of the Nativity of Christ.]
"The UNDEFILED Virgin, beholding the Pre-Eternal God as a
Child that had taken flesh from her, held Him in her arms and
without ceasing She kissed Him. Filled with joy, She said
aloud to Him: ‘O Most High God, O King unseen, how is it
that I look upon Thee? I cannot understand the Mystery of
Thy poverty without measure. For the smallest of caves, a
strange dwelling for Thee finds room for Thee within itself.
Thou hast been born without destroying my virginity, but
Thou hast kept my womb as it was before childbirth; and
Thou dost grant the world great mercy.’ " Sticheron, Vespers
of the Forefeast of the Nativity of Christ.]
"O Bethlehem, receive the Mother of God: for She has come
to thee to give birth to the Light that never sets, O ye Angels,
gaze with wonder from Heaven; O ye men, give glory on earth.
O Magi from Persia, bring your threefold gift; ye shepherds
abiding in the fields, sing ye that thrice-holy hymn.
Let everything that hath breath praise the Maker of all."
[Orthros (Matins) Forefeast)
The Veneration of the Mother of God
During Her Earthly Life
By Saint John Maximovitch
FROM APOSTOLIC TIMES and to our days all who truly love Christ give Veneration to Her Who gave birth to Him, raised Him, and protected Him in the days of His youth. If God the Father chose Her, God the Holy Spirit descended upon Her, and God the Son dwelt in Her, submitted to Her in the days of His youth, was concerned for HEr when hanging on the Cross–then should not everyone who confesses the Holy Trinity Venerate Her?
Still, in the days of Her earthly life the friends of Christ, the Apostles, manifested a great concern and devotion for the Mother of the Lord, especially the Evangelist John the Theologian, who, fulfilling the will of Her Divine Son, took Her to himself and took care for Her as for a mother from the time when the Lord uttered to him from the Cross the words: "Behold thy mother."
The Evangelist Luke painted a number of images of Her, some together with the Pre-Eternal Child, others without Him. When he brought them and showed them to the Most Holy Virgin, She approved them and said: "The grace of My son shall be with them," and repeated the hymn She had once sung in the house of Elisabeth, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and My spirit hath rejoiced in God My Saviour."
However, the Virgin Mary during Her earthly life avoided the glory which belonged to Her as the Mother of the Lord. She preferred to live in quiet and prepared Herself for the departure into Eternal Life. To the last day of Her earthly life, She took care to prove worthy of the Kingdom of Her Son, and before death, She prayed that He might deliver Her soul from the malicious spirits that meet human souls on the way to heaven and strive to seize them so as to take them away with them to Hades. The Lord fulfilled the prayer of His Mother and in the hour of Her death, Himself came from Heaven with a multitude of Angels to receive Her soul.
Since the Mother of God had also prayed that She might bid farewell to the Apostles, the Lord gathered for Her death all the Apostles, except Thomas, and they were brought by an invisible power on that day to Jerusalem from all the ends of the inhabited world, where they were preaching, and they were present at Her Blessed TRANSLATION (METASTASIS) into Eternal Life.
The holy Apostles gave Her most pure body over to burial with sacred hymns, and on the third day, they opened the tomb so as once more to Venerate the remains of the Mother of God together with the Apostle Thomas, who has arrived then in Jerusalem. But they did not find the body in the tomb and in perplexity they returned to their own place; and then, during their meal, the Mother of God Herself appeared to them in the air, shining with Heavenly Light, and informed them that Her Son had glorified HEr body also, and She, resurrected, stood before His Throne. At the same time, She promised to be with them always.
The holy Apostles greeted the Mother of God with great joy and began TO VENERATE Her only as the Mother of their Beloved Teacher and Lord, but also as their heavenly helper, as a protection of Christians and INTERCESSOR FOR TEH WHOLE HUMAN RACE BEFORE THE Righteous Judge. And everywhere the Gospel of Christ was preached, His Most Pure Mother also began to be glorified.
The Nestorian Heresy and
The Third Ecumenical Council
When all those who had dared to speak against the sanctity and purity of the Most Holy Virgin Mary had been reduced to silence, an attempt was made to DESTROY THE VENERATION AS THE Mother of God. In the 5th century the Archbishop of Constantinople, Nestorius, began to preach that of Mary had been born only the man Jesus, in Whom the DIVINITY HAD TAKEN ABODE AND DWELT IN Him as in a temple. At first, he allowed his presbyter Anastasios and then he himself began to teach openly in church that one should not call Mary "Theotokos," since She had not given birth to the God-Man. He considered it demeaning for himself to worship a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
Such sermons evoked a universal disturbance and unease over the purity of faith, at first in Constantinople and then everywhere else where rumors of the new teaching spread. Saint Proclus, the disciple of Saint John Chrysostom, who was then Bishop of Cyzicus and later Archbishop of Constantinople, in the presence of Nestorius gave in church a sermon in which he confessed the Son of God born in the flesh of the Virgin, who in truth is the Theotokos (Birthgiver of God), for already in the womb of the Most Pure One, at the time of Her conception, the Divinity was UNITED WITH THE Child conceived of the Holy Spirit; and this Child, even though He was born of the Virgin Mary only in His Human Nature, STILL WAS BORN ALREADY TRUE GOD AND TRUE MAN.
"It was decided to convene an Ecumenical Council, at which hierarchs, gathered from the ends of the world, should decide whether the faith preached by Nestorius was Orthodox. As the place for the Council, which was to be the Third Ecumenical Council, they chose the city of Ephesus, in which the Most Holy Virgin Mary had once dwelt together with the holy Apostle Joh the Theologian…
"On June 22, 431 A.D., in the Ephesian Church of the Virgin Mary, the bishops assembled, headed by the Bishop of Alexandria, Cyril, and the Bishop of Ephesus, Memnon, and took their places. In their midst was placed a Gospel as a sign of the invisible Headship of the Ecumenical Council by Christ Himself. At first the Symbol of Faith (Creed) which had been composed by the First and Second Ecumenical Councils was read, then there was read to the Council the Imperial Proclamation which was brought by the representatives of the Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian, Emperors of the Eastern and Western parts of the Empire.
"The Council, by the lips of its members, acknowledged the teaching of Nestorius to be impious and condemned it, acknowledging Nestorius as deprived of his See and of the priesthood. The decree was the decision of more than 200 bishops, who had their Sees in the various regions of the Church at that time, and they testified that they confessed the Faith which from all antiquity had been kept in their localities.
"Thus the decree of the Ecumenical Council was the voice of the Ecumenical Church, which clearly expressed its faith that Christ, BORN OF THE VIRGIN, IS THE TRUE GOD WHO BECAME MAN; AND INASMUCH AS MARY GVE BIRTH IN THE PERFECT MAN WHO WAS AT THE SAME TIME PERFECT GOD, SHE RIGHTLY SHOULD BE REVERED AS THEOTOKOS.
"At the end of the session, its decree was immediately communicated to the waiting people. The whole of Ephesus rejoiced when it found out that the VENERATION of the Virgin had been defended, for She was especially revered in this city, of which She has been a resident during Her earthly life and s Patroness after Her departure into Eternal Life… Everywhere were to be heard joyful greetings, the glorification of the Ever-Virgin, and the praises of the Fathers who had defended Her name against THE HERETICS. The decree of the Council was displayed in the streets of Ephesus…
"The Council likewise confirmed THE CONDEMNATION OF THE PELAGIAN HERESY, WHICH TAUGHT THAT MAN CAN BE SAVED BY HIS OWN POWERS WITHOUT THE NECESSITY OF HAVING THE GRACE OF GOD…At the same time the Council acknowledged that the teaching of the Orthodox Ecumenical Church had been fully and clearly enough set forth in the Nicaeo-Constantinopolitan Symbol of Faith, which is why it itself did not compose a new Symbol of Faith (Creed) AND FORBADE IN FUTURE "TO COMPOSE ANOTHER FAITH," THAT IS, TO COMPOSE OTHER SYMBOLS OF FAITH OR MAKE CHANGES IN THE SYMBOL WHICH HAD BEEN CONFIRMED AT THE Second Ecumenical Council.
"This later decree was VIOLATED several centuries later by Western Christians when, at first in separate places, and then throughout the whole Roman Church, there was made to the Symbol THE ADDITION THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT PROCEEDS "AND FROM THE SON," which addition has been approved by the Roman Popes from the 11th century, even though up until that time their predecessors, beginning with Saint Celestine, firmly kept to the decision of the Council of Ephesus, which was the Third Ecumenical Council, and fulfilled it.
Thus the peace which had been destroyed by Nestorius settled once more in the Church. The True Faith had been DEFENDED AND FALSE TEACHING ACCUSED.
The Council of Ephesus is rightly venerated as Ecumenical, on the same level as the Council of Nicaea and Constantinople which preceded it. [Source: The Orthodox Veneration of MARY, The Birthgiver of God)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George