Today I write of Mary, the greatest woman who ever lived. She is known to the Orthodox as the Theotokos. I hope, even if you are not Orthodox, you will read this to find out why we Orthodox Christians highly honor this blessed lady.
A vast majority of Protestants are under the impression Orthodox Christians worship Mary (Theotokos). This is simply not true. She is honored greatly. She is not worshipped. Worship is for God. And while I know I am one person that cannot sway the mind of someone who has committed to this thought the majority of their lives', I hope that I can at least put a thought into their mind...that perhaps this idea is inaccurate and perhaps he or she could do a little further research before deciding to stick to this conclusion. And maybe, just maybe, he or she will have a little better understanding of why we do honor Mary and why he or she should as well.
Theotokos is a Greek term meaning 'birthgiver of God'. This is the Virgin Mary. This is the woman who was the first to accept Christ into her life. This is the woman who played an immense role in man's redemtion by her consent to bear Christ. This is the woman that leads us to Christ. This is the woman the bible has shown us that we should honor. This is she who contained Christ, God who is uncontainable, within her womb.
The bible tells us that Mary was a virgin when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. The prophet, Isaiah, predicted this conception. It is written, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).
We honor Mary because she is the mother of Jesus Chrsit. Mary was not just any random young girl. Mary had found favor with God. "Do not be afraid, Mary," said Gabriel, " for you have found favor with God"( Luke 1:30). Mary was chosen by God for an honor that will always be hers alone. And Mary accepted the task given to her. Mary had free will. Mary could have run and hid from the angel. Mary could have protested. But Mary was willing. She answered the angel, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). In this action, Mary was the first to accept Christ into her life.
In accepting Christ into her life, accepting her role of the incarnation, Mary played an immense part of man's redemtion:
"Christ saves men, who have fallen through their own fault into the power of the devil, by breaking that power. He became Man for this purpose; He lived and died and rose again that He might break the chains by which men were bound. It is not His death alone, but the entire Incarnation, of which His death was a necessary part, that freed men from their captivity to Satan." ~ Fr. John Romanides
The Holy Bible shows us that it is, indeed, fitting to honor Mary and that she is the mother of our Lord. The angel Gabriel honored Mary,"Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you, Blessed are you among women"Luke 1:28). Gabriel told Mary that God had found favor with her (Luke 1:30). Mary herself, in offering one of the most magnificent prayer of praise to God, "My sould magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generation shall call me blessed." Her favor was further established upon meeting with her cousin, Elizabeth, when the woman, upon seeing her, exclaimed, " Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord shuld come to me?" (Luke 1:42-43)
The icons of Mary you will find in Orthodox Christian churches and homes never depict an image of Mary alone. All icons of Mary are with her son, Jesus Christ. Mary is honored because of her son and the icons reflect that. The icons of Mary display the mother leading us closer to Him. She led us to him in her acceptance of her part in the incarnation and she lead people to follow him in her life (John 2:5) and she continues to lead us to Him in our life by her example. She is often seen pointing in his direction or gazing adoringly into his eyes while holding the child out to us to behold with our own.
Mary held our Lord and Savior in her womb for 9 months. God, who is uncontainable, was contained within her. For this and all of the above reasons given and so much more, Mary was the greatest woman who ever lived. Mary was his mother, giving birth to our Lord. He honored her and so should we.
Sources Used and Further Sources That May Interst You:
- Orthodox Answers to Frequently Asked Questions by Fr. Marc Dunaway
- What Every Orthodox Christian Should Know by Fr. George Nicozisin
- Introducing The Orthodox Church by Anthony M. Coniaris
- The Complete Book of Orthodoxy by George W. Grube
- The Orthodox Study Bible
- Facing Up to Mary by Fr. Peter E. Gillquist
- An Orthodox View of the Virgin Mary - Orthodox Christian Information Center
- Our Redemtion in Christ by Fr. John Romanides
"He who is devout to the Mother of God will certainly never be lost." ~St. Ignatius of Anticoh