August 3, 2015

The Theotokos: The First Divinized Human Being

Archimandrite Kyrillos Kostopoulos

The first fifteen days of August are dedicated to the All Holy Mother of God, having the day of her Dormition as its pinnacle.

Saint John of Damascus accurately and realistically confessed that: "Rightly and truly we call Holy Mary the Theotokos (God-bearer); for this name constitutes the whole mystery of the divine economy" (EPE, vol. 1, p. 334, Thessaloniki 1976).

With the term "Theotokos", all the Christological cacodoxies are refuted, not only those which deny the divinity of God the Word, but also those which do not accept the wholeness, the integrity and the very hypostasis of the human nature of Jesus Christ.

According to the above mentioned Father of our Church, "The Holy Virgin did not gave birth to a simple man, but to the true God; not to a naked God, but to an incarnate One. This God did not carry His Body (human nature) from Heaven, but He received flesh similar to our human flesh from her (the Virgin), and He united it to Himself. For, if His body descended from Heaven and he did not receive it from our (human) nature, for what purpose did the incarnation take place?" (EPE, vol. 1, p. 332, Thessaloniki 1976).

Besides, the Theotokos Mary incarnates human holiness. Saint Cyril of Alexandria relates: "As the Holy Spirit personalizes the Divine sanctity identically, in the same manner the Virgin, the revelation of holiness, the hagiophany, personalizes human sanctity" ("On Holy Trinity", V. Mahe, Rev. d' Hist. eccles. 1909).

The Theotokos Mary, being ontologically associated with the Grace of the All Holy Spirit, is the life-giving consolation, who, as a new Eve (=life), saves through her Son and preserves the whole creation. Thus she is elevated to be a depiction of the Church, as a motherly protection over all of us.

For this reason in Byzantine iconography, the icon of Panagia Vrefokratousa (Infant-holding) is the depiction of the Church. The Panagia is the relationship between the divine and human element.

The human nature of the Virgin, her flesh, becomes Christ's flesh. In this manner she becomes "homaimos" (of the same blood) with her Son and realizes the utmost aim for which man was created, which is glorification by Grace. She became "the frontier both of the created and the uncreated nature," according to Saint Gregory Palamas ("On the Dormition of the Theotokos", PG 151, 472 B). The Theotokos turned into that person "through whom the Trinity is sanctified," according to Saint Cyril of Alexandria (PG 77, 992). Thus, the Church is depicted as a perpetual Theotokos.

Because of the Theotokos' utmost holiness we can fully comprehend her central position in the field of the Orthodox teaching of soteriology and ecclesiology, and especially in the field of the liturgical life of the faithful of our Orthodox Church.

The God-man Lord, as He Himself has said, is the "way" and the "door" for man. The Virgin Mary is the person who goes on ahead. She goes before the rest of humanity and all of us follow her towards the Kingdom of the Heavens.

She, first of all, passes through death, which was reduced to being powerless by her Son. For this reason our Church chants: "At your dormition you did not abandon us Theotokos" (Apolytikion of the Feast of Dormition).

This is the belief of the Orthodox people of God and this is why they offer supplications to their Mother by Grace day and night.

Within the Grace of the Theotokos the faithful are enriched with divine gifts. Within the Virgin's miracle the faithful encounter the miracle of the Divine Economy. The All Holy Mother of our Lord is our boast and our consolation.

For this reason our Orthodox Church greatly honors the Theotokos Mary, because at the same time she honors and gives praise and thanks to the Savior, her Son.

The Virgin Mary remains at the summit of the sanctity of the Church. Her glory overshadows all the faithful who accept and love her. Her Grace covers everything and her splendor conceals every corrupt and transitory glory. Her miracle kindles zeal in the hearts of all the struggling Orthodox Christians.

The Theotokos Mary protects and sanctifies our Orthodoxy, she is the flesh of her Offspring. And because of this, when Orthodox Christians seek her intercessions for our redemption, we do not seek the mediation of some human intervention that can be conceived by the mind, but it is manifested in the salvific love of her Son, our God-man Lord.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.