May 23, 2012

We Ought To Rejoice in the Resurrection Joy of the Theotokos

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

Reflect, my beloved, that we have a duty to rejoice with the Virgin Panagia, who upon seeing her Son and God risen, was filled immediately with such great joy which was as great as her grief experienced during His Passion.

Her pains and sorrows were measured with the knowledge that she had of the infinite worthiness of the incarnate Logos, and of her love for Him, not only as God and as a child of her womb, but also as the only begotten Son and because she only was His mother without a father. All this did not allow her love to share in other things, but it focused only on her sweet Son.

Because she knew Him more, she loved Him more than those who knew Him and loved Him, even all the angels in heaven. Therefore we can say that the Virgin Panagia suffered the Passion of her Son more than all creation together; and her sorrow cannot be compared with any other, except the sorrow tasted by her beloved Jesus. "And your own soul a sword shall pierce" (Luke 2:35).

...For she first went around midnight to see the tomb of her Son. For her only did the earthquake occur and the Archangel Gabriel, her usual aid and subsistence and evangelist, rolled the stone from the door of the tomb and sat upon it wearing bright white garments like the snow. For when divine Gabriel descended, O how she immediately converted into overwhelming joy from her extreme sadness! O how her spirit rejoiced when she saw that for her alone did the tomb of her Son open! Just as by virtue of the Theotokos were heaven and earth opened for mankind, so also for the Theotokos the life-creating tomb of the Lord opened, according to the great one of Thessaloniki Gregory Palamas.

She first saw the Resurrection of her Son! O how much she rejoiced when she approached her beloved Jesus and took hold with great reverence and love His holy feet and venerated them! And also when she saw full of the divine light of the Resurrection the members of her sweetest Son, which a short while earlier were all torn up and disfigured! Above all, however, how much she rejoiced when she heard from the divine mouth of her Son the joyous word He said to her, the "rejoice", even though the Evangelist Matthew says that Mary Magdalene was with her and she also touched the feet of the Lord, and she also heard the "rejoice", so that the Resurrection of the Lord would not be questioned if only His mother the Panagia witnessed to the event, by virtue of their physical relationship, as evidenced by Gregory of Thessaloniki (and Xanthopoulos in his synaxarion for Pascha). What mind can understand the perfect love and joy between the Theotokos and Christ, between such a mother and such a son!

Therefore, brother, if the Theotokos is the physical mother of Christ, it stands that she is the spiritual mother of all Christians, and especially such a mother as Christ instructs us not to call anyone a father on earth, because one is our Father, the Heavenly One. This is exactly how we are right to say that another mother we have not but only the Theotokos. If, I say, the Theotokos is the mother of Christians, you as a Christian brother and son of the Theotokos owe it to rejoice in her great joy. If during the time of her much happiness you do not rejoice with the Theotokos, you will certainly prove unworthy of her love. And if you prove to be unworthy of her love, you will reveal to be unworthy to become accepted under her protection; and being the mother of us all, if she does not accept you under her protection, woe to you! What hope is left for your salvation? This is the mother of mercy and all the graces of God pass through her hands both in heaven and on earth, to angels as much as humans.

...Rejoice therefore with your whole heart together with the Lady of Heaven and Earth, the receptacle of joy, because to her was first given the joy even before the Resurrection, at her Annunciation, and after the Resurrection, even today. Rejoice with the Theotokos, for the entire Church of Christ rejoices with her in many sections of the hymns of praise which are chanted joyfully and solemnly.... What am I saying? Rejoice with the Theotokos as all of irrational and senseless creation rejoices with her, and celebrates the Resurrection of her Son and offers her the most beautiful and important gifts and the joys of sweetest spring. Do you not see with your eyes, that now the sky is clearer? That the disc of the moon is brighter and more silver, and all the stars of heaven appear clearer? Do you not see the earth is crowned with multicolored flowers and its fragrant roses and daisies, which some have come out entirely from their buds, while others take a while and still others are enclosed? Do you not hear with your ears the symphonic and panharmonic music, which now comes from the sweetest voices atop the green leafy trees, from the nightingales, the swallows, the blackbirds, the cuckoos, the partridges, the magpies, the wild doves, the finches and other birds?... Do you not see now how the springs run clearer, how the rivers run richer and water wherever they go throughout the earth? How the orchards smell? How the grass waves? How the young and tender lambs jump and dance in their grassy plains and fields? Do you not see how the working bees emerge from their hives, buzzing and flying around luscious fields and orchards, sucking the flowers and molding their combs by placing straight lines across the corners for added safety and beauty of their work, making sweet honey? Do you not see how the winds are at peace now? How a sweet breeze is blowing? How the sea is calm and serene? How sailors are traveling safely and how dolphins are traveling with the ships, swimming and blowing and sending sailors off cheerfully?... Do you not see how all of visible creation, wherever you turn to see, is delightful, fragrant, fresh, joyous, and delight the five senses of the body? And how they appear to have resurrected with Christ and they were reanimated though previously dead from the frost and cold and winter?

...The greatest joy which you can give to the Theotokos, however, is the decision to conquer your passions and at every moment to live with chastity for the love of the Virgin.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos