March 6, 2020

The Theotokos as a "Star"

By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

"With hymns we magnify you, Immaculate One, 
who has been magnified by our race.
Beseeching I beseech you, All-Hymned One, 

to ever beseech your Son."1

We once again sing hymns to the Most Holy Theotokos within the atmosphere of the worship of our holy Church, especially within the blessed period of Great Lent, with this wondrous Service of Salutations, which moves and attracts the hearts of Christians.

We sing hymns to our Panagia with all the angelic hosts, together with the Saints, Martyrs and Venerables, for, as Saint Andrew the Bishop of Crete chants, the Panagia is "God after God, who is second to the Holy Trinity."2 All the Saints, said Venerable Ephraim of Katounakia, sing to the person of the Most Holy Theotokos, since she became the Mother of God and the Mother of all people.

With Saint Nektarios we embrace her, who especially had a special reverence for her, and strongly enjoyed her protection, assistance and help in his life. This is why he would repeatedly say: "As the protectress of the world, Queen of all, redeem me from temptations and dangers. You who bore the joy of the world, grant me everlasting joy."3

What is the Panagia?

In the Service of Salutations, the unknown hymnographer of the Akathist Hymn addresses the Virgin Mary, among the other "rejoices", as "the star": "Rejoice, star that shows forth the Sun."

The Theotokos is therefore a star.

She is the star that shines with the grace and presence of the Holy Spirit.

She is the star that was able to contain in her immaculate womb the Sun of righteousness.

She is the star that came out of the marriage of Joachim and Anna in whom converged the entire redemptive economy of God.

This is why Saint John of Damascus, that great dogmatist of the Church, blesses her holy parents, Joachim and Anna, saying that his couple "have sown in themselves a source leading to righteousness and harvested a fruit of life. They have illumined in themselves a light of knowledge and have sought out their Lord; and an offspring of righteousness has come to them... Joachim and Anna, like spiritual mountains, have dropped sweetness. Be glad, most blessed Anna, for you have born a female. This female will be Mother of God, gateway of light and source of life, and she will do away with the accusation against the first-formed Eve."4

The Panagia is a star, because in her person was interpreted all the prophetic sayings, the entire Old Testament spoke of the salvation of the human race. The First Gospel which was heard after the terrible fall of the First-formed from Paradise referred to her.5 The great-voiced Prophet Isaiah spoke of the Panagia and her ministry 800 years before the coming of Christ: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel."6

She is the gate of the Prophet Ezekiel from which Emmanuel entered the world.7

She is the burning bush of the Prophet Moses,8 as well as the Tabernacle of Testimony,9 along with all those sacred objects which foreshadow her all-immaculate person. This is why when it was God's will, when as the Apostle Paul says the fullness of time had come,10 the divine incarnation took place in her immaculate womb. Thus, her womb became the sanctuary and the inexorable light that filled the whole world with the brightness of divinity.

The Theotokos is a star.

Just as before sunrise a bright star precedes and foretells the rising of the sun, so did the coming of the Panagia into the world herald the rising of the Sun of righteousness. This is why at the feast of her nativity we rejoice and celebrate and chant: "Your birth, O Theotokos, brought joy to the whole world, for from you dawned the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God."11 In this way she shows us with her holy life and her life-saving ministry, and more so with her silence, how she is simply a star, while her Son is the Sun of righteousness.

"You honor and praise me," says the Panagia to us, "and ask for my protection and covering, but you must first of all connect with the noetic Sun of righteousness, who is Christ. He is the Light of the world. He is the Life and the Resurrection, He is the Way and the Truth, He is the Bread of life which came down from heaven."

To this star do we flee in these difficult times we live in within the darkness of ignorance, atheism and disbelief. We lean on her this evening depositing our tears of gratitude and our supplications for all that is happening in our land and our much-suffering nation. Many are the enemies, great are the difficulties, problems are like huge waves, our supposed friends stand far off and just look, as always, at the drama of our country.

Our only refuge is the Lord of Hosts.

Our hope is the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin.

The Panagia is our expectation, our Champion General, our Guide, our Awesome Protection, our Quick to Hear, our Liberator, our Savior, our Mother. This is why with all our hearts our lips this evening will pray: "Free us from all dangers, that we may cry: Rejoice, Bride unwedded."

1. Saint Nektarios, Ode 1, Prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary.
2. Saint Andrew of Crete, Theotokarion, Sunday Vespers, Plagal of the 1st Tone.
3. Saint Nektarios, Ode 1, Prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary.
4. Saint John of Damascus, "Oration on the Nativity of the Theotokos," PG 96,672.
5. Gen. 3:14-15.
6. Is. 7:14.
7. Ez. 44:1-3.
8. Ex. 3:1-4.
9. Ex. 33:7-11.
10. Gal. 4:4-5.
11. Apolytikion of the Nativity of the Theotokos.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.