By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria
The person of the Panagia, much more so her ministry in the unexplainable mystery of the Incarnation of the Son and Word of God, is truly a miracle. How did God become man in the womb of a woman and how did a woman carry God in her immaculate womb and in her warm embrace?
The God-bearing Damascene, the great dogmatician of our Church, describes it as a miracle. In one of his homilies he writes: "O Virgin full of divine grace, holy temple of God which the Spiritual Solomon, that Prince of Peace, constructed and inhabited; you are not adorned with gold and lifeless stones, but in place of gold you shine with the Spirit. Instead of precious stones you have Christ, 'the pearl of great price', the coal of divinity."1 Thus she became "the rectification of our foremother Eve" with the descent of God to the human race and the ascent of man to God. The new Eve rectifies the erroneous action of our foremother Eve and at the same time lifts the human race from corruption and sin. With particular astonishment at this rectification the sacred hymnographer of the kontakion of the Akathist Hymn chants: "Rejoice the rectification of humanity."
A. The Rectification of Humanity
This is the elevation of people from earth to heaven and the acquisition once again of our former glory and majesty. We were made and honored by God with a heavenly destination. But sin turns us towards the earthly and the hellish. According to the Prophet David: "This is the fate of those who trust in themselves."2 We reached the bottom and resemble the animals and behave like them. This is why Saint Cyril of Alexandria, referring to Christ, says: "He found man reduced to the level of the beasts."3 We lost our original beauty, the image of God became darkened, according to the phrase of our God-bearing Fathers, the nous became darkened, we worshiped creation instead of the Creator, and became a plaything in the hands of the devil. However, "When He saw man perishing, whom He had made with His own hands, the Creator bowed the heavens and came down. He took man's nature from the pure Virgin and He truly became a man."4
And here is the contribution of the Theotokos. She becomes the bridge and the ladder by which God descends to earth, in order to rectify the fault of Adam and to raise him to primal bliss and happiness, not simply to the Garden of Eden, but the Kingdom of Heaven. This is how the God-bearing Nilus of Damascus describes this ministry of the Theotokos: "The Holy Virgin is not called Theotokos only because of the nature of the Word, but also because of the deification of man."5
B. The Rectification of Humanity
With this ministry of the Panagia in the mystery of the incarnation, the Only-begotten Son and Word of God becomes the descending, in order to become then the ascending man. God used His love towards people as a ladder, descending to the lowest parts of the earth to meet us, cleanse us and wash us from our sins, in order to gift us with the grace of the Holy Spirit, and take us to His royal throne in His heavenly Kingdom. The person of the Theotokos who is Full of Grace is a minister of this rectification of humanity.
"Paradise is opened once again through her,
condemned man returning there once again,
and the dead lump is truly deified."6
And the big question the Theotokos addresses to us today is:
- do we experience this rectification she gave us by her ministry?
- do we stand at the height to which Christ honored us?
- do we live in the world from a theocentric angle and not an anthropocentric one, raising to the position of the God-man the idols of our age?
- do we hope and expect in His person and His Kingdom and not in the perpetual pursuit of wealth, pleasure, selfishness and self-love?
- do we hope in God?
- do we trust in His providence?
- do we believe His promises?
- do we ask for His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven?
If not, then we need to flee with much trust to our caring Mother, and fervently ask her for her motherly intercessions and entreaties to Him whom she bore that we may live in spiritual recovery, which she gave us.
And let us ask her, in these difficult days in which we are living, to rectify:
- our fallen ideals,
- our nation, which is in the eye of the storm from all kinds of enemies, within and without,
- our youth, who are faltering into terrible confusion and are at a crossroad;
- the family, which is adrift and sunk,
- every ailing soul, that they may be healed of their passions and sufferings.
"Rejoice the rectification of humanity!"
1. Homily on the Nativity of the Theotokos.
2. Psalm 48:13.
3. Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Sermon 2.
4. Christmas Matins, Ode 1.
5. Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, PG 94, 1032B.
6. Theotokarion, Sunday, Ode 9, Tone 4.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.