorified her. So this feast is revered and wonderful in every way, revered by angels and human beings and adorned by the grace of the Holy Theotokos. And the time of this glorious feast also is good and blessed, full of all fruit: the harvest is complete, the vintage is matured, the fruits of the trees and every sort of produce are spread forth. And this honor is a also a glorification of our nature by the Creator and a remembrance of the delights of Paradise, and all this is given for the honor of the holy feast and for the delight of those who glorify her. And this time of the year is good and beneficial for humankind and full of benefits and delights.

Now our nature had been raised to heaven by the ascension and translation of the Holy Virgin, as before by the Ascension of her Son. She has become more exalted than the Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim, for truly she has become more exalted and glorious than all the other bodiless and immaterial creatures, the blessed mother of our Savior Christ God, clothed in royal splendor, praised and venerated by the powers and dominions and every name that has been named, not only those in this world but those in the world to come, which are invisible and unknown to us. I have said what is more brilliant and useful for us than all the rest. (The Life of the Virgin, 127-128)

On the Mother of God’s Presence Among the Faithful

St. Germanus of Constantinople died ca. 733

O most holy Mother of God, after heaven and earth were honored by your presence, how is it possible to accept your departure has left men deprived of your protection? Let it never occur to us to think in this way. For just as you, when living in this world, never felt estranged from a heavenly life, even so, after your departure, you are not spiritually separated from the [earthly] existence of men. If, on the one hand, you were consecrated as the heavenly tabernacle of God , because you held the Son of the Most High within you, your womb being capable of carrying His weight; on the other hand, you have been called the spiritual earth, because you received His body within you. Thus it is right to think that, since you were intimately united with God during all of your earthly sojourn, you never abandoned those who continue to live in this world, when you left this world’s life.

…Nothing, not even death, can come between you and your servants… Yes, our eyes are prevented from seeing you, O Most Holy One, but still you delight to remain in our midst, manifesting yourself in various ways to those who are worthy. Truly, the flesh cannot impede the power and ability of your spirit, because your spirit blows where it wills, being a spirit pure and immaterial, incorruptible and immaculate, a companion spirit of the Holy Spirit, the favorite spirit of the Godhead of the Only-Begotten. (Homily I On the Dormition)

St. Silouan on the Holiness of the Virgin

St. Silouan the Athonite 1886-1938

Once when I was a young novice I was praying before an icon of the Mother of God, and the Jesus Prayer entered into my heart and there began to repeat itself of its own accord. And another time in Church I was listening to a reading from the prophet Isaiah, and at the words, ‘Wash you, make you clean,’ (Isa. 1:16) I reflected, ‘Maybe the Mother of God sinned at one time or another, if only in thought.’ And, marvellous to relate, in unison with my prayer a voice sounded in my heart, saying clearly, ‘The Mother of God never sinned even in thought.’ Thus did the Holy Spirit bear witness in my heart to her purity. But during her earthly life even she was not quite perfect and complete — she did make some mistakes that did not involve sin. We can see this from the Gospel when on the return from Jerusalem she did not know where her Son was, and together with Joseph sought Him for three days. (cf. Lk. 2:44-46) (St. Silouan the Athonite, Chap. XI On the Mother of God pp. 391-392)

St. Augustine on the Holiness of the Virgin

Blessed Augustine of Hippo ca. 354-430

With the exception of the holy Virgin Mary, in whose case, out of respect for the Lord, I do not wish there to be any further question as far as sin is concerned, since how can we know what great abundance of grace was conferred on her to conquer sin in every way, seeing that she merited to conceive and bear Him Who certainly had no sin at all. (De Natura et Gratia 36, 42)

On Two Ideals of Perfection for the Orthodox

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

The Holy Scriptures, which instruct us, and the life of Mary, Mother of God, suffice as an ideal of perfection and the form of the heavenly life. (De Virginitate, in Le Museon 42: 255. Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin in Patristic Thought by Luigi Gambero pg. 104)

On the Virgin

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 315-403

Is not the very name [virgin] sufficient witness? Is it not enough to convince you, you quarrelsome fellow? Was there ever anyone who dared pronounce the name of holy Mary without immediately adding the title “Virgin”? (Haer. 78.6)

On the Bread of the New Covenant

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

The Church gave us the living Bread, in place of the unleavened bread that Egypt had given. Mary gave us the refreshing Bread, in place of the fatiguing bread that Eve procured for us. (Hymns for the Unleavened Bread 6, 6-7)

On the Sources for the Life of the Virgin Mary

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

Now, then, everything that we will relate and make known is trustworthy and reliable, true testimonies taken from the assembly of the pious: first of all, from the holy Evangelists and Apostles; then from the holy and deeply devout Fathers, whose words are full of all wisdom and were written by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and their works are beautiful and virtuous. These are Gregory of Neocaesarea the Thaumaturge, the great Athanasius of Alexandria, the blessed Gregory of Nyssa, and Dionysius the Areopagite, and others similar to them in virtue. And if we say some things from the apocryphal writings, this is true and without error, and it is what has been accepted and confirmed by the above-mentioned Fathers. For so the blessed Gregory of Nyssa says, “I have read in an apocryphal book that the father of the all-holy Virgin Mary was renowned for his observance of the Law and was famous for his charity.” (Life of the Virgin, Chap. 1.2)

On the Incarnation and Synergy

St. Nicholas Cabasilas ca. 1323-1391

The Incarnation was not only the work of the Father, of His power and His Spirit…but it was also the work of the will and faith of the Virgin…Just as God became incarnate voluntarily, so He wished that His Mother should bear Him freely and with her full consent. (On the Annunciation 4-5)

On the Beloved Disciple

Bede the Venerable ca. 673-735

Jesus did not love him alone in a singular way to the exclusion of others, but He loved John beyond those whom He loved, in a more intimate way as one whom the special prerogative of chastity had made worthy of fuller love. Indeed, He proved that He loved them all when before His Passion He said to them, ‘Even as the Father loved Me, I also loved you; abide in the love, that which is Mine (Jn. 15:9).’ But beyond the others He loved the one who, being a virgin when chosen by Him, remained forever a virgin. Accordingly, when Christ was about to die on the Cross, He recommended His Mother to John (Jn. 19:26, 27), so that virgin might watch over virgin; and when he Himself ascended to heaven after His death and resurrection, a son would not be lacking to His mother, whose chaste life would be protected by his chaste services. (Homilies on the Gospels, Bk. 1, 87)

St. Hilary on the Brothers of the Lord

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

[S]ome very depraved men…view that there were many brothers of our Lord as a point of tradition. If there had been sons of Mary who were not rather produced from a previous marriage of Joseph’s, Mary never would have been transferred to the Apostle John as his mother at the time of the Passion, nor would the Lord have said to them both, “Woman, behold your son,” and to John, “Behold your mother,” unless perhaps He was leaving His disciples’ filial love in order to comfort her who was left behind. (Commentary on Matthew, 1.4)

St. Andrew on Ancient Iconography

St. Andrew of Crete ca. 650-726

Christianity contains nothing untried and abnormal. The very use of sacred images belongs to an ancient tradition, as worthy examples of faith have testified. The first example is that of the image of our Lord Jesus Christ, sent to King Abgar; this image on a wooden tablet showed the outlines of His bodily form, similar to images painted with colors. The second example is that of the image not painted by human hands (acheropita) of her who gave birth without seed: it is found at Lidda, a city also called Diospolis. The image is painted in very bright colors and shows the body of the Mother of God, three cubits in height. It was venerated in the time of the apostles on the western wall of the temple that they built. It is so finely done that it appears to have been produced by the hand of a painter. It clearly shows her purple habit, her hands, her face, and all of her outward form, as can still be affirmed today. They say that Julian, that apostate and enemy of Christ, heard about the painting, he wanted to know more about it. So he sent some Jewish painters [to examine it], who informed him that it was genuine; Julian, dumbfounded, had no desire to investigate further.

It is told that the temple was constructed when the Mother of God was still living. Going up to Zion, where she lived, the apostles said to her, “Where were you, Lady? We have built you a house at Lidda.” Mary answered them, “I was with you, and I am still with you.” Returning to Lidda and entering the temple, they found her complete image there, as she had told them. This is what an ancient local tradition has testified from the beginning, and the tradition lives today.

Third example. Everyone witnesses to the fact that Luke, apostle and evangelist, painted the incarnate Christ and His immaculate Mother with his own hands and that these images are conserved in Rome with fitting honor. Others assert these these images are kept at Jerusalem. Even the Jew Josephus tells us that the Lord looked just like the picture: eyebrows meeting in the middle, beautiful eyes, long face, somewhat oval, of a fair height. This was undoubtedly His appearance when He dwelt among men. Josephus describes the appearance of the Mother of God in the same way, as it appears today in the image that some call the “Roman woman”. (On the Veneration of Sacred Images PG 97, 1301-4)

St. Sophronius on the Theotokos

St. Sophronius of Jerusalem ca. 560-638

…Mary, holy and bright and of godly mind and free of every taint, whether in body or soul or thought… This is why the holy Virgin was taken and sanctified in both body and soul, and thus assisted in the Incarnation of the Creator because she was pure and undefiled and without taint. (Synodical Letter 2.3.1: Christological Profession of Faith)

On the Dormition and Angelic Powers

St. Gregory of Tours ca. 538-594

Finally, when blessed Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was about to be called from this world, all the Apostles, coming from their different regions, gathered together in her house. When they had heard that she was about to be taken up out of the world, they kept watch together with her.

And behold, the Lord Jesus came with His Angels and, taking her soul, handed it over to the Archangel Michael and withdrew. At dawn, the Apostles lifted up her body on a pallet, laid it in a tomb, and kept watch over it, awaiting the coming of the Lord. And behold, again the Lord presented Himself to them and ordered that her holy body be taken and carried up to heaven. There she is now, joined once more to her soul; she exults with the elect, rejoicing in the eternal blessings that will have no end. (Libri Miraculorum I, De Gloria Beatorum Martyrum 4; PL 71, 708. Excerpted from “Mary and the Fathers of the Church, The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought” by Luigi Gambero pg. 353)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

And behold, the glorious and wonderful  arrival of Christ her God and Son took place, and there were with Him innumerable hosts of angels and archangels and other hosts of seraphim and cherubim and thrones: they all stood with awe before the Lord, for wherever the King is, the host also accompany Him.

As she escaped the pains of childbirth in the ineffable Nativity, so the pains of death did not come upon her at the time of her Dormition, for both then and now the King and Lord of natures altered the course of nature. Then the host of angels invisibly applauded the send-off of her holy soul. The house and the surrounding area were filled by a waft of indescribable perfume, and unapproachable light (cf. 1 Tim. 6:16) spread forth over the holy body. And in this way the master and the disciples, and heaven and earth led forth the Holy Virgin: the gracious and glorious Lord and master led away the holy soul of His immacualte mother to heaven; the disciples took care of her immacualte body on earth, anointing it with myrrh and tending to the things that she had planned. And after a little while, her Son and God wished to translate the body to Paradise or somewhere. The Holy Apostles encircled the bed on which the Holy Theotokos’ body, wider than the heaven. They honored it with hymsn and praise; they embraced it with fear and trembling. They not only showed faith and devotion but were also gratified to receive grace and great benefit, and the work of faith had only just began.

Nevertheless, as soon as news of the holy queen’s Dormition had spread, all the sick and infirm assembled there. Then the eyes of the blind were opened, the ears of the deaf were unblocked, the lame stood up to walk (cf. Isa. 35:5-6), demons were expelled, and every suffering and sickness was cured. The sky and the heavens of heavens were sanctified by the ascension of the holy soul, and the earth likewise was made worthy of the honor of sanctity by the immaculate body. (The Life of the Virgin: 109, 110-111)

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

Angels with Archangels bear thee up. Impure spirits trembled at thy departure. The air raises a hymn of praise at thy passage, and the atmosphere is purified. Heaven receives thy soul with joy. The heavenly powers greet thee with sacred canticles and with joyous praise, saying : “Who is this most pure creature ascending, shining as the dawn, beautiful as the moon, conspicuous as the sun? How sweet and lovely thou art, the lily of the field, the rose among thorns; therefore the young maidens loved thee. We are drawn after the odour of thy ointments. The King introduced thee into His chamber. There Powers protect thee, Principalities praise thee, Thrones proclaim thee, Cherubim are hushed in joy, and Seraphim magnify the true Mother by nature and by grace of their very Lord. Thou wert not taken into heaven as Elias was, nor didst thou penetrate to the third heaven with Paul, but thou didst reach the royal throne itself of thy Son, seeing it with thy own eyes, standing by it in joy and unspeakable familiarity. O gladness of angels and of all heavenly powers, sweetness of patriarchs and of the just, perpetual exultation of prophets, rejoicing the world and sanctifying all things, refreshment of the weary, comfort of the sorrowful, remission of sins, health of the sick, harbour of the storm-tossed, lasting strength of mourners, and perpetual succour of all who invoke thee…Thy pure and spotless body was not left in the earth, but the abode of the Queen, of God’s true Mother, was fixed in the heavenly kingdom alone.

O how did heaven receive her who is greater than heaven? How did she, who had received God, descend into the grave? This truly happened, and she was held by the tomb. It was not after bodily wise that she surpassed heaven. For how can a body measuring three cubits, and continually losing flesh, be compared with the dimensions of heaven ? It was rather by grace that she surpassed all height and depth, for that which is divine is incomparable. O sacred and wonderful, holy and worshipful body, ministered to now by angels, standing by in lowly reverence. Demons tremble: men approach with faith, honouring and worshipping her, greeting her with eyes and lips, and drawing down upon themselves abundant blessings. (Homily I, On the Dormition)

How can death claim as its prey this truly blessed one, who listened to God’s word in humility, and was filled with the Spirit, conceiving the Father’s gift through the archangel, bearing without concupiscence or the co-operation of man the Person of the Divine Word, who fills all things, bringing Him forth, without the pains of childbirth, being wholly united to God? How could Limbo open its gates to her ? How could corruption touch the life-giving body ? These are things quite foreign to the soul and body of God’s Mother. Death trembled before her. In approaching her Son, death had learnt experience from His sufferings, and had grown wiser. The gloomy descent to hell was not for her, but a joyous, easy, and sweet passage to heaven.

…What happens? Nature, I conjecture, is stirred to its depths, strange sounds and voices are heard, and the swelling hymns of angels who precede, accompany, and follow her. Some constitute the guard of honour to that undefiled and immaculate (panagia) soul on its way to heaven until the queen reaches the divine throne. Others surrounding the sacred and divine body proclaim God’s Mother in angelic harmony. What of those who watched by the most holy and immaculate (panagiw) body? In loving reverence and with tears of joy they gathered round the blessed and divine tabernacle, embracing every member, and were filled with holiness and thanksgiving. Then illnesses were cured, and demons were put to flight and banished to the regions of darkness. The air and atmosphere and heavens were sanctified by her passage through them, the earth by the burial of her body. (Homily II, On the Dormition)

St. John Maximovitch 1896-1966

[T]he Vir­gin Mary during Her eart­hly life avoi­ded the glory which belon­ged to Her as the Mot­her of the Lord. She pre­fer­red to live in quiet and pre­pare Her­self for the depar­ture into eter­nal life. To the last day of Her eart­hly life She took care to prove worthy of the King­dom of Her Son, and before death She prayed that He might deli­ver Her soul from the mali­cious spi­rits that meet human souls on the way to hea­ven and strive to seize them so as to take them away with them to hades. The Lord ful­fil­led the prayer of His Mot­her and in the hour of Her death Him­self came from hea­ven with a mul­ti­tude of angels to receive Her soul. (The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God)

[T]he so-called “toll-houses,” at each of which one or another form of sin is tested; after passing through one the soul comes upon the next one, and only after successfully passing through all of them can the soul continue its path without being immediately cast into gehenna. How terrible these demons and their toll-houses are may be seen in the fact that Mother of God herself, when informed by the Archangel Gabriel of her approaching death, answering her prayer, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared from heaven to receive the soul of His Most Pure Mother and conduct it to heaven. (A Homily on Life After Death)

Also see: http://classicalchristianity.com/2011/12/12/who-is-the-king-of-glory/

The Dormition Reveals the Humanity of Christ

St. Germanos of Constantinople died ca. 733

How could the dissolution of the body have reduced you to dust and ashes, since you, through the Incarnation of your Son, have freed man from the corruption of death? Thus you separated yourself from earthly things, so that the mystery of the tremendous Incarnation might truly be confirmed. Indeed, you endured being removed from temporal things, so that it would be believed that the God born of you was also a complete man, the Son of a true Mother, and that His Mother herself was subjected to the laws of necessity. This was the consequence of a divine decision and of the norms that govern the proper seasons of life. (Homily 1 On the Dormition, PG 98, 345 C-D)

On She Who Stands Closest to God

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

Let us go in adoring, and learn the wondrous mystery by which she is assumed to heaven, to be with her Son, higher than all the angelic choirs. No one stands between Son and Mother. (Homily III, On the Dormition)

St. Gregory Palamas ca. 1296-1359

The Mother of God is so much closer to God than others who draw near to Him that she is able to intercede more powerfully than any of them, and by this I mean not just human beings but even all the ranks of angels. Isaiah writes of the highest order of angels in heaven, ‘And the seraphim stood round about him’ (Isa. 6:2 LXX), whereas David says of the Mother of God, ‘Upon thy right hand did stand the queen’ (Ps. 45:9). (Homily 37 on the Dormition of the Theotokos, Source)

Virginity Like Fire

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

Virginity in her was so strong as to be a consuming fire. It is forfeited in every case by child-birth. But she is ever a virgin, before the event, in the birth itself, and afterwards. (Homily II, On the Dormition)

On the Theotokos and Female Priesthood

St. Epiphanius of Salamis ca. 315-403

If God had so arranged things that the priesthood would be entrusted to women and that they would exercise a canonical role in the Church, first of all, before any other woman in the New Testament, He would have granted the priesthood to Mary, who was so honored that she carried the universal King in her womb. (Mary and the Fathers of the Church, The Blessed Virgin in Patristic Thought by Luigi Gambero pp. 127-128)

Dialogue Between a Montanist and an Orthodox ca. 4th cent.

We do not reject the prophecies of women. Blessed Mary prophesied when she said: “Henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” And, as you yourself say, Philip had daughters who prophesied and Mary, the sister of Aaron, prophesied. But we do not permit women to speak in the assemblies, nor to have authority over men, to the point of writing books in their own name: since, such is, indeed, the implication for them of praying with uncovered head…wasn’t Mary, the Mother of God, able to write books in her own name? To avoid dishonoring her head by placing herself above men, she did not do so. (The Gospel of Mary: Beyond a Gnostic and a Biblical Mary Magdelene by Esther A. de Boer pg. 94)

St. Maximus on the Blessed Virgin

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

She said prophetically, “from now on every generation will call me blessed.” (Lk. 1:48) Truly the host of angels and generations of humanity call her blessed, and those who do not call her blessed and do not glorify her, they are not reckoned among humanity, but they are children of perdition and the portion of the devil. Nevertheless, every generation of true human beings calls her blessed and glorifies her as a helper and intercessor with the Lord. (The Life of the Virgin, 27)

St. Maximus on Perpetual Virginity and Luke 2:23

Lk. 2:22-23 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”)…


St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

There is only one child that is first-born and holy before the Lord, the one whose conception took place not through desire and the male seed — certainly not! — but through grace and the coming of the Holy Spirit, and His birth took place not in corruption and pain but through the power and wisdom of the Most High God. That is why the child was born holy, and the Holy of Holies according to the words of Isaiah. And not only was the holy womb opened by His birth, but it remained closed, as Ezekiel, the seer of invisible things, said, “This gate will be closed, and it will not be opened, and no one will go forth through it, but the Lord God of Israel alone will enter in and come out through it, and the gate will be closed” (Ezek. 44:2) Truly, then, in both cases it remained closed and sealed, before the conception and at the conception, and after the conception and after the birth. But how was it both closed and open, inasmuch as it says, “every child that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”? According to the nature of virginity it was closed and unopened, but by the power of the one born, every closure of nature is open and obedient before Him. Who else is there, then, who Himself opened the mother’s womb and kept it closed except the very one whose conception and birth is ineffable, supernatural and incomprehensible? (The Life of the Virgin, 47)

He purified nature from the law of sin in not having permitted pleasure to precede His incarnation on our behalf. Indeed, His conception wondrously came about without seed, and His birth took place supernaturally without corruption: with God being begotten of a mother and tightening much more than nature can the bonds of virginity by His birth. (Commentary on the Our Father, 2)

The Theotokos is Not a Co-Redemptrix

St. Ambrose of Milan ca. 338-397

Mary, the mother of the Lord stood by her Son’s Cross; no one has taught me this but the holy Evangelist St. John. Jn. 19:25 Others have related how the earth was shaken at the Lord’s passion, the sky was covered with darkness, the sun withdrew itself; Mat.27:45 that the thief was after a faithful confession received into paradise. Lk. 23:43 John tells us what the others have not told, how the Lord fixed on the Cross called to His mother, esteeming it of more worth that, victorious over His sufferings, He rendered her the offices of piety, than that He gave her a heavenly kingdom. For if it be according to religion to grant pardon to the thief, it is a mark of much greater piety that a mother is honoured with such affection by her Son. Behold, He says, your Son… …Behold your mother. Jn. 19:27 Christ testified from the Cross, and divided the offices of piety between the mother and the disciple. The Lord made not only a public but also a private testament, and John signed this testament of His, a witness worthy of so great a Testator. A good testament not of money but of eternal life, which was written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, Who says: My tongue is the pen of a quickly writing scribe.

Nor was Mary below what was becoming the mother of Christ. When the apostles fled, she stood at the Cross, and with pious eyes beheld her Son’s wounds, for she did not look for the death of her Offspring, but the salvation of the world. Or perchance, because that royal hall knew that the redemption of the world would be through the death of her Son, she thought that by her death also she might add something to the public good. But Jesus did not need a helper for the redemption of all, Who saved all without a helper. Wherefore also He says: I have become like a man without help, free among the dead. He received indeed the affection of His mother, but sought not another’s help. (Letter 63: 109-110)

St. Athanasius on the Mother of God

St. Athanasius of Alexandria ca. 297-373

O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all. O [Ark of the New] Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides. Should I compare you to the fertile earth and its fruits? You surpass them, for it is written: “The earth is my foostool” (Isa. 66:1). But you carry within you the feet, the head, and the entire body of the perfect God.

If I say that heaven is exalted, yet it does not equal you, for it is wrriten: “Heaven is My throne” (Isa. 66:1), while you are God’s place of repose. If I say that the angels and archangels are great — but you are greater than them all, for the angels and the archangels serve with trembling the One Who dwells in your womb, and they dare not speak in His presence, while you speak to Him freely.

If we say that the cherubim are great, you are greater than they, for the cherubim carry the throne (cf. Ps. 80:1; 99:1), while you hold God in your hands. If we say that the serphim are great, you are greater than them all, for the seraphim cover their faces with their wings (cf. Isa. 6:2), unable to look upon the perfect glory, while you not only gaze upon His face but caress it and offer your breasts to His holy mouth…

As for Eve, she is the mother of the dead, “for in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). Eve took [fruit] from the tree and made her husband eat of it along with her. And so they ate of that tree of which God had told them: “The day you eat of it, you shall die” (Gen. 2:17). Eve took [fruit] from it, ate some of it, and gave some to her husband [that he might eat] with her, He ate of it, and he died.

In you, instead, O wise Virgin, dwells the Son God: He, that is, Who is the tree of life. Truly He has given us His body, and we have eaten of it. That is how life came to all, and all have come to life by the mercy of God, your beloved Son. That is why your spirit is full of joy in God your Savior! (Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought by Luigi Gambero. Homily of the Papyrus of Turin)

St. Cyril on the Mother of God

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

I see the assembly of the saints, all zealously gathered together, invited by the holy Mother of God, Mary, Ever-Virgin. I was feeling very sad, but then the presence of the holy Fathers changed this sorrow into merriment. Now the sweet words of the hymnographer David have been fulfilled in our presence: “Behold how fair, and how pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together as one!” (Ps. 133:1). Hail, we say, O holy and mystic Trinity, Who have called us together in the church dedicated to Mary, Mother of God. We hail you, O Mary Mother of God, venerable treasure of the entire world, inextinguishable lamp, crown of virginity, scepter of orthodoxy, imperishable lamp, container of Him Who cannot be contained, Mother and Virgin, through whom it is said in the holy Gospels: “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mt. 21:9).

Hail, you who held the Uncontainable One in your holy and virginal womb! Through you, the Holy Trinity is glorified; the precious Cross is celebrated and adored throughout the world; heaven exults, the angels and archangels rejoice, the demons are put to flight, the tempter falls from heaven, the fallen creation is brought back to Paradise, all creatures trapped in idolatry come to know of the truth.

Through you, holy baptism and the oil of gladness are administered to believers; through you, churches are established throughout the world; the peoples are led to conversion. What more shall I say? Through you, the Only Begotten Son of God shone forth as a light upon those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. Through you, the Prophets made their predictions, and the Apostles preached salvation to the nations; through you the dead rise, sovereigns reign, and through you the Holy Trinity reigns.

But who among men is capable of celebrating Mary most glorious? The virginal womb: such a great wonder! This miracle has me enraptured. When has it ever been heard that a builder was prevented from dwelling in a temple that he built himself? Could He, Who called His own handmaid to be His mother, be considered deserving of shame? Behold, now: the whole universe is rejoicing. The sea obeyed, recognizing [in the fathers] its fellow servants. For while the water surged in stormy billows, the passage of the saints made it smooth and calm. The creature remembered the voice of the Savior: “Silence, be still” (Mk. 4:39). The passage of the fathers also subdued the earth, which previously had been infested with brigands. “How beautiful the feet of those who preach the good news of peace” (Rom. 10:15) But what peace is this? Jesus, or Lord, Who was born from Mary, as He Himself willed. (Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought by Luigi Gambero. Homily IV Preached at Ephesus Against Nestorius; PG 77, 992-96)

The Theotokos and the Confession of Faith

During the time that the heresy of Sabellius and Paul of Samosata began to spread, St Gregory the Wonderworker (ca. 213-270 a.d.) prayed fervently and diligently imploring God and His most pure Mother to reveal to him the true Faith. The All-Holy Virgin Mary appeared to him, radiant like the sun, and with Her was the Apostle John the Theologian dressed in archepiscopal vestments.

By the command of the Mother of God, the Apostle John taught the saint how to correctly and properly confess the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. St Gregory wrote down everything that St John the Theologian revealed to him. The Mystery of the Symbol of the Faith, written down by St Gregory of Neocaesarea, is a great divine revelation in the history of the Church. The teaching about the Holy Trinity in Orthodox Theology is based on it. Subsequently it was used by the holy Fathers of the Church: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa. The Symbol of St Gregory of Neocaesarea was later examined and affirmed in the year 325 by the First Ecumenical Council, showing his enduring significance for Orthodoxy. Thus, the first recorded vision of the Theotokos in the history of the Church was for the purposes of revealing a trinitarian confession of faith.  St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote St. Gregory’s biography and he records this magnificient event:

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

While [Gregory] was passing a sleepless night because of these worries, someone appeared to him in human form, aged in appearance, clothed in garments denoting a sacred dignity, with a face characterized by a sense of grace and virtue. Gregory, looking frightened, rose from his bed and asked him who he was and why he had come.

The other, in a subdued voice, after soothing his distress, told Gregory that he had appeared by divine will, because of the questions that Gregory found ambiguous and confusing, to reveal to him the truth of pious faith. After hearing these words, Gregory regained his serenity and began to observe the other man with a certain joy and wonder.

The other then held up his hand, as if to point out, with his index finger, something that had appeared opposite him. Gregory, turning his gaze in the direction indicated by the other man’s hand, saw before him another figure, which had appeared not long before. This figure had the appearance of a woman, whose noble aspect far surpassed normal human beauty. Gregory was again disturbed. Turning away his face, he averted his glance and was filled with perplexity; nor did he know what to think of this apparition, which he could not bear to look upon with his eyes. For the extraordinary character of the vision lay in this: that though it was a dark night, a light was shining, and so was the figure that had appeared to him, as if a burning lamp had been kindled there.

Although he could not bear to look upon the apparition, Gregory heard the speech of those who had appeared, as they discussed the problems that were troubling him. From their words, Gregory not only obtained an exact understanding of the doctrine of the faith but also was able to discover the names of the two persons who had appeared to him, for they called each other by name.

For it is said that he heard the one who had appeared in womanly form exhorting John the Evangelist to explain to the young man the mystery of the true [faith]. John, in his turn, declared that he was completely willing to please the Mother of the Lord even in this matter and that this was the one thing closest to his heart. And so the discussion coming to a close, and after they had made it quite clear and precise for him, the two disappeared from his sight. (Life of St. Gregory the Wonderworker, PG 46, 909-12)

St. Gregory’s Confession of Faith

There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is His subsistent Wisdom and Power and Eternal Image: perfect Begetter of the perfect Begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son.

There is one Lord, Only of the Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of Deity, Efficient Word, Wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and Power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal and Eternal of Eternal.

And there is One Holy Spirit, having His subsistence from God, and being made manifest by the Son, to wit to men: Image of the Son, Perfect Image of the Perfect; Life, the Cause of the living; Holy Fount; Sanctity, the Supplier, or Leader, of Sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all.

There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abideth ever.

Source for the Confession of Faith: http://www.voskrese.info/spl/thaumcreed.html

On the Ark of the New Covenant

Jer. 3:15-16 And I will give you shepherds after My heart, and they shall certainly tend you with knowledge. And it shall come to pass that when you are multiplied and increased upon the land, says the Lord, in those days they shall say no more, 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; nor shall this be done anymore.

Rev. 11:19-12:2 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the Ark of His Covenant was seen within His temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant…

The Ark of the New Covenant is the Flesh of Christ

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235

And, moreover, the ark made of imperishable wood was the Saviour Himself. For by this was signified the imperishable and incorruptible tabernacle of (the Lord) Himself, which gendered no corruption of sin. For the sinner, indeed, makes this confession: My wounds stank, and were corrupt, because of my foolishness. But the Lord was without sin, made of imperishable wood, as regards His humanity; that is, of the virgin and the Holy Ghost inwardly, and outwardly of the word of God, like an ark overlaid with purest gold. (Exegetical Fragments On Psalm 22 or 23)

The Ark of the New Covenant is the Theotokos

St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides. (Homily of the Papyrus of Turin, 71, 216; Gambero, 106)

St. Ephrem the Syrian ca. 306-373

The woman ministered before the man, because he is her head. Joseph rose to minister before His Lord, who was in Mary. The priest ministered before Thy Ark by reason of Thy holiness. Moses carried the tables of stone which the Lord wrote, and Joseph bare about the pure Tablet in whom the Son of the Creator was dwelling. The tables had ceased, because the world was filled with Thy doctrine. (Sermon 11, Natali Domini)

The Ark of the New Covenant is the Church

Blessed Jerome ca. 347-420

Like the Ark of the Covenant Christ’s spouse should be overlaid with gold within and without; Ex. 25:11 she should be the guardian of the law of the Lord. Just as the ark contained nothing but the tables of the covenant, 1 Kgs. 8:9 so in you there should be no thought of anything that is outside. For it pleases the Lord to sit in your mind as He once sat on the mercy-seat and the cherubims (Ex. 25:22). (Letter 22.24)

Christological Canons on the Virgin Theotokos

Fifth Ecumenical Council: Constantinople II 553

If anyone says that the holy glorious ever-virgin Mary is falsely but not truly the Mother of God; or (is the Mother of God) according to relation, as if a mere man were born, but not as if the Word of God became incarnate [and of her] from her, but the birth of the man according to them being referred to the Word of God as being with the man when he was born, and falsely accuses the holy synod of Chalcedon of proclaiming the Virgin Mother of God according to this impious conception which was invented by Theodore; or, if anyone calls her the mother of the man or the mother of the Christ, as if the Christ were not God, but does not confess that she is exactly and truly the Mother of God, because God the Word, born of the Father before the ages, was made flesh from her in the last days, and that thus the holy Synod of Chalcedon confessed her (to be), let such a one be anathema. (Canon 6)

Lateran Council of 649

If anyone, in conformity with the Holy Fathers, does not confess that Mary Immaculate, actually and truthfully is the holy Mother of God and ever virgin, inasmuch as she conceived Him, who is uniquely and truly God,—the Word born of God the Father from all eternity, in these latter times of the Holy Spirit without seed, and bore Him without any corruption, her virginity remaining also intact after His birth, let him be condemned. (Canon 3)

St. Hilary on Mary’s Perpetual Virginity

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

She is called the Mother of Christ, because this she was; not the wife of Joseph, because this she was not. (Comment. In Matthaeum, I, 3; Graef, 55)

Thus the expression “He knew her after the birth” (cf. Mat. 1:25) means that Mary receives the title of wife. The text, then, asserts that he knew her, not that he was joined to her. (Comment. In Matthaeum, I, 3; Gambero, 184)

Now, if these were Mary’s sons, instead of children that Joseph had fathered during a previous marriage, then, at the moment of the Passion, Mary never would have been given the Apostle John as His mother, …For the Lord, to help her face her solitude, left her, in His disciple, the love of a son. (Comment. In Matthaeum, I, 4; Gambero, 185)

On the Burning Bush

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

The burning bush was an image of God’s Mother, and as Moses was about to approach it, God said: “Put off the shoes from thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” (Ex. 3.5) Now if the spot on which Moses saw an image of Our Lady was holy, how much more the image itself? And not only is it holy, but I venture to say it is the holy of holies. (Apologia Against Those Who Decry Holy Images Bk II)

On the New Testament Marys

Papias of Hieropolis ca. early 2nd cent.

(1.) Mary the mother of the Lord; (2.) Mary the wife of Cleophas or Alphæus, who was the mother of James the bishop and apostle, and of Simon and Thaddeus, and of one Joseph; (3.) Mary Salome, wife of Zebedee, mother of John the evangelist and James; (4.) Mary Magdalene. These four are found in the Gospel. James and Judas and Joseph were sons of an aunt (2) of the Lord’s. James also and John were sons of another aunt (3) of the Lord’s. Mary (2), mother of James the Less and Joseph, wife of Alphæus was the sister of Mary the mother of the Lord, whom John names of Cleophas, either from her father or from the family of the clan, or for some other reason. Mary Salome (3) is called Salome either from her husband or her village. Some affirm that she is the same as Mary of Cleophas, because she had two husbands. (Fragments of Papias)

On the Plague of Demons

St. Seraphim of Sarov 1759-1833

[T]he Mother of God is called the ‘Plague of Demons,’ for it is not possible for a devil to destroy a man so long as the man himself has recourse to the help of the Mother of God. (Conversation with Motovilov: A Wonderful Revelation to the World)

On Icons and the Uncreated Light

St. Symeon the New Theologian ca. 949-1022

I went off to reverence the spotless icon of her who bore Thee. As I fell before it, before I rose up, Thou Thyself didst appear to me within my poor heart, as though Thou hadst transformed it into light; and then I knew that I have Thee consciously within me. From then onwards I loved Thee, not by recollection of Thee and that which surrounds Thee, nor for the memory of such things, but I in very truth believed that I had Thee, substantial love, within me. For Thou, O God, truly art love (1 Jn. 4:8, 16) (The Discourses XXXVI:11)

A Vision of the Heavens

St. Andrew, the Fool for Christ of Constantinople ca. 9th cent.

Once during a terrible winter when St. Andrew lay in a city street frozen and near death, he suddenly felt a warmth within him and beheld a splendid youth with a face shining like the sun, who conducted him to paradise and the third heaven.

“By God’s will I remained for two weeks in a sweet vision…I saw myself in a splendid and marvelous paradise…In mind and heart I was astonished at the unutterable beauty of the paradise of God, and I took sweet delight walking in it.There were a multitude of gardens there, filled with tall trees which, swaying in their tips, rejoiced my eyes, and from their branches there came forth a great fragrance…One cannot compare these trees in their beauty to any earthly tree…In these gardens there were innumerable birds with wings golden, snow-white, and of various colors. They sat on the branches of the trees of paradise and sang so wondrously that from the sweetness of their singing I was beside myself…After this a kind of fear fell upon me, and it seemed to me that I was standing at the peak of the firmament of heaven. Before me a youth was walking with a face as bright as the sun, clothed in purple…When I followed in his steps I saw a great and splendid Cross, in form like a rainbow, and around it stoood fiery singers like flames and sang sweet hymns, glorifying the Lord Who had once been crucified on the Cross. The youth who was going before me, coming up to the Cross, kissed it and gave me a sign that I should also kiss the Cross…In kissing it I was filled with unutterable sweetness, and smelled a fragrance more powerful than that of paradise. Going past the Cross, I looked down and saw under me as it were the abyss of the sea…My guide, turning to me, said, ‘Fear not, for we must ascend yet higher.’

“And he gave me his hand. When I seized it we were already above the second firmament. There I saw wondrous men, their repose, and the joy of their feasting which cannot be communicated by the human tongue…And behold, after this we ascended above the third heaven, where I saw and heard a multitude of  heavenly powers hymning and glorifying God. We went up to a curtain which shone like lightning, before which great and frighful youths were standing, in appearance like fiery flames…And the youth who was leading me said to me: ‘When the curtain opens, you shall see the Master Christ. Bow down to the throne of His glory.’ Hearing this, I rejoiced and trembled, for I was overcome by terror and unutterable joy…And behold, a flaming hand opened the curtain, and like the Prophet Isaiah I beheld my Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and above it stood the Seraphim (Isa. 6:1). He was clothed in a purple garment; His face was most bright, and His eyes looked on me with much love. Seeing this, I fell down before Him, bowing down to the most bright and fearful throne of His glory. The joy that overcame me on beholding His face cannot be expressed in words. Even now, remembering this vision, I am filled with unutterable joy. In trembling I lay there before the my Master…After this all the heavenly host sang a most wondrous and unutterable hymn, and then — I myself do not understand how — again I found myself in paradise.”

When St. Andrew reflected that he had not seen the Mother of God in heaven, an angel told him: “Did you wish to see here the Queen who is brighter than the heavenly powers? She is not here; she has gone away to the world which lies in great misfortune, to help people and to comfort the sorrowing. I would have shown you her holy place, but now there is no time, for you must again return.” (The Soul After Death by Fr. Seraphim Rose pp. 137-139)

On the Magnificat

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

[pullquote]Lk. 1:51. He hath shewed strength with His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart.[/pullquote]

The arm enigmatically signifies the Word that was born of her: and by the proud, Mary means the wicked demons who with their prince fell through pride: and the Greek sages, who refused to receive the folly, as it seemed, of what was preached: and the Jews who would not believe, and were scattered for their unworthy imaginations about the Word of God. And by the mighty she means the Scribes and Pharisees, who sought the chief seats. It is nearer the sense, however, to refer it to the wicked demons: for these, when openly claiming mastery over the world, the Lord by His coining scattered, and transferred those whom they had made captive unto His own dominion. For those things all came to pass according to her prophecy, that

Lk. 1:52. He hath put down riders from their thrones, and exalted the humble.

Great used to he the haughtiness of these demons whom He scattered, and of the devil, and of the Greek sages, as I said, and of the Pharisees and Scribes. But He put them down, and exalted those who had humbled themselves under their mighty hand, “having given them authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy:” and made the plots against us of these haughty-minded beings of none effect. The Jews, moreover, once gloried in their empire, but were stripped of it for their unbelief; whereas the Gentiles. who were obscure and of no note, were for their faith’s sake exalted.

Lk. 1:53 He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.

By the hungry, she means the human race: for, excepting the Jews only, they were pining with famine. The Jews, however, were enriched by the giving of the law, and by the teaching of the holy prophets. For “to them belonged the giving of the law, the adoption of sons, the worship, the promises.” But they became wanton with high feeding, and too elate at their dignity; and having refused to draw near humbly to the Incarnate One, they were sent empty away, carrying nothing with them, neither faith nor knowledge, nor the hope of blessings. For verily they became both outcasts from the earthly Jerusalem, and aliens from the glorious life that is to be revealed, because they received not the Prince of Life, but even crucified the Lord of Glory, and abandoned the fountain of living water, and set at nought the bread that came down from heaven. And for this reason there came upon them a famine severer than any other, and a thirst more bitter than every thirst: for it was not a famine of the material bread, nor a thirst of water, “but a famine of hearing the Word of the Lord.” But the heathen, who were hungering and athirst, and with their soul wasted away with misery, were filled with spiritual blessings, because they received the Lord. For the privileges of the Jews passed over unto them.

Lk. 1:54. He hath taken hold of Israel His child to remember mercy.

He hath taken hold of Israel,—-not of the Israel according to the flesh, and who prides himself on the bare name, but of him who is so after the Spirit, and according to the true meaning of the appellation;—-even such as look unto God, and believe in Him, and obtain through the Son the adoption of sons, according to the Word that was spoken, and the promise made to the prophets and patriarchs of old. It has, however, a true application also to the carnal Israel; for many thousands and ten thousands of them believed. “But He has remembered His mercy as He promised to Abraham:” and has accomplished what He spake unto him, that “in thy seed shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed.” For this promise was now in the act of fulfilment by the impending birth of our common Saviour Christ, Who is that seed of Abraham, in Whom the Gentiles are blessed. “For He took on Him the seed of Abraham,” according to the Apostle’s words: and so fulfilled the promise made unto the fathers. (Commentary on Luke: Miscellaneous Fragments on Luke Chap. 1)

On Three Celebrated Mysteries

St. Ignatius of Antioch died ca. 115

Now the virginity of Mary was hidden from the prince of this world, as was also her offspring, and the death of the Lord; three mysteries of renown, which were wrought in silence by God. How, then, was He manifested to the world? A star shone forth in heaven above all the other stars, the light of which was inexpressible, while its novelty struck men with astonishment. And all the rest of the stars, with the sun and moon, formed a chorus to this star, and its light was exceedingly great above them all. And there was agitation felt as to whence this new spectacle came, so unlike to everything else [in the heavens]. Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life. And now that took a beginning which had been prepared by God. Henceforth all things were in a state of tumult, because He meditated the abolition of death. (Epistle to the Ephesians 19)

On Perpetual Virginity and the Term “Firstborn”

Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn Son…

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

In what sense then her firstborn? By firstborn she here means, not the first among several brethren, but one who was both her first and only son: for some such sense as (his exists among the significations of “firstborn.” For sometimes also the Scripture calls that the first which is the only one; as “I am God, the First, and with Me there is no other.” To shew then that the Virgin did not bring forth a mere man, there is added the word firstborn; for as she continued to be a virgin, she had no other son but Him Who is of the Father: concerning Whom God the Father also proclaims by the voice of David, “And I will set Him Firstborn high among the kings of the earth.” Of Him also the all-wise Paul makes mention, saying, “But when He brought the First-begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him.” How then did He enter into the world? For He is separate from it, not so much in respect of place as of nature; for it is in nature that He differs from the inhabitants of the world: but He entered into it by being made man, and becoming a portion of it by the Incarnation. For though He is the Only-begotten as regards His divinity, yet as having become our brother, He has also the name of Firstborn; that, being made the first-fruits as it were of the adoption of men, He might; make us also the sons of God. (Sermon 1: Luke 2:1-7)

On the Mother of God

St. Cyril of Alexandria ca. 376-444

Let not any be troubled, hearing the holy Virgin called Mother of God, nor let them fill their souls with Jewish unbelief, yea rather with Gentile impiety. For the Jews attacked Christ saying, For a good work we stone Thee not but for blasphemy because Thou, being a Man, makest Thyself God: and the children of the Greeks, hearing the doctrines of the Church that God hath been born of a woman, laugh.

But they shall eat the fruit of their own impiety, and shall hear of us, The fool will utter folly and his heart imagine vain things. But the plan of our Mystery, albeit to the Jews it be an offence, to the Gentiles folly, yet to us who know it, verily admirable is it and saving and far removed from being to be disbelieved by any. For if there were any whatever who should dare to say that this flesh made of earth had become mother of the bare Godhead, and that she bare out of her own self the Nature which is over the whole creation, the thing would be madness and nothing else: for not of earth has the Divine Nature been made, nor will that which is subject to decay become the root of immortality nor that which is subject to death bear the Life of all things, nor yet the Unembodied be the fruit of the palpable body, that which is subject to birth [bear] that which is superior to birth, that which hath its beginning in time, that which is without beginning.

But since we affirm that the Word became as we and took a body like to our bodies and united this of a truth unto Himself, in a way namely beyond understanding and speech, and that He was thus too made Man and born after the flesh, what is there incredible therein or worthy of disbelief? albeit the human soul (as we have already full often said) being of other nature than the body, is yet born with it, just as we say that it too has been united therewith. Yet will no one (I deem) suppose that the soul has the nature of the body as the beginning of its own existence, but God inplaces it ineffably in the body and it is born along with it; yet do we define as one the animal that is made up out of both, i. e., man. Therefore the Word was God but was made Man too, and since He has been born after the flesh by reason of the human nature, she who bare Him is necessarily Mother of God. For if she have not borne God, let not Him Who is born of her be called God; but if the God-inspired Scriptures call Him God, as God Incarnate and made Flesh, and it be not possible in any other way to be Incarnate, save through birth of a woman, how is she not Mother of God, who bare Him? (Scholia on the Incarnation 28)

On the Holy Virgin

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus ca. 213-270

The Holy Virgin is herself both an honourable temple of God and a shrine made pure, and a golden altar of whole burnt offerings. By reason of her surpassing purity [she is] the Divine incense of oblation, and oil of the holy grace, and a precious vase bearing in itself the true nard; [yea and] the priestly diadem revealing the good pleasure of God, whom she alone approacheth holy in body and soul. [She is] the door which looks eastward, and by the comings in and goings forth the whole earth is illuminated. The fertile olive from which the Holy Spirit took the fleshly slip (or twig) of the Lord, and saved the suffering race of men. She is the boast of virgins, and the joy of mothers; the declaration of archangels, even as it was spoken: “Be thou glad and rejoice, the Lord with thee”; and again, “from thee”; in order that He may make new once more the dead through sin.

Thou didst allow her to remain a virgin, and wast pleased, O Lord, to lie in the Virgin’s womb, sending in advance the archangel to announce it [to her]. But he from above, from the ineffable hosts, came unto Mary, and first heralded to her the tidings: “Be thou glad and rejoice.” And he also added, “The Lord with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” But she was in tumult, and pondered in her mind what sort of tidings was this. But then in seemly fashion, I ween, the grace chose out the Holy Virgin; for she was wise in all ways, nor was there her like among women of all nations. (Homily Concerning the Mother of God, 13-14)

On the Virgin Earth and Virgin Birth

St. Irenaeus of Lyons died ca. 202

Whence then is the substance of the first-formed (man)? From the Will and the Wisdom of God, and from the virgin earth. For God had not sent rain, the Scripture says, upon the earth, before man was made; and there was no man to till the earth. From this, then, whilst it was still virgin, God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind. So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God; that He also should show forth the likeness of Adam’s entry into flesh,and there should be that which was written in the beginning, man after the image and likeness of God.

And just as through a disobedient virgin man was stricken down and fell into death, so through the Virgin who was obedient to the Word of God man was reanimated and received life. For the Lord came to seek again the sheep that was lost; and man it was that was lost: and for this cause there was not made some other formation, but in that same which had its descent from Adam He preserved the likeness of the (first) formation. For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin. (Proof of Apostolic Preaching, 32-33)

Saint Ambrose on the Theotokos


“Mary’s life should be for you a pictorial image of virginity. Her life is like a mirror reflecting the face of chastity and the form of virtue. Therein you may find a model for your own life, . . . showing what to improve, what to imitate, what to hold fast to.”  De virginibus ad Marcellinam sororem suam libri tres (A. D. 377);

The One New Thing Under the Sun

Jer. 31:22 For the LORD has created a new thing on the earth: a woman encircles a man.

St. John Damascene ca. 676-749

And God being perfect becomes perfect man, and brings to perfection the newest of all new things Eccl. 1:10, the only new thing under the sun, through which the boundless might of God is manifested. For what greater thing is there, than that God should become Man? And the Word became flesh without being changed, of the Holy Spirit, and Mary the holy and Ever-Virgin one, the Mother of God. (Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. 3.1)

On the True Theotokos

St. Gregory the Theologian ca. 329-389

If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, he is severed from the Godhead. (Epistle 101: To Cledonius)

St. Cyril of Alxandria ca. 376-444

If any one confess not that Emmanuel is in truth God and that the holy Virgin is therefore Mother of God, for she bare after the flesh the Word of God made Flesh, be he anathema. (Third Letter to Nestorius, Anathema 1)

St. Maximus the Confessor ca. 580-662

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the co-essential and supersubstantial Trinity; of all the hosts of heaven; of the choir of holy apostles and prophets; of the innumerable array of martyrs; and of every righteous soul reposed in the faith: may he be anathema who fails to confess our all-hymned, all-holy, immaculate Lady, the most honorable of rational beings, as the true Mother of God, Who hath made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is therein, now and ever and unto ages of ages. (St. Dimitri Rostov, Life of St. Maximus)

On the Love of the Theotokos

Abba Poemen the Great ca. 4th cent.
Abba Joseph related that Abba Isaac said, ‘I was sitting with Abba Poemen one day and I saw him in ecstasy and as I was on terms of great freedom of speech with him, I prostrated myself before him and begged him, saying, “Tell me where you were.” He was forced to answer and he said, “My thought was with St Mary, the Mother of God, as she wept by the cross of the Saviour. I wish I could always weep like that.” (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Abba Poemen 144)
St. Silouan of Mt. Athos 1866-1938
In this wise I reflect in my soul: if I who love God so little am so violently heartsick for the Lord, how exceedingly great must have been the grief of the Mother of God when she was left on earth, after the Ascension of her Lord. She put not in writing the tale of her soul’s affliction, and we know little of her life on earth, but this much we must suppose…the abundance of her love for her Son and her God reaches beyond our understanding… We cannot fathom the depth of the love of the Mother of God, but this we know:
The greater the love, the greater the sufferings of the soul.
The fuller the love, the fuller the knowledge of God.
The more ardent the love, the more fervent the prayer.
The more perfect the love, the holier the life.
Not one of us is able to attain to the fulness of the Mother of God’s love, and we have need of repentance like Adam. Yet in part, as we are taught of the Holy Spirit in the Church, we may comprehend that love of hers. (St. Silouan the Athonite by Archimandrite Sophrony)