By His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria
The period of Holy and Great Lent, which again this year we are in with the help of God, brings us closer to the person of the Most Holy Theotokos.
That the Church always honors the Panagia, and our people frequently resort to her, is shown in the Service of Salutations that we chant every Friday evening during the period of the Fast.
Christians always have on their lips the name of the Panagia. And her name alone fills them with joy and spiritual exultation.
But in afflictions and trials also she is our protectress, the consolation of the afflicted, she is that swallow that brings the spring from the harsh winter of sin.
Saint Mark the Evgenikos calls her "swallow" in one of his famous canons. She is the swallow who brings the noetic springtide from the winter of the passions.
She is the one who, according to the God-seeing Father of the Church, calms the dizziness of temptations and covers man with the veil of her awesome protection.
She is the one who sets a rich table for every weary traveler of this life, and this food is the Heavenly Bread Who came down from Heaven, Christ, Who was prepared in her immaculate womb and in this way gave us the opportunity for theosis.
This is why the sacred hymnographer in tonight's Service of the Salutations praises the Panagia and features her as "the cause of the theosis of all".
A) The cause of the theosis of all. As Holy Scripture states, man was created in the image and likeness of God. He had the ability to keep the commands of God and reach the likeness, that is, to become a god by grace.
"I have said, ye are gods and all of you sons of the Highest" (Ps. 81:6), is the word of God in Holy Scripture. Yet we have the appearance of sin, that terrible fall of Adam, which resulted in the darkening of the nous.
The nous of Adam was darkened, stress the Fathers of the Church for us. This is why they speak to us of the "unwise nous".
While Adam before the fall had the opportunity to see God, after the fall the opportunity was lost.
In this way the image of God became wild and the leather tunics appeared.
And the therapy of the apostate nous consists of purification and illumination, in order to enable us to see again the face of God.
B) The cause of the theosis of all. The Theotokos, with the purity she had and the humility that decorated her, brought to the earth, in the words of Saint Gregory Palamas, not just rain from heaven but the Lord of the clouds.
In this way she gave us the opportunity to see the face of God. She made the earth heaven and the mass of our earth became heavenly, in the words of the Fathers.
With her cooperation in the incomprehensible mystery of the incarnation of the Son and Word of God, she became an animated loom that wove in her immaculate womb the unsewn tunic of the two natures of Christ.
C) The cause of the theosis of all. This union of the divine nature with the human resulted in the theosis of man.
Thanks to this spiritual marriage that took place, a new creation was born and there was a spiritual regeneration of all creation.
The Creator descended to earth and raised His creation to heaven. "God became man that Adam might become a god" (Doxastikon of Matins for the Annunciation).
We would not have the event of theosis if there was not a place where God and man could meet. Thus salvation and its result, the theosis of man, is feasible.
In the womb of our Church, which is the personification of the Theotokos, we can achieve this ultimate event which must be the aim of our life.
Within this spiritual workshop, the loom as we have called it, the union of man with God can be achieved.
For all these things we thank the Panagia and are grateful to her, because she is the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, our own mother, the workshop of our salvation and our helping hand to the Kingdom of God.
"As a vehicle bearing light, thou showest forth Emmanuel, illuminating the faithful. Pure Lady, do thou illumine the slothful darkness of our souls, now concealed, perishing in our transgressions."
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.