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August 31, 2021

Discourse on the Placement and Veneration of the Honorable Zoni of Theotokos (St. Germanos of Constantinople)

Discourse on the Placement and Veneration of the 
Holy and Honorable Zoni (Girdle) of Our Most Pure Lady 
the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary

By St. Germanos, Patriarch of Constantinople
Through the Holy Spirit, David, the Prophet and King, sang, “Glorious things are spoken of you, the City of God”. In this way he revealed, as the City of the Great King, her of whom many wonderful things, praises and hymns have been spoken. But what is this City, in fact? It seems to me that David answers this clearly and beyond doubt when talking about her who was really chosen and is superior to all others. Not because of the excellence of its buildings, nor because it is higher than the highest hills and mountains of the earth. The all-immaculate and all-unblemished Mother of God is higher because of her great, divine virtues and because she excels in purity. The King of royal rulers and Lord of the overlords dwelt in her. Or rather, in accordance with the holy Apostle, we should say that “all the fullness of the deity in bodily form” dwelt in her.

Our Lady, the Mother of God, really is the glorified City of God. She is the spiritual Zion. I believe that it was of her that David spoke prophetically. And if one were to call her church the glorified city, it would not be far from the truth. Here, the memory of many people is preserved, as are the names carved on gravestones. And if headstones and monuments are raised to this day for people whose names it is not proper for us to mention, and if their reputation is among the most assured, what shall we say about the All-hymned Maiden, the All-spotless and All-immaculate Mother of God, who was glorified by God? Because if she was the animate city of Christ the King, then it is proper that her all-holy church, the inauguration of which we celebrate today together with the deposition of her holy zoni, should also be called the city glorified by God. A city where the names of its residents are not recorded as belonging to a mortal, earthly king, but to the heavenly King, Who directs them to eternal life and gives His Kingdom to all who follow Him.
My honorable and God-fearing audience, when you hear of today’s inauguration, do not let your mind dwell on the newly-constructed buildings and other edifices which have just been finished, but rather consider the spiritual inauguration, at which our inner person discards the old and torn raiment of sin and puts on the new garment of devotion, and lives the new life of Christ. This is the inauguration which brings joy to the Mother of God. With the appropriate virtues and living the new life according to God’s will, let us with purity delight in the pure inauguration of the pure and immaculate one. And, as if she were present, let us approach her venerable church, putting all our reflections and actions in order and transforming them for the better. Let us not do anything unworthy of the day of the inauguration, as Scripture says, either in our gait or our laughter. Nor should the decoration of our clothing be inappropriate. And furthermore, let us arrange our thoughts accordingly. In all things, may charity be at the fore, because this pleases God, contents Him. Then we can celebrate with renewed soul and body the inauguration of the church of the All-Spotless Mother of our God after the flesh.
So, today, we celebrate the placement and veneration of the Honorable Zoni of our Lady the Mother of God. Of that zoni which was wrapped round her all-holy body and covered Him Who was hidden in her womb. Of that zoni which beautifully and modestly adorned the ark of God, that is Mary. Of that zoni which was often soaked with pure drops of milk from the All-Immaculate Mother of God. And let no malcontent complain that it is inappropriate to talk about and hymn inanimate objects as if they were animate.
When some vessel comes into contact with aromatic myrrh we know that it will retain the fragrance for a long time. So what can we say about the zoni which was wrapped round the most pure and spotless body of the Mother of God, which was really inexhaustible divine myrrh? Would it not retain for centuries the fragrance of its curative powers and fill all those who approached in faith and yearning? Not the aroma of milk, but a divine and all-venerable fragrance; a fragrance that banishes the passions of both body and soul. And if, as we said, an inanimate vessel that comes into contact with inanimate myrrh absorbs something of its quality, what can we say about the zoni, which touched the animate dwelling of the Word of God, that is, the Mother of God. Shouldn’t we hasten to it? Shouldn’t we venerate it? Shouldn’t we ask of it the total purification of our souls and bodies? Shouldn’t we speak to it as if it were animate and offer hymns of praise.

And you, All-Pure and All-Good and Most-Merciful Lady, the consolation of Christians, the fervent comfort of those in distress, the immediate refuge of sinners, do not abandon us as orphans, without your divine assistance. For if you do abandon us, where shall we turn? And what will become of us, you who are the breath and life of Christians? Just as our bodies breathe as an indication that we’re alive, so the invocation of your name by your servants, at all times and in all places, is not merely an indication of, but an invitation to life, joy and assistance. Shelter us under the wings of your goodness. Guard us with your intercessions.

Give us eternal life, you who are the enduring and incontrovertible hope of Christians. Because we, who are poor in divine works and in proper behavior, seeing the wealth of your kindness towards us, say: “The earth is full of the mercy of God”. We who, because of the multitude of our sins, have wandered far from God, pleaded with Him and found your help. And, since we’ve found Him, we’re saved. Since your aid is sufficient for salvation, Mother of God, we need no other intercessor before God. We know this and experience has taught us. We have often asked things of you, who are a swift helper, and have received your abundant gifts in answer.

And now we, your own people, your own inheritance, your own flock, that is we Christians, who have the honor to bear the name of your Son, hasten to you. Because your magnificence knows no bounds. There is no exhausting the abundance of your aid. Your blessings are innumerable. No one is saved unless by the help of Our Most Holy Lady. No one escapes torments unless through you, All-Pure One. No one receives forgiveness freely unless through you, All-Blessed One. Who will not praise you for all this? Who will not glorify you? Not as you deserve, it is true, but most willingly. You who are glorified, you who are replete with blessedness, to whom your Son gave great and awe-inspiring magnificence, who, for all these reasons, all generations will hymn and call blessed.

Who else, apart from your Son, cares for the human race as you do? And who shares our sorrows as you do? Who preserves us from imminent temptations as you do? Who hears our supplications and defends sinners? Who gives such great support to inveterate sinners? Since you have maternal boldness and strength as regards your Son, you both save and deliver from eternal damnation with your prayers and intercessions us, who are condemned because of our sins, who do not dare to gaze upon the heights of the heavens. This is why those who are distressed have recourse to you, why those who suffer injustice run to you, and those who are surrounded by disaster seek your help. Everything that is yours is beyond human comprehension.

Everything is supernatural, everything is beyond human reason and power and for this reason your protection is beyond our understanding. Because you have reconciled to your Son the strays, the persecuted and the harassed and have made them sons and heirs. To those who are floundering every day in their sins, you stretch out a hand and save them from the billows. You repel the attacks of the Evil One against your servants and save them by the mere invocation of your name. Most Pure Lady, you deliver all who call upon you from every necessity and temptation. This why we hasten eagerly to your church and, when we’re there, think ourselves in heaven. Inside it, when we glorify you, we think we’re hymning you with the angels.

Which other generation of people, other than Christians, has enjoyed such glory, has gained such great assistance and such great protection? Who, beholding with faith your honorable zoni, Mother of God, is not immediately filled with joy and contentment? Who has ever venerated it and gone away without an answer to a request? Who, gazing upon your icon does not immediately forget all sorrow? We who have come to the church you have chosen to receive your zoni, the placement of which we are celebrating, cannot describe the joy, delight and enjoyment of which we have been deemed worthy.

But, Mother of God, you are the pitcher from which we, who are all tormented by miseries, have drunk the cooling manna. Mother of God, you are the table from which we, who are starved, have eaten our fill of the bread of life. Mother of God, you are the lamp who has illumined with abundant light of all of us who sat in darkness. You, Mother of God, have from God the acclaim you deserve and which befits you. Do not reject our own unworthy praise, which we offer you gladly. Do not rebuff  the words of supplication which come from unworthy lips. But rather, you who have been glorified by God, when you have weighed our desire, grant us forgiveness of our sins, the enjoyment of eternal life and deliverance from all harm.

Look down, Mother of God, from your holy dwelling, upon your people who regard you as Lady, Protectress and Maiden. We have gathered to hymn you from our hearts and, when you have cast your gaze upon us, deliver us for all disaster and sorrow, all sickness and harm, and ward off all temptation. Fill us with every joy, healing and grace. And, when we shall all be judged, at the coming of your Son, our God Who loves mankind, with your power and the boldness you have as His Mother, deliver us from the eternal torments and make us worthy of attaining the eternal good things, through the grace and mercy of our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who was born from you, and to Whom belong glory and power now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.