August 15, 2021

The Relationship of the Panagia with Orthodox Ecclesiology (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The Church of Christ, my beloved brethren, is the Body of the God-man Christ. The Church of the Old Testament was spiritual and consisted of the righteous, who did not overcome death, but with the incarnation of Christ the Church became physical, that is, she was received by Christ and became His Body. And the Panagia cooperated in this, because she gave her body to Christ, who deified it and made it a Church. This alone shows the great value of our Panagia, and that this is the joy and the cause of our deification.

Therefore, when we say Church we mean the Bridegroom Christ, the Mother of the Bridegroom Christ and the friends of the Bridegroom Christ, the saints. In this society the deification of man and the sanctification of creation are achieved and of course all the great changes take place in society and the world.

In the sermons of these months we have referred and will refer to the Mysteries of our Church, and we have seen the importance they have for our lives. There can be no spiritual life outside the Mysteries of our Church, especially outside of Holy Baptism, Holy Chrismation and Holy Communion. However, our Panagia also participates in these mysteries. The visit of the angel during the Annunciation and the reception of the Holy Spirit is the Baptism and the Chrismation of our Panagia, because in this way her image was purified and anointed by the Holy Spirit. If we see Holy Baptism through the Orthodox perspective, not just as liberation from hereditary guilt, but as the purification of the image, then we also understand the state of nature of the Panagia during the Annunciation. With the conception of Christ in the womb of our Panagia, one can say that the Panagia was communing with Christ. The close relationship of the fetus of Christ with His Mother shows that the Panagia had for nine months, during which she conceived Christ, a continuous Divine Communion. And with her dormition and her ascension physically to heaven, the Panagia experienced the Second Coming of Christ and also the resurrection of her body.

Since we recognize the great value of the Divine Eucharist, we must also see the relationship of the Panagia with the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist. The important thing is that we have the great honor, during the Divine Eucharist, to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, but we also owe this to the Panagia, because this Body of Christ was received by Christ from His mother and He deified it. In this perspective, Saint Symeon the New Theologian says that those who partake of the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ also partake of the flesh of the Panagia. Even the antidron, according to one interpretation, is a blessing of our Panagia. This is because the bread offered at the proskomide reminds us of the Panagia, since the lamb comes out of the antidron to be offered and changed into the Body of Christ, so the rest of the antidron is distributed in memory of the Panagia.

The Panagia, my beloved brethren, is closely associated with Christ, which is why iconographers usually paint her with Christ in her arms. Consequently, the Panagia is also connected with the Church, because just as the Church has Christ at its center, so the Panagia holds Christ in her embrace. And just as we know Christ through the Church, so we are led to love for Christ through the Panagia. And just as the Church prays for our salvation, so the Panagia prays unceasingly for us.

We sing hymns to Christ who is our Savior and Benefactor, but we also glorify our Panagia who became the joy and cause of our re-creation. And we abandon ourselves to the heart and philanthropy for all of us of the Mother of God. We supplicate to her, we ask her to protect us, to strengthen us and to be an intercessor for us, throughout our lives, at the time of our death, but especially during the fearsome hour of the Second Coming of Christ.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.