English Edition

The Veneration of the Theotokos According to the Bible

Archimandrite Cleopa (Ilie)

We Orthodox Christians honor the Theotokos Mary more than all the saints and angels of heaven for she was found worthy to give birth to Christ, the Savior of the world by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. The honor we render to the Mother of the Lord is exceptional, most honorable and most revered, for she is not only "a friend of His,” as are the other saints, but she is Most Holy (Panagia) above all the saints and all the angels.

For this the angels as much as people venerate and honor her with prayers, hymns, church services and eulogies. Similarly the Archangel Gabriel greeted her at the annunciation (Luke 1:28-29) as well as Saint Elizabeth, the mother of Saint John the Baptist (Luke 1:40-43).

The Most Holy Virgin herself prophesied through the Holy Spirit For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; for He that is mighty has done to me great things (Luke 1:48-49). From these words we understand that the exceptional honor accorded to the Mother of the Lord is intentional and appointed by God Himself. This exceptional honor that is accorded by the Orthodox Church to the Ever-Virgin Mary forms the veneration of the Mother of the Lord.

In the framework of the veneration of the Most Holy Theotokos, we must firstly mention the great feasts of the Mother of God, which are: The Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Entry, the Annunciation, and the Dormition of the Theotokos. Then the services celebrated in the churches and the monasteries in her honor, the salutations, the canons of supplications, the hagiographic icons decorated so beautifully, especially the miraculous ones, and many other prayers through which we ask the help of the Mother of the Lord every day of our lives.

We honor the Mother of God because she is the mother who gave birth to the Son of God and the first one who intercedes for the world in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity. She helps us much more in the conquest of salvation by her holy prayers.

However in the long history of the Church, there appear some whom we call heretics or followers of other confessions (neo-protestants) who blaspheme her as much as they do the Savior and His Bible.

The holy Apostle Paul in his epistles indicates that in the latter days will appear people who cannot tolerate the teaching of the true faith, but will heed teachings agreeable to their works which come close to fairy tales. Namely, while they see the true faith, they will deny her power, always preaching and not being able to reach the true faith: Now, as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds and reprobate of faith But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim. 3:8, 13).

Since the creation of this nation that is how we are knownRomanians and Orthodox Christians. That is how we were born and we are duty-bound to maintain pure and complete whatever we inherited from our ancestors as from God Himself. For the Apostle Paul says: Therefore brethren stand fast and keep the traditions which you have been taught whether by word or our epistle (2 Thess. 2:15).

The Protestants and with them the heretical neo-protestantsfollowers of other contemporary confessions of our day, the so called "repentant ones"among their many confusions and false preachings blaspheme far more the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. These blasphemers of the Mother of the Lord say that we should not accord her great honor because her Son, Jesus Christ Himself did not render her any honor, apparently from the words of the Savior Who said: The one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, who is my mother? And who is my brethren? And He stretched forth his hand toward the disciples and said, Behold My mother and My brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of the Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother and sister and mother (Matt. 12:47-50). The fact then that the Virgin Mary was His mother had no significance to HimHis blood relation had no value or preference over His spiritual relationships with those who do the will of the Father, whosoever they may be.

Furthermore, they add that this is obvious from the way the Lord addressed her when on some other occasions He called her “woman,” which means she was married, namely not a virgin, for in this way the word of the Bible is verified: When Jesus therefore saw His mother and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son (John 19:26). Moreover He contemptuously calls her so at the wedding in Cana of Galilee: Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? (John 2:4). Thus, in such a case we cannot consider her above all (Most Holy) and we cannot accord her a special veneration.

However, it is not like this as all those deceived of the truth believe, which they interpret according to their sick minds, full of egoism, for in the first instance it concerns something else and specifically, apart from the physical relationship, there is another relationship with Christ, much greater and important, which is the spiritual relationship, which involves doing the will of God. This relationship, however, does not cancel or diminish the physical one. The difference consists of the fact that anyone can acquire the spiritual relationship by doing the will of God. This relationship means not only the physical relationship but also a relationship of love and spiritual union. The one who does the will of God becomes a spiritual relative of God. Similarly through the above, the Savior not only did not set aside His physical relationship with His Mother, nor did He diminish the honor that is due to a mother from her son but He only tried to stress the other relationship with Him. The spiritual, although of great value, can be achieved by any faithful person.

Consequently it was an instigating and encouraging saying towards the crowd and not one contemptuous towards His Mother. Our Savior Jesus Christ, as long as He was with His Mother on earth, always listened to her, loved her and submitted to her (Luke 2:51) and when she would ask for something He never disobeyed her. Thus at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, upon the request of His Mother, He performed His first miracle, turning the water into wine (John 2:3-10). Then He cared greatly for His Mother and even while He hung upon the Cross He acted with care and gave her to His most beloved discipleSaint John the Evangelistto be taken care of, according to the scriptures: When Jesus therefore saw His Mother and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, he saith unto His Mother, Woman behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home (John 19:26-27). Do you see here how the Savior even during the time of His great ordeal on the Cross did not neglect to show care towards the person of His Mother, who gave birth to Him and brought Him up. And how could it be possible to neglect His Mother, when God Himself commanded us to honor our parents as it is written: Honor your father and your mother (Deut. 5:16)?

Secondly, there is no cause for scorn but instead it appears that He looked after her by trusting her to the care of the Apostle John, knowing that He would no longer be on earth to care for her to the end of her life, as we showed above. This demonstrates great honor and respect towards the person of His Mother, for whom, even during His torments upon the Cross, He did not forget to care, showing the great love He had for His Mother. If He however calls her "woman,” under no circumstance does it have the meaning of a married woman or was it for the purpose of scorning her, but it carries the only the meaning of her sex. For in the same way the two angels at the tomb also addressed Mary Magdalene: Woman, why do you weep? (John 20: 12-13). While the two men who were present during the Ascension of the Lord to Heaven said to the Apostles: Men of Galilee why do you stand looking at the heavens? (Acts 1:11). Neither the angels nor the two men used the words "woman" or "men" contemptuously but on the contrary, in a flattering manner.

They even ask us, where in the Holy Bible it says that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was virgin and Ever-Virgin, as we call her. That she gave birth being virgin, our Holy Bible shows in this way: When the Archangel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth and announced to her that she will bear the Son of God (Luke 1:35), coming to her he called her full of grace and said blessed are you among women (Luke 1:28). It appears that the Archangel venerated (honored) the Virgin Mary, calling her full of grace and blessed among women and that she received great grace from God, that the power of the Almighty had overshadowed her, and that she conceived through the Holy Spirit and gave birth to the Son of God. Even though she was a virgin, not having known a man, the angel of the Lord did not tell her "blessed are you among the virgins" but blessed are you among "women" and through this he does not show contempt towards the Most Holy Theotokos who is full of grace but reveals an old mystery: the crushing of the head of the snake by the woman (Gen. 3:15), and that she will be the mystical and spiritual Eve who will bear the new Adam, Christ, who will bring life to the world.

The God-bearing Fathers of the church tell us that Christ was called the seed of a woman (Gen 3:15) as He was not born of the seed of a man but of the Holy Spirit and the undefiled blood of the Most Holy Virgin and received a body. On the day of the great judgment (2nd coming) this Queen and Virgin Mary will be sitting to the right of the throne of her Son, in great and indescribable glory, as the psalm indicates by saying Upon Thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir (Ps 45:9).

Because the Archangel Gabriel also called her woman, when he said blessed are you among women does it mean that the Virgin Mary was a married woman? Why then did she respond to the greeting of the angel I know not a man (namely “I am a virgin”)?

Or when God created Eve from the side of Adam (Gen 2:21-22) and he brought her toward him and he called he called her "woman" was it perhaps that Eve was a married woman, since Adam called her woman? Is it possible that Eve was not created virgin from the side of the pure Adam who had not known a woman?

Consequently, if Eve was created by God and God Himself with Adam called this virgin "woman" would they later call her woman with the meaning of a married woman? How falsely do all these neo-protestants and heretics understand? For as Eve was a virgin, then when he called her “woman,” likewise, the mystical and spiritual Eve, the immaculate Virgin Mary who gave birth to the New Adam, Christ, is virgin for ever and ever, even though the Holy Bible calls her “woman” while referring only to her feminine sex.

Then Adam, through the energy of God bore from his virgin body, without a woman (namely, without having knowledge of a woman), while at the fullness of time, the feminine nature by the energies of the Holy Spirit gave birth to a man without a man, in virginity she gave birth and remained virgin as in the beginning Adam gave birth while a virgin. So God was pleased, as through the Virgin Mary to lend the nature of the Old Adam to the New Adam Who was born of the Virgin and who came to the world and wore our nature through His infinite mercy and kindness, to save the Old Adam with all his descendants from the sentence of death. For as through Adam we all died, through Christ all are resurrected (Rom. 6:5; John 3:16; 5:24, etc.).

Therefore consider, deceived manyou and your likesthat the Holy Bible does not call the Mother of God "woman" meaning married as you understand but through the word "woman" the Holy Bible refers only to the feminine sex of the Holy Virgin Mary and at the same time it shows in a shadowy and mystical way that it is the woman whose descendent (Christ) will crush the head of the snake and through Him will come salvation to the people.

To the above we should add:

- Being the Mother of the Savior, the Virgin Mary was accorded the highest honor that any creature can have.

- By conceiving the Savior through the Holy Spirit, she was cleansed completely from sin more than any other human, no matter how holy he/she may have been.

- Because her exceptional honor was pre-accordedunlike the honor of any otherthe Most Holy Virgin Mary must be considered the first among the saints, just like Saint John the Baptist is considered the greatest among the prophets (Malachi 3, Isaiah 40:3).

For all theie the Most Holy Virgin Mary is worthy of an honor greater than the other saints because she is the queen and the crown of all the saints. For how after the birth she remained virgin, read and observe the prophesied sayings of the prophet Ezekiel (44:1-3).

The deceived ones moreover add that we should not give too much honor to the Virgin Mary and not even call her "Ever Virgin," for she had more children, which were named in the Holy Bible "brothers and sisters" of Jesus while Jesus is called first born (Matt. 1:35) which then follows that she later had other children.

It is true that the Holy Bible talks about some brothers of the Lord as well as sisters of His, and from the words of the Jews, who amazed by the miraculous person of the Lord said: Is He not the son of the carpenter? Is His mother not called Mariam and His brothers James and Joses and Simon and Judas? And His sisters (Matt. 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). However, in this instance by the phrase "first born" does not mean that we have to presume the existence of others born later. This was a way of speech in the Old Testament. The one who opens the womb is called “first born”, independent of whether he has other brothers or not (Exodus 13:2).

This Jewish language entered into the New Testament. Presently, “first born” carries the meaning of “only child.” However, this meaning must be rejected because if it were true that Jesus had other blood brothers (children of Mary) he would not have left His mother in the care of some Apostle, but in the care of one of her sons.

To the second point an argument is made about the "brothers" of the Lord. The brothers are mentioned even by name and are four, while the sisters must have been at least two. They however under no circumstances could be natural brothers/sisters of Jesus Christ and children of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, because:

-According to an old and accepted tradition, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, remained virgin after the birth according to the way she appeared in the vision of Prophet Ezekiel (44:1-3).

-The mother of those so-called brothers/sisters of the Lord is a different person from that of the Virgin Mary, because in the Holy Bible she is called "Mary" or "the other Mary" or "the sister of His mother, Mary of Klopa" being mentioned even at the side of the Mother of the Lord and near her (Matt. 27:55-56; 28:1; Mark 15:40-47; John 19:25).

The "brothers of the Lord” did not even call themselves brothers but slaves (James 1:1) and slaves-servants (Jude 1:1) of the Lord. If they were His brothers, Christ would have made them apostles. Even though some suggest that these two of the "brothers of the Lord," called James and Judas, are the same as the apostles who bear these names. About James "the brother of God" we know only that he was the first bishop of Jerusalem and enjoyed the greatest honor of the faithful as well as the apostles (Acts 12:17; 15:13) since James Zebedeous was murdered (Acts 12:2). Christ would have trusted the Virgin Mary to his care, and not to that of the apostle John, who would certainly have been more distant than a son or a daughter of hers.

Taking into consideration the fact that in all the East, and especially in Judea the meaning "brother" is used in a broader sense, for a cousin or other relatives, both close and distant, as, for example, in Genesis (13:8) where Abraham calls Lot “brother” even though he was his nephew, the son of his brother (Gen 11:27), we must accept that brothers of the Lord were cousins of Jesus. But not first cousins, for even if their mother is called sister of the Mother of the Lord (John 19:25) she could not have been sister from the same father because she had the same name Mary, but the word “sister” here must have the meaning of sister-in-law for the Virgin Mary was a single child. It could have meant sister-in-law by Joseph, who is not excluded from having some sister who was married. In this case her sons, called the brothers of the Lord, could have been at most second cousins of Jesus Christ.

As if they had nothing to add on the virginity of the Mother of God after birth, they add even this passage of the Holy Bible: And knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus (Matt 1:25), arguing that after giving birth the Virgin Mary could have other children.

Let us take into consideration and understand that in the Holy Bible the phrase “until then” means eternity. Because the Lord said And lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). Is it possible this means that He will depart from us after the end of that age? Doesn't the divine Apostle Paul say, And so [after the common resurrection] shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17). In another passage of the Holy Bible it is written The Lord said to my Lord sit thou on my right hand till I make thine enemies thy footstool (Ps 110:1). Does this perhaps mean that after this our Savior Jesus Christ will not sit at the right of His Father to govern with Him through the ages, even though we know very well that of His kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:33)?

Again in another passage of the Holy Bible it is said that Noah sent the crow and the crow did not return until the earth dried from the water (Gen 8:7)does this mean that it returned to the ark sometime later?

Again it is written in the Holy Bible that Melhol, the daughter of Saul, the wife of David did not bear a child until the day she died (2 Sam: 6:23). Does this perhaps mean that she bore children after she died, since it says "until the..."?

Therefore, let them open the eyes of their souls, all these blasphemers of truth, to these testimonies taken from the Holy Bible and understand that the phrase "until the" in the Holy Bible means “eternity,” as the Savior will exist eternally with the apostles and with all those that fulfill His commandments, as He will also eternally be seated at the right of the Father reigning in His Kingdom which has no end, like the crow never returned to Noah's ark, and as Melhol, the daughter of Saul never bore children after the day of her death, and in the same way the righteous and God-fearing Joseph eternally did not come to know her who was virgin before the birth, the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Theotokos and Mother of Light, the queen of the angels and of people who remained virgin during birth and forever after birth.

After all this, those hostile against the Mother of God say that we should not direct our prayers to her with the supplications “having no other helper than thee,” and “Most Holy Theotokos save us,” as these are serious errors, placing the Mother of God on par with the Savior as mediatrix to our salvation, for one is our Mediator, Jesus Christ.

Regarding our supplication to the Mother of God in the following way: "having no other helper," through this we do not deny the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the Mediator of our objective salvation, but neither do we neglect the benefit of every help for our subjective salvation. The significance of this supplication is the following: "You can give us the greatest help to our subjective salvation, for greater help we cannot find in any saint,” or “we have no one else who can help us as much as you can help us, being the Mother of our Savior." While the words of our supplication to her, "Most Holy Theotokos, save us" mean "Intercede to your Son to save us" or "redeem us." In the Greek language in which almost all the books of the New Testament were written, as the books of Orthodox worship, the verb "to save" also means "to redeem" (deliver, absolve etc) from evil, from temptation, from sins, from worry, from financial difficulties. So: "Most Holy Theotokos save us" means "help us with your supplications to be redeemed from evil, upset, from the activities of the devil, from our passions."

At the same time, by "save us" we do not mean "forgive our sins" but "intercede to your Son for our salvation." It is impossible to sadden her Son through devotion (meaning rendering honor) to the Mother of God, for in this way the worship owed to Him is not diminished in any way but, to the contrary, all the great devotion "particularly" to the Mother of God passes over to her Son, who chose her and sanctified her to become His Mother.

Concerning what was said, we showed through testimonies from the Holy Bible, the honor, the glory and the gifts that God gave to His Most Holy Mother, because:

God, one more time, since the fall of Adam and Eve, foretold about the Mother of God that she will be that “woman”a virgin who shall through her Son crush the head of the snake (Gen 3:15). Later, it was prophesied about her that it will be the virgin who will be the intercessor for the entry to the world of the Savior Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 31:2-23), and to her the Archangel Gabriel came to honor and called her full of grace and blessed among women and Mother of my Lord (Luke 1:40-45), and blessed are her womb and breasts for they held and fed the Savior of the world, Christ (Luke 11:27-28). The Savior, as her Son, obeyed her and submitted to her (Luke 2:51). The first miracle the Savior performed was at the wedding in Cana of Galilee through her supplication (John 2:3-10), the Savior took care of her even then when He suffered excruciating pain on the Cross, trusting to His most beloved of Apostles the care of His Mother, and she herself through the Holy Spirit prophesied that all generations would call her blessed and sing in glory that God made her worthy due to her humility (Luke 1:48-49). The same name of the Mother of God in the Hebrew language is translated as "Lady Virgin."

This Lady and Virgin Queen will sit to the right of the throne of her Son on the day of the Second Coming (Ps 45:9). She conceived and gave birth by the Holy Spirit to the Son of God (Luke 1:35), having been overshadowed by the power of the Almighty and remained virgin even after giving birth (Ezekiel 44:13). She is more honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, having no other children but only Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. The mother of the so called "brothers" of the Lord is not the Theotokos but Mary Klopa (Matt 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-47; John 19:25) while the "brothers" of the Lord are just relatives and not His natural brothers, for in the early years for Hebrews close relatives were called "brothers" (Gen 13:8). The mother of the brothers of the Lord, Mary Klopa, is called sister of the Mother of the Lord, according to the meaning of close relatives (John 19:25, etc.).

Having seen such witnesses from the Holy Bible for these truths concerning the Mother of the Lord, if you had a mind clear from the darkness of heresies and sins you would have been able to understand quite clearly why we Orthodox Christians of the Church of Christ accord to exceptional devotion to the Most Holy Theotokos Mary. By supplicating her we set her as intercessors to her Son and our God, to help us through her intercessory mediations which she always presents to God for the whole human race and especially for devout Christians.

Why don't you honor the Mother of the Lord when the Holy Bible itself reveals to you that the Archangel Gabriel honored her with his greeting (Luke 1:29)?

What is the reason you do not honor the Mother of the Lord, who according to the testimony of the Holy Bible and of the evangelist Archangel Gabriel is full of grace" (Luke 1:28-30). Why are you so hard-hearted and blind that you do not honor the Mother of the Lord even though by the grace of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth confessed that she was the Mother of the Lord and blessed among women? (Luke 1:40-43).

If you say that you believe in the writing of the Holy Bible, why then don't you honor and respect the Mother of the Lord, when the Bible reveals to you she will be blessed by all generations, for the honor that God granted her?

What is the reason you reached such great ignorance, where instead of you honoring and respecting the Mother of the Lord, you blaspheme her and in your disorder you consider her as a common woman? The Holy Spirit has presented her in the psalms as queen of the angels and of all creation, sitting to the right of her Son, clothed in gold and adorned (Ps 45:13) and you name her as a common woman like all the rest?

The Holy Spirit reveals in the Holy Bible that she will be commemorated from generation to generation and all the nations will hymn her incessantly through the ages (Ps 45:17) while you do not want to glorify and honor the Mother of the Lord. The Holy Spirit reveals the King's daughter is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold (Ps 45:13). By her inner glory it shows that she is a temple of the Holy Spirit, immaculate, while you blaspheme the Mother of the Lord and do not honor her.

The Mother of the Lord is that Virgin who gave birth to Emmanuel God (Isaiah 7:14) and you say she is any woman as all other women. The Holy Spirit through the mouth of the Prophet Ezekiel depicts the Mother of the Lord as a closed gate through which no one will enter but only the God of Israel and after the passage she will remain closed (Ezekiel 44:13), namely she will be virgin before birth, during birth and ever-virgin she will remain after birth, and you say that the Mother of the Lord had other children apart from the Son of God, Whom she bore.

It would be better to hang a rock round your neck and jump in the sea (Matt. 18:6-7; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:1-2) than scandalize the souls of innocent Christians with your lies and your satanic and cursed blasphemies. How could the just and God-fearing Joseph (Matt. 1:19) dare to touch the Most Holy Virgin after the birth of Christ, especially after he received the revelation by the angel for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:20), and that the conceived, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, will be the Savior of the world, Christ (Matt 1:21).

Would perhaps the righteous and God-fearing Joseph, to whom God revealed that the Virgin Mary, his betrothed, conceived by the Holy Spirit and understood that through her God would work the salvation of the human race, by crushing the head of the snake (Gen 3:15) and that she is the Virgin, prophesied by the Holy Spirit through the Prophet Isaiah, who will give birth to Emmanuel, God and Savior of the world (Isaiah 7:14), be capable of entertaining human thoughts about her? Exactly because of this the righteous and God-fearing Joseph proved to be so zealous and obedient and served with such toil the divine Child, from birth to the escape to Egypt and then the return (Luke 2:4-5; Matt. 2:13; 20:21-23) as well as for the rest of his life, until the age of the Savior of thirty years, for he could understand completely the calling to serve the Most Holy Virgin through whom God came to the world, to redeem the human race.

Therefore, let the mouths of all the heretics and neo-protestants remain silent from blaspheming against the Queen of the angels and Mother of God and of the righteous and God fearing Joseph concerning the evil and foolish thoughts that the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, the "full of grace" could have other children.

Denying all the dumb blasphemies of the heretics, we, the children of the Church of Christ, let us always have the Mother of God as our continuous supplicator and intercessor for our salvation before God. Let us incessantly honor her name as Mother of the Son of God. Let the virgins glorify her as an Ever-Virgin mother, the priests and monastics as the mother of the Great Arch-Priest Jesus Christ, while we, the pious Christians, together with the angels and the saints let us sing daily the Akathist and the canon of the Paraclete to the Mother of God, repeating all together the holy hymn: "Rejoice, Bride, Unwedded."

From the Journal "Orthodox Filotheos Martyria" published by "Orthodox Kypseli" in Thessaloniki, as found at Impantokratoros.

Archimandrite Cleopa (Ilie)

02 / 12 / 2015

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