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Saints and Feasts of August 21

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

"O Daughter of Adam and Mother of God"


By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

August, the last month of our ecclesiastical year.

During the Byzantine years it was initially dedicated to the Honorable Cross, hence why we celebrate the Procession of the Honorable Cross on the first of the month, the litany in the Queen of Cities, namely Constantinople, and the rite of the Sanctification of the Waters for the avoidance of infectious diseases, as Saint Gregory Palamas informs us in one of his homilies.1

After the theft of the Honorable Wood by the impious and usurping Crusaders, this month became dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos, since her all-revered Dormition and heavenly Assumption is celebrated on August 15th, which for us Orthodox is a Pascha of the Mother of God in the heart of summer.

It is a tradition in our Church, when referring to the Person of Christ, to set a "guard" over our mouth, according to the sacred psalmist: "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips."2 This is because we have not tasted of the grace of God and, at the same time, we lack purity of heart.

Equally, it is also important to set a guard over our mouths and lips when we speak of the person of the Most Holy Theotokos. If Moses heard the voice of God say to him, "Remove the sandals from your feet"3 when he stood before the blazing and flaming bush, how much more should we pay attention to how we stand before and how we speak of her person, she who made heavenly the mass of our earth.

This is why we ask together with the holy hymnographers of our Church, each time we celebrate an event in the life of the Mother of God, to be given a "tongue and pronunciation and thoughts that are unmistakable,"4 to speak with the ability given to us, according to Saint Gregory Palamas, to see with our senses the Only Begotten Son of God Who became man in her all-immaculate womb.

And if we had the purity of the Angels, the confession and blood of the Martyrs, and if we were adorned with the tears of the Venerable Ascetics, we would still not be able to speak of her magnificence, which was "made for her by the Almighty."

Truly no human tongue, nor supernatural angelic intellect, can worthily hymn her who has given us the ability to clearly see the glory of the Lord. But joining our longing with fear and weaving the two with crowns of sacred piety and a trembling hand and a soul full of longing, let us offer our gratitude to the Mother of the King, she who brought benefit to all creation.

Saint Andrew of Jerusalem, Bishop of Crete, in his Homily 12 on the Dormition, calls her the daughter of Adam and the mother of God. She is a descendant of Adam having been born to Joachim and Anna, but at the same time she is the mother of God because she was conceived by the Holy Spirit and carried in her all-immaculate womb the Only-begotten Son and Word of God in order to save humanity. The Jerusalemite ascetic, being familiar with the Old Testament, refers to a number of prophecies that refer to her all-revered person and her service, emphasizing that "all the expounders of the Spirit celebrated you."

First, the mystery of the burning yet unconsumed bush which is narrated in the Book of Exodus9 is a prefigurement of the great mystery of the giving birth of the Virgin Mary. Just as the bush burned and was not consumed, so was the fire of divinity not consumed in her immaculate womb when the second Person of the All-Holy Trinity dwelled in her.

Second, the Prophet David proclaimed her and Christ, saying: "Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place: thou and the ark, which thou hast sanctified."10 He also refers to her dormition: "And the daughters of Tyre with gifts, yea, all the rich among the people, shall entreat thy countenance."11 Also, the service and presence of the Panagia is revealed in hymns inspired by messianic psalms: "Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son," and "There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root."12 In this prophecy of the fifth evangelist, as the Prophet Isaiah is called, the conception and birth of the Savior Christ by the Virgin Mary is clearly recorded. Thus the Prophets, moved by the divine Spirit, as the fullness of time was progressing, were showing more clearly the great event of salvation and revealed the mystery of the ages.

Third, the Prophet Daniel also prophecied about her: "Thus thou sawest, till a stone was cut out of a mountain without hands: and it struck the statue upon the feet thereof that were of iron and of clay, and broke them in pieces."13 The Prophet describes her here as a high mountain, from which a stone is cut without human intervention, the stone being Jesus Christ, who took upon Himself the entire human race by His voluntary Passion, His Cross and His Resurrection from the dead, tearing down the gates of Hades, just as the stone tore down the large image according to the narration of the Prophet Daniel.14 Thus the Theotokos is:

the living book
the divinely-written volume
the tens of thousands of chariots of God
the fertile mountain
the rugged mountain, where it pleased God to dwell.15

This is why we always resort to her with confidence, entrusting her with our hopes and expectations, knowing that she will safely transfer our requests to the throne of her Son and God. And if we achieve our salvation it will be because of the many intercessions and mediations of the all-immaculate Mother of our Lord as well as our mother, the Most Holy Theotokos. This is why we must repeat with the hymnographer Clement: "Those who confess you as Theotokos, Virgin Mother, have been made worthy to find through you, the perpetual kingdom and delight."16

Notes:

1. St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 31.
2. Ps. 140:3
3. Ex. 3:5
4. Oikos for the Dormition of the Theotokos.
5. St. Gregory Palamas, Homily 53.
6. St. John of Damascus, First Homily on the Dormition of the Theotokos..
7. St. Andrew of Crete, Homily 12, On the Dormition of the Theotokos, PG 97, 1096.
8. Ibid.
9. Ex. 3:1-4
10. Ps. 131:8
11. Ps. 44:13
12. Is. 7:14; 11:1
13. Dan. 2:34
14. Dan. 2:31-49
15. St. Andrew of Crete, Homily 12, On the Dormition of the Theotokos, PG 97, 1097.
16. Theotokarion, Monday Matins, Ode 5, Grave Tone.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.


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