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InternationalMother of God  (2 part)

Mother of God  (2 part)

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Persecuted christians - Conference at the European Parliament about the persecution of Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa (Credit: MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen)

Break the silence on persecuted Christians

MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen held a conference and exhibition at the European Parliament to denounce the silence surrounding the suffering of persecuted Christians worldwide. The EU must take stronger action against violations of freedom of religion, especially in Africa where lives are lost due to this silence.

Here is the doctrinal meaning of the Mother of God – she gives birth to the Son of God. That is why she is the Mother of God.

The consent of the Mother of God is also very clearly conveyed by the evangelist Luke. Although she is afraid and humanly embarrassed, she says, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word ”(Luke 1:38). Although out of humility she seeks to abstain from this gospel, she gives her consent so that she may become the Incarnation. In her face, as the Church Fathers later interpreted, with her “yes” she actually said “yes” to the whole people of God; and therefore the Incarnation is possible. Her election is from the century before she was born – she is God’s chosen vessel, as the evangelist himself says.

These are perhaps the most important testimonies in the New Testament. Then the Mother of God has a very small role, rather educative of the Lord Jesus Christ than she is His mother. We see her presence in Jerusalem at the circumcision of the Lord Jesus Christ on the fortieth day, which is another feast of the Virgin Mary; we see the Mother of God also at the Cross of the Lord, in the sufferings of our Lord. And then on Pentecost. However, this is insufficient information for the people of God; he wants to know more about the mother of the One who saved man. Therefore, when the feasts of the Virgin appear in time, they rather rely to a reasonable degree on the apocrypha, which give new historical information about the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. In hymnography we always find a cover, no matter what the feast of the Virgin it is. When the Fathers of the Church pronounce their words on the feasts – clear testimonies of the veneration of the Mother of God – there is always a reasonable use of the apocryphal texts.

The Apocryphal texts are very interesting, but the Fathers of the Church do not fully accept them; treat them with extreme care. Why? Because these texts also contain information that is wrong, and the Church differs from them. But the Fathers of the Church, as well as the Fathers-hymnographers, use some of the information contained in the Apocrypha. The Proto-Gospel of Jacob from the 2nd century is of decisive importance for the feasts of the Mother of God. The Proto-Gospel itself describes the life of the Mother of God until the Annunciation – her conception, her birth, her introduction into the temple. The birth of the Mother of God is described in great detail – how the righteous Joachim and Anna felt overthrown by the people of Israel for not having children; the shame they bear is described; the departure of St. Joachim to pray for forty days; the prayer of Anna, who sees a bird with its offspring… These are elements that we later see in the hymnographic texts and in the words of the fathers: St. Gregory Palamas uses them, the hymnographers use them…

The Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God appeared for the first time in the 7th century, but there is earlier information about it – St. Andrew of Crete mentions it, St. John of Damascus speaks about it. They again use the elements I mentioned a moment ago: there is talk of the infancy of Saints Joachim and Anna, as well as their prayer. The hymnography, glorifying the Mother of God, at the same time emphasizes precisely how, through prayer, St. Joachim and Anna ask for God’s grace.

In addition to the feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, there is another feast – Introduction, which also relies on the Proto-Gospel. Here again, apocryphal texts are used by the hymnographic fathers on how the Mother of God was introduced into the temple. The Fathers of the Church go further – they not only speak of the introduction into the temple, but also of the Holy of Holies. St. Gregory Palamas in the 16th century spoke emphatically about the introduction of the Mother of God into the Holy of Holies.

Another holiday – the Annunciation of the Mother of God – again relies on apocryphal texts, because the Gospel does not indicate where it happened, but from the apocryphal text we know that this happened at the well where the angel of the Virgin appears. And after the proclamation is announced, the apocryphal text takes us to the house of the Mother of God in Jerusalem. This holiday is also relatively ancient – its veneration begins in the Church in the VII century, but iconography with scenes from the Annunciation we meet much earlier – they are in one of the catacombs of Rome (II century), and St. Athanasius of Alexandria as well speaks of the Annunciation, as well as the next fathers of the Church – St. John Chrysostom, St. John of Damascus. Everyone speaks about the Annunciation, giving it a doctrinal meaning – we honor the Mother of God, because she is the mother of our Lord and has said “yes” on behalf of all the people of God.

The last holiday I will dwell on briefly is the Assumption of the Mother of God. As you can see, the holidays are structured like this – starting with the birth of the Mother of God, then Introduction, Annunciation and Assumption. I emphasize the Assumption of the Mother of God insofar as the death of the martyrs is important for the early church. As it is sung in the troparion of the feast of the Mother of God, we honor her because we glorify her through her sleep. We find the same emphasis in the saints; this is different, of course, from the Lord Jesus Christ, who “destroyed death with death.”

The Assumption of the Mother of God is found in several apocryphal traditions. What is interesting is the branch that is given by the archangel before the death of the Mother of God as brought from Paradise, because she will go to Paradise; how the apostles were miraculously moved to the clouds, and how the Mother of God was taken with her body and spirit to heaven… All these elements are found in the apocryphal texts. The Fathers of the Church accept them because they are the grain of truth contained in the traditions of the Church. They are also perceived by the hymnographic fathers; the icon-painting scenes also reflect these texts and they become the tradition of the Church. In this way the Church shows her reverence for the Mother of God in reasonable dimensions; The Mother of God is not worshiped as a goddess in any of the texts, even in the Assumption when she was taken to heaven. At this point, it is not said that the Mother of God is a goddess, but that this is the glory that the Son bestows on His mother.

Assumption, or death, refers to the whole Christian tradition. For the Mother of God it has an expanded meaning, but in essence the success is not only for the Mother of God. We also celebrate the Assumption of St. John of Rila, as well as other saints. The church begins to celebrate not the birth of the saints, but their birth for the new life that takes place in death. Death is important insofar as the new life for every human being begins there. Even if someone is a saint, he is not honored while he is alive, but when he goes to eternal life. The Mother of God is venerated in the same way, but with the difference that when she sleeps we celebrate not only her going to Christ and the fact that she is already constantly with us through her prayer, but also the fact that the Mother of God is the first resurrected personality. The hymnographic texts speak of how she was taken with a body in heaven; for her resurrection. Here the popular and ecclesiastical reverence for the Mother of God is expressed in her death and in her resurrection. The feast is a special message that the Church sends. At the Mother of God we have the Virgin Mary; in it we again find texts that speak of her resurrection.

In the Church we celebrate the death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ because they have a doctrinal meaning. With regard to the Mother of God, although these texts speak in the same way of her death and resurrection, the emphasis of the message is that there is not only death but also resurrection.

The question of where the tomb of the Mother of God is has no doctrinal significance for the Church. The believing heart of everyone wants to know where the grave of the one who gave birth to the Lord Jesus Christ is. But my personal opinion is that this should not matter so much, because we are on the verge of reaching comparisons, of blurring the red lines between the Mother of God and her Son. The Mother of God is revered as the queen of heaven, above every human being and above the angelic forces. In our quest to find her grave, we come to the question of whether she died and whether she was resurrected. There is a danger: Christ has a tomb from which he rose, and here we can get to the point of blurring the line between the Mother of God and her divine Son. Although there are places of worship, we must be very careful about this veneration, because the difference can easily be erased – rather in a laudatory, not so much in a doctrinal sense.

The Feast of the Assumption begins with an ancient feast of the Virgin Mary – the most ancient Christian holiday, which was celebrated on August 15. Later, one of the ancient testimonies that has come down to us speaks of the replacement of this holiday with the Assumption of the Mother of God. And the holiday itself, which was celebrated then, is moved to August 13. Here is another confirmation that we traditionally celebrate death. The Mother of God has a very clear place – she always seems to stand in the shadow of her Son. We see this with regard to the holidays. The ancient church solemnly celebrates the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ with a night liturgy. And the next day the Mother of God is celebrated. A practice that continues to this day – we celebrate the Nativity of Christ on December 25, and on December 26 we celebrate the Feast of the Blessed Virgin. In this way, through the holidays, the Church confirms the importance of the Mother of God – she is next to her divine Son.

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