Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Virgin Mary

THE VENERATION OF THE MOTHER OF THE LORD is of the same order as the veneration of all the saints, and shares with it a common foundation; excepting only that among the saints, the Most Holy Virgin Mary naturally occupies the first place and stands higher than them all.

The "blessing" or veneration of the Most Holy and blessed Virgin is expressed in the Church of Christ on earth, in the first instance, by hymns and readings, praising and glorifying her in the divine services. The principal, solemn church hymns are texts from the sacred Scriptures: the salutation of the Angel, Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with thee (Luke 1:28), and the hymn of the Most Holy Virgin herself, My soul doth magnify the Lord (v.46).

The second expression of her veneration is manifest in the prayerful invocation of her aid in the multifarious needs of our temporal life and for our eternal salvation. Such prayer to the Virgin, and to all the saints, is based on the firm conviction of Orthodox Christians that all who have left the body and the earth are alive, and that the Heavenly and earthly Church are united under the one Head, Christ, that she is indeed His one Body, comprised of many members, who show compassion for one another and support one another (Luke 20; Eph. 1:10; Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12).

But how naturally, simply and easily for the Church of Christ is her understanding of the great things of the Most Holy Virgin, which the Mighty One hath done for her, and which are the bases and the aspects of her veneration; and, on the contrary, how difficult for others, who are outside the Body of Christ which is the Church, is such understanding and remembrance, whereby with all their desire and with their whole soul they might gain salvation for themselves [exact meaning not clear, part of the text here is missing; the page margin having been lost—transl.]. At the same time, the common, authoritative (for Christians within the Church and outside her) foundation is the pure fount of knowledge, the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures, which they find it difficult to agree about, because it is difficult for people outside the Church to be ministers of the New Testament, not according to the letter, but of the spirit (2 Cor. 3:6), and it is difficult for them to trust that the very same Holy Spirit, Who granted the Scriptures, also abides in the Church and that the Scriptures themselves were only granted to the Church on the assumption that unchangeably and inseparably the Holy Spirit, Who shall teach you all things (John 14:26), will abide within her. They believe that the Holy Spirit is in the Scriptures, but that in like power the Holy Spirit is unfailingly also in the Church they do not actually believe, and because they doubt this they have only the letter of Scripture without the spirit and life, without experiences, without incidents, without history, without practice, without life in Christ. Woe to those Christians outside the Church! It is difficult for them, the poor ones, to be saved, for what "increase" in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:10) can they offer unto God, not themselves having the Holy Spirit?

May the Lord help us to unfold the teaching of Christ's Church about the veneration of the Most Holy Virgin Mary in accordance with the mind and spirit of the Word of God, and in accordance with the witness of the holy and God-inspired Fathers of the Church of the first centuries of Christianity, those who were immediately united to the Apostolic age, and were good witnesses of the activity of the Spirit of God in their minds, their words, their actions and in the whole of their church-life.

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