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August 3, 2015

The Theotokophilia of Saint Kosmas the Aitolos

By His Eminence Metropolitan Jeremiah
of Gortynos and Megalopolis

I thought that since we are going through the month of August, which is entirely dedicated to our Lady Theotokos, and which we call "the month of the Mother of God", I wish to speak of our Panagia according to the teachings of Saint Kosmas the Aitolos. Saint Kosmas had a great and fervent love for the Panagia, which is called "Theotokophilia". And this is natural, because he came from an Athonite monastery that had a miraculous icon of her, the Panagia Glykophilousa. He prayed in front of this icon, and from this icon he received the blessing for his missionary adventures, during which he spoke of the Panagia all the time to his audience. I will offer two or three points, among the many, that concerns his message about the Panagia, which can be seen also in Orthodox patristic theology.

1) First of all, Saint Kosmas spoke of the name of the Panagia. Her name is MARY. There are sixty-two interpretations of the name "Mary", but the best interpretation is given by Saint Kosmas the Aitolos. Just as the name "Nicholas" for that Saint means he who conquers the passions and the demons, and the name "George" means he who has cultivated plants and therefore has the fruits of the virtues, and the name "Paraskevi" means she who prepares for eternal good things, so also does the name of the Panagia have special significance. For Saint Kosmas, the name "Mary", based on the Hebrew "Mariam", means "Lady", for she is the Queen of the entire world. As he said in one of his sermons: "Mary means Lady, for the Theotokos was destined to become Queen of heaven and earth and of all intelligible and perceptible creation to pray for your sins." Does it not amaze you, my brethren, he wants to interpret well theses names and gives them beautiful spiritual interpretations for the benefit of his listeners? Therefore, the name of our Panagia, which is Mary, means "Lady" according to Saint Kosmas the Aitolos. Saint Nektarios also was pleased to call the Panagia "Lady", and he even spoke of her in the plural. And when she would appear to him during prayer - a divine vision that often came to Saint Nektarios - he would say to her: "You Lady!" ["Σεις, Κυρία!"; the "you" in Greek is plural or royal].

2) Another topic Saint Kosmas addressed was the betrothal of the Panagia. Why was the Panagia betrothed, since marriage with Joseph was not intended? For her question to the Archangel Gabriel "how can this be, for I do not know a man?", means that she did not intend to marry, otherwise this question of hers makes no sense. The betrothal of the Virgin is an entire theology. Why was the Virgin betrothed? Saint Kosmas, who it seems was unwilling to develop this entire theology of the betrothal of the Virgin lest he tire his audience, since they were uncatechized, explained it with this strange expression: "They betrothed the Virgin for many economies." This expression clearly shows that the Saint studied the Holy Fathers and what they say on the subject, because the Fathers truly considered the betrothal of the Virgin to be "the economy of God." This is how the Fathers interpret it: The Prophet Isaiah had foretold that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. The devil however, who had no interest in the Messiah being born, because He would have broken his head, and would be his undoing, namely of his works, "put stubbornness" in women in order to become married so that a virgin would not exist to give birth to the Messiah. God, however, chose the Virgin Mary of Nazareth to become the Mother of the Messiah. And for it to escape the attention of the devil that she was a virgin, it was made to believe that she was to be married. God economized her betrothal with Joseph for this very purpose - to deceive the devil. As Saint Ignatius the God-bearer writes: "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." And the later Holy Fathers go on to speak of the economy of God when speaking of the betrothal of the Virgin. The holy Athonite Hieromonk Kosmas read all these Holy Fathers, and when he spoke of the betrothal of the Virgin he had in mind the patristic expressions, that she was betrothed to Joseph "for many economies."

3) I will say something else theological and patristic about the Theotokos that Saint Kosmas would say, to give you a sample and evidence that the Saint studied the Holy Fathers and their teachings, but in a simplified and chewed up way he presented it in his sermons. The Saint spoke of the creation of woman. And he explained what is meant in Holy Scripture by woman being made from the side of Adam. Since woman came from man, so woman owed man the side she took for her creation. She had to settle the debt! Just as Adam made a woman without a woman, so a woman had to be found to make a man without a man. There were millions upon millions of women throughout the centuries, but none were worthy to settle the debt owed to the male race. Only Mary the Panagia was found to be worthy to pay off the debt, which is why she gave birth to Christ as a virgin. As Saint Kosmas says: "Man, my brethren, gave birth to woman from his side without the aid of a woman and remained whole afterwards. Woman borrowed that side from man and owed for it. Many women were born, as many as the stars in the heavens, but none was found worthy to give birth to a man to pay back that side which she owed except for the Lady Theotokos. She was found worthy because of her purity to give birth to our sweetest Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, without man; a virgin who remained a virgin and who paid for that side." Saint Kosmas read about this in the Holy Fathers. Saint John Chrysostom talks about it in his homily on the Nativity of our Savior Jesus Christ. As Chrysostom said:

"Today He came forth from a virgin who overcame nature and passed over marriage. For it was fitting for the Ruler of holiness to come forth from pure and holy offspring. For He is the one who, long ago, formed Adam from virgin earth, and from Adam formed woman without a wife. For just as Adam produced a woman without a wife, in this way also today the virgin gave birth to a man without a husband. For He is a man, he says, and who will recognize Him? For since womankind owed a favor to mankind, since Adam, without a wife, produced a woman, for this reason today the virgin gave birth without a husband, paying off the debt owed to men on Eve’s behalf. For, lest Adam should become arrogant (since he produced a woman without a wife), for this reason the virgin also gave birth to a man without a husband, in order that by the shared miracle He might show the equality of nature. For just as He removed the rib from Adam and in no way lessened Adam, in this way also He formed for Himself a living temple in the virgin, and He did not dissolve her virginity. Even after the removal of the rib, Adam remained whole. And the virgin, too, after the infant came forth, remained uncorrupted. For this reason He didn’t fashion a temple for Himself from some other place, nor did He fashion and put on another body, lest He should seem to insult the dough of Adam. For since the man, after being deceived, became a tool for the devil, for this reason He recovered him who had been overthrown as a living temple, in order that, on account of the relationship with his Maker, He should remove him from the devil’s acquaintance. Nevertheless, even though He became a man, He is not born like a man, but is begotten as God. For if He came forth from a common marriage, like me, He would be considered a lie by the many. But as it stands it was for this reason that He is born from a virgin, and even being born He keeps the womb unchanged and guards her virginity without loss, in order that the unusual manner of the conception should become an agent of a great faith for me."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.