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In the Law it is written that God commanded the sons of Israel to give a tenth part of all they had acquired during each year, and thereby bring a blessing upon all their deeds. With this in mind, the Holy Apostles established and committed to us as a help and benefaction for our souls something yet greater and more exalted–that we should set apart a tenth portion of the very days of our lives and devote them to God. Thereby might we also receive a blessing for all our deeds, and yearly cleanse the sins we have committed over the course of the whole year. Thus discerning, they have sanctified for us out of the 365 days of the year these seven weeks of Holy Great Lent. So they set apart these seven weeks; but later the Fathers deemed it wise to add yet another week: first of all, so that those wishing to initiate themselves in the ascesis of the fast over the course of this week might accustom themselves to it and prepare themselves for it; and secondly, in order to render honor to the number of days of the Great Fast which our Lord Jesus Christ fasted. For after subtracting Saturdays and Sundays from the eight weeks we have forty days; the fast on Great Saturday is particularly honored, because it is most sacred, and the only Saturdays throughout the year on which a fast it kept. Seven weeks minus Saturdays and Sundays make thirty-five days, then to this is added the fast of Holy and Great Saturday and half of the Bright and Light-bearing night; thus we have thirty-six and a half days, which equals exactly a tenth part of the 365 days of the year. For the tenth part of three hundred is thirty, the tenth part of sixty is six, and a tenth part of five is one-half (of the Bright Day). So, as we have said, there are thirty-six and a half days–the tenth portion of the whole year which, as I have said, the Holy Apostles have sanctified for us for repentance and the cleansing of the sins of the whole year.
So blessed, O brethren, is he who preserves himself well in these holy days as he should. For though it might happen that being human we sin out of infirmity or negligence, still God has given these holy days in order that, striving with heedfulness and humility of wisdom, we take care for ourselves and repent for all of our sins, and we will be cleansed of the sins we committed during the whole year. Then our souls will be delivered from their weight, and we will arrive at the Holy Day of the Resurrection cleansed, receive Communion of the Holy Mysteries uncondemned, having become new through the repentance of the Holy Fast. In spiritual rejoicing, with God’s help, we will celebrate the entire Holy Pentecost season–for the Pentecost season, as the Holy Fathers say, is the repose and resurrection of the soul. This is signified by our not kneeling during whole Holy Pentecost season.
Thus he who desires during these days of Lent to be cleansed of the sins he has committed over the course of the whole year should first of all refrain from eating much food, for the lack of limitation in food, as the Fathers say, gives birth to every evil in man. Then he should also take care not to violate the fast without great need, not to seek tasty foods, nor weigh himself down with excess food or drink. For there are two kinds of gluttony. The first kind is when a man seeks pleasant foods, and does not always wish to eat much, but desires something tasty. It happens that when this type tastes a dish he likes, he is so won over by its pleasant taste that he holds the food in his mouth, chews it for a long time, and regretting to part with its pleasant taste, he delays swallowing it. This is called in Greek “lemargia,”–the demon of the throat. The other type is assailed by the desire to eat a large quantity–he does not desire good food and is not concerned about its taste, but only wants to eat, whether the dishes are tasty or not, and he makes no distinction. His is only concerned with filling his belly. This is called “gastrimargia,” that is, the demon of the belly.
I will tell you also about the etymology of these words. The word “margenin,” demonic possession, is the word used by Hellenic scholars to describe those who are possessed by demons, and the possessed person is called margos. So when anyone has this infirmity, that is, a demonic compulsion to fill the belly, then their infirmity is called gastrimargia, from the words indicating demonically-possessed, and belly–that is, to be demonically possessed with regard to the belly. And when the demonic possession regards only the throat it is called lemargia, form the words meaning throat, and demonic possession. Therefore he who wishes to be cleansed of his sins must take great care to flee these kinds of gluttony; they satisfy not the needs of the body, but passion; and if one surrenders himself to them it will be accounted unto him as sin. The act in lawful marriage and fornication is one and the same, but the aim constitutes the difference of the matter; for one acts to conceive children, while the other acts to satisfy his love of pleasure. It is the same in relation to food: to eat out of need and to eat in order to delight one’s taste is one and the same act, but the sin is to be found in the intention. Someone eats according to need when he determines for himself how much food to take in a day; and if he sees that this quantity of food he has determined weighs him down and should be a little decreased, he therefore decreases it. If it does not weigh him down, but is rather insufficient for the body and his body requires a little more, he adds a little more. Thus having tested well his need, he holds thereafter to a determined measure and eats food not in order to delight his taste but rather to maintain his body’s strength.
However, even the little food that someone eats should be received with prayer, and he should condemn himself mentally as unworthy of any food or consolation. He should likewise pay no attention to others who out of some current requirement or need receive some comfort in this regard, so that he might not desire comfort for himself, and in general he should not think that the repose of the body is an easy thing for the soul.
Once, when I was still in the community, I went to visit one of the elders–for there were many great elders there–and I found that the brother who was serving him took food together with him. Seeing this I told him separately, “Do you not know brother, that these elders who, as you see, eat and make certain condescensions for themselves according to their needs, are like people who have acquired storehouses; and after working for a long time, they have stored therein what they have earned until they have filled them. Once they have filled and sealed the storehouses, they begin again to work now for their own expenses, and they collect another thousand gold-pieces so that they will have something to use in time of need, preserving what they have set aside in the storehouses. So also these elders, after working a long time, have gathered in their youth treasure for themselves, and having sealed it up, they have worked a little longer, to have something in the time of their old age and infirmity to take from, and preserve what they have gathered as a treasure trove. But we have not even acquired the storehouse itself. What shall we have to spend?” Wherefore we should, as I have said, when taking food out of bodily necessity, condemn ourselves and consider ourselves unworthy of any consolation and even of the monastic life itself, and we should not take food without restrain, so that it will not be to our condemnation.
We have said this concerning restraint of the belly. However we must not limit our temperance to food, but refrain also from every other sin. Just as we fast with our stomachs, we should fast also from every other sin; just as we fast with the belly, we should fast also with the tongue, restraining it from slander, from lying, idle-talking, from belittlement, from anger, and in a word, from every sin that is performed by the tongue. We must likewise fast with the eyes, that is, not look at vain things, not give freedom to our eyes, not look at anyone shamelessly and without fear. The hands and feet should also be constrained from every evil deed. Having fasted, as St. Basil the Great says, by a favorable fast, removing ourselves from all the sins of all of our senses, we shall attain to the holy day of the Resurrection, having become as we have said, new, pure and worthy of Communion of the Holy Mysteries. But first let us go out and meet our Lord Jesus Christ Who comes to suffer, and with olive and palm branches let us receive Him sitting upon the foal of a donkey, entering the Holy City of Jerusalem.
Why did the Lord sit upon a foal? He sat upon a foal so that He as the Word of God might subdue and convert our souls–which as the Prophet says are like irrational and unthinking animals–to His Divinity. What does it signify that He is met with palm and olive branches? When someone goes to battle with his enemy and returns victorious, all his subjects greet him as victor with palm branches, for palm branches are a symbol of victory. Likewise when a man suffers offense from another and wishes to appeal to a someone who can defend him, he brings him olive branches, crying out and entreating for mercy and aid, for olive branches are a symbol of mercy. Therefore we meet our Master Christ with palm branches for He is Victor, for He has conquered our enemy; and with olive branches asking of Him mercy, entreating that just as He has conquered for us, so we might conquer through Him–that we might be bearers of the sign of victory not only for the sake of the victory He has won for us, but also for the victory we have won through Him, by the prayers of all the saints. For to Him is due every glory, honor and worship unto the ages. Amen.
You’ve heard it said that “clothes make the man.” If that is true then I am an unmade man. Fashion and I have never been friends although there have been times when I tried to warm up to it. In the past, I have enjoyed the feel of new and well made clothing, but I rarely had anything that was very expensive, at least by worldly standards. Whatever attempt I made to be fashionable, I simply could not sustain any momentum. The rule of my childhood was to look my best with what I had and if my clothing was poor, that did not excuse me to live shabbily, my clothes dirty or wrinkled.
For me, its not much of a concern anymore. Besides the fact that I am getting older and my eyesight is fading, I am an Orthodox priest. My ensemble is either black or grey. This saves a lot of time and money, and the decision making process is quite simple. Of course, I don’t wear my cassock all the time, but my other clothes are far from GQ.
I do believe that Christians shouldn’t be bothered with the fashions of the world. This doesn’t mean that we have to live in sackcloth or go about barefooted, but we shouldn’t be dominated by the rules of fashion of this present age. However, we should be sharply dressed, and St. Paul is our best consultant. He has a wardrobe picked out for you and if you put it on, you will stand out from all the rest.
Put on tender mercy and kindness. Since we will know mercy in the same manner that we have shown it, we should show mercy with tenderness. Kindness is a beautiful garment for a heart to wear. A kind person commits random acts of kindness, without some hidden plan or agenda. It is just who they are and it is just what they do.
Put on humility and meekness. These are most unusual garments in these proud and boastful days. If it is true that the meek will inherit the earth, then there are very few who will inherit anything .
Put on long-suffering. No one has any patience anymore. We run at the first sign of trouble, or we don’t hang in for very long. A person who wears long-suffering is a rare soul indeed.
There is one article that binds all the pieces together and makes you a sharp dressed man or woman.
Put on love which is the bond of perfection. Love is like a belt and without it, all the other pieces fall away. This shouldn’t surprise us since it is love that makes us merciful and kind; it is love that slays our ego so that we might have humility and meekness; it is love that helps us to keep on going even when the way before us is uncertain.
These garments- tenderness, mercy, kindness, humility, meekness and love- make you look just like Jesus. This is a most unusual style and you won’t find it on the clothing runways of Paris.
Yes, Christians should be sharply dressed. Sadly I think I look pretty good when in fact, I dress in dirty rags.
My mother would be ashamed of me.
Colossians 3.12-14 KJV
Fr. John Moses
Online book of “The Jesus Prayer”. A classic treatise on the Jesus Prayer written by Fr. Lev Gillet, also known through many of his writings as “A Monk of the Eastern Church”.
The Jesus Prayer
1. THE SHAPE OF THE INVOCATION OF THE NAME
… And Jacob asked him and said: Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said: Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. Genesis 32:29
The invocation of the Name of Jesus can be put into many frames. It is for each person to find the form which is the most appropriate to his or her own prayer. But, whatever formula maybe used, the heart and centre of the invocation must be the Holy Name itself, the word Jesus. There resides the whole strength of the invocation.
The Name of Jesus may either be used alone or be inserted in a more or less developed phrase. In the East the commonest form is: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” One might simply say: “Jesus Christ”, or “Lord Jesus”. The invocation may even be reduced to one single word “Jesus”.
This last form—the Name of Jesus only—is that most ancient mould of the invocation of the Name. It is the shortest, the simplest and, as we think, the easiest. Therefore, without depreciating the other formulas, we suggest that the word “Jesus” alone should be used.
Thus, when we speak of the invocation of the Name, we mean the devout and frequent repetition of the Name itself, of the word “Jesus” without additions. The Holy Name is the prayer.
The Name of Jesus maybe either pronounced or silently thought. In both cases
2. THE PRACTICE OF THE INVOCATION OF THE NAME
… And I will wait on thy name. Psalm 52:9.
The invocation of the Name may be practiced anywhere and at any time. We can pronounce the Name of Jesus in the streets, in the place of our work, in our room, in church, etc. We can repeat the Name while we walk. Besides that “free” use of the Name, not determined or limited by any rule, it is good to set apart certain times and certain places for a “regular” invocation of the Name. One who is advanced in that way of prayer may dispense with such arrangements. But they are an almost necessary condition for beginners.
Before beginning to pronounce the Name of Jesus, establish peace and recollection within yourself and ask for the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Ghost. “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (Α Corinthians 12:3). The Name of Jesus cannot really enter a heart that is not being filled by the cleansing breath and the flame of the Spirit. The Spirit himself will breathe and light in us the Name of the Son.
Then simply begin. In order to walk one must take a first step; in order to swim one must throw oneself into the water. It is the same with the invocation of the Name. Begin to pronounce it with adoration and love. Cling to it. Repeat it. Do not think that you are invoking the Name; think only of Jesus himself. Say his Name slowly, softly and quietly.
A common mistake of beginners is to wish to associate the invocation of the Holy Name with inner intensity or emotion. They try to say it with great force. But the Name of Jesus is not to be shouted, or fashioned with violence, even inwardly. When Elijah was commanded to stand before the Lord, there was a great and strong wind, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire came a still small voice, “And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood…” (I Kings 19.13) Strenuous exertion and the search for intensity will be of no avail. As you repeat the Holy Name, gather quieti little by little, your thoughts and feelings and around it; gather-.around it your whole being. Let the name penetrate your soul as a drop of oil spreads out and impregnates a cloth. Let nothing of yourself escape. Surrender your whole self and enclose it within the Name.
Even in the act of invocation of the Name, its literal repetition ought not to be continuous. The Name pronounced maybe extended and prolonged in seconds or minutes of silent rest and attention. The repetition of the Name may be likened to the beating of wings by which a bird rises into the air. It must never be labored and forced, or hurried, or in the nature of a flapping. It must be gentle, easy and~ let us give to this word its deepest meaning-graceful. When the bird has reached the desired height it glides in its flight, and only beats its wing from time to time in order to stay in the air. So the soul, having attained to the thought of Jesus and filled herself with the memory of him, may discontinue the repetition of the Name and rest in Our Lord. The repetition will only be resumed when other thoughts threaten to crowd out the thought of Jesus. Then the invocation will start again in order to gain fresh impetus.
Continue this invocation for as long as you wish or as you can. The prayer is naturally interrupted by tiredness. Then do not insist. But resume it at any time and wherever you maybe, when you feel again so inclined. In time you will find that the name of Jesus will spontaneously come to your lips and almost continuously be present to your mind, though in a quiescent and latent manner. Even your sleep will be impregnated with the Name and memory of Jesus. “I sleep, but my heart waketh” (Song of Songs 5:2).
3. THE INVOCATION OF THE NAME AS A SPIRITUAL WAY
I will strengthen them in the Lord, and they shall walk tip and down in his name. Zechariah 10:22
The invocation of the Name of Jesus maybe simply an episode on our spiritual way (an episode is, etymologically, something that happens “on the way”). Or it may be for us a way, one spiritual way among others. Or it may be the way, the spiritual way which we definitely and predominantly (if not exclusively) choose. In other terms the invocation of the Name maybe for us either a transitory act, a prayer which we use for a time and leave it for others; or-more than an act-a method which we continuously use, but in addition to other forms and methods of prayer; or the method around which we ultimately build and organize our whole spiritual life. It all depends on our personal call, circumstances and possibilities. Here we are only concerned with “beginners”, with those who wish to acquire the first notions about that prayer and a first contact with the Holy Name, and also with those who, having had this first contact, wish to enter “the way of the Name”. As to those who are already able to use the invocation of the Name as a method or as the only method, they do not need our advice.
We must not come to the invocation of the Name through some whim or arbitrary decision of our own. We must be called to it, led to it by God. If we try to use the invocation of the Name as our main spiritual method, this choice ought to be made out of obedience to, a very special vocation. A spiritual practice and much more a spiritual system grounded on a mere caprice will miserably collapse. So we should be moved towards the Name of Jesus under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; then the invocation of the Name will be in us a fruit of the Spirit itself.
There is no infallible sign that we are called to the way of the Name. There may be, however, some indications of this call, which we ought to consider humbly and carefully. If we feel drawn towards the invocation of the Name, if this practice produces in us an increase of charity, purity, obedience and peace, if the use of other prayers even is becoming somewhat difficult, we may, not unreasonably, assume that the way of the Name is open to us.
What we may say with soberness and truth is this. The invocation of the Name of Jesus simplifies and unifies our spiritual life. No prayer is simpler than this “one-word prayer” in which the Holy Name becomes the only focus of the whole life.
Complicated methods often tire and dissipate thought. But the Name of Jesus easily gathers everything into itself. It has a power of unification and integration. The divided personality which could say: “My name is legion, for we are many” (Mark 5:6) will recover its wholeness in the sacred Name:
The invocation of the Name of Jesus ought not to be understood as a “mystical way” which might spare us the ascetical purifications. There is no short cut in spiritual life. The way of the Name implies a constant watch over our souls. Sin has to be avoided. Only there are two possible attitudes in this respect. Some may guard their mind, memory and will in order to say the Holy Name with greater recollection and love. Others will say the Holy Name in order to be more recollected and wholehearted in their love. To our mind the latter is the better way. The Name itself is a means of purification and perfection, a touchstone, a filter through which our thoughts, words and deeds have to pass to be freed from their impurities. None of them ought to be admitted by us until we pass them through the Name, and the Name excludes all sinful elements. Only that will be received which is compatible with the Name of Jesus. We shall fill our hearts to the brim with the Name and thought of Jesus, holding it carefully, like a precious vessel, and defending it against all alien tampering and admixture. This is a severe asceticism. It requires a forgetfulness of self, a dying to self, as the Holy Name grows in our souls: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
We have to consider the invocation of the Holy Name in relation to other forms of prayer. Of liturgical prayer and of the prayers fixed by some Community rule we shall say nothing, as we are only concerned here with individual and private prayer. We do not disparage or undervalue in the least liturgical prayer and the prayers settled by obedience. Their corporate character and their very fixity render them extremely helpful. But it is for Churchmen and Community members to ascertain whether or how far the invocation of the Name of Jesus is compatible, in their own case, with the official formularies. Questions may be raised about some other forms of individual prayer. What about the “dialogue prayer”, in which we listen and speak to God at about the purely contemplative and wordless prayer, “prayer of quiet” and “prayer of union”? Must we leave these for the invocation of the Holy Name, or inversely. Or should we use both? The answer must be left for God to give in each individual case. In some rare cases the divine call to the invocation of the Name maybe exclusive of all other forms of prayer. But we think that, generally speaking, the way of the Name is broad and free; it is, in most cases, perfectly compatible with moments of listening to the inner Word and answering it and with intervals of complete inner silence. Besides, we must never forget that the best form of prayer which we can make at any given moment is that to which we are moved by the Holy Spirit.
4. THE INVOCATION OF THE NAME AS WORSHIP
… I will glorify thy name for evermore. Psalm 86:12
We have considered until now the invocation of the Name of Jesus in a general manner. Now we must consider the diverse aspects of this invocation. The first aspect is adoration and worship.
Too often our prayers are limited to petition, intercession and repentance. As we shall see the Name of Jesus can be used in all these ways. But the disinterested prayer, the praise given to God because of His own excellency the regard directed towards Him with the utmost respect and affection, the exclamation of Thomas: “My Lord and my God! “–this ought to come first.
This leads to pure adoration. As we pronounce the Name, we should respond to the presence of Our Lord. “They… fell down and worshipped him” (Matthew 2:11). To pronounce thoughtfully the Name of Jesus is to know the allness of Our Lord and our own nothingness. In this knowledge we shall adore and worship. “God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Philippians 2:9-10).
5. THE HOLY NAME AS A MYSTERY OF SALVATION
… Save me, o God, by thy name. Psalm 54.1
The Name of Jesus brings us more than his presence. Jesus is present in his Name as Savior, for the word “Jesus” means just this: savior or salvation. “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus began his earthly mission by healing and forgiving, i.e., by saving men. In the same manner the very beginning of the way of the Name is the knowledge of Our Lord as our personal Savior. The invocation of the Name brings deliverance to us in all our necessities.
The Name of Jesus not only helps us to obtain the fulfillment of our needs (“Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked, nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive” [John 16:23-24] ). But the Name of Jesus already supplies our needs. When we require the succour of Our Lord we should pronounce his Name in faith and hope, believing that we already receive in it what we ask for. Jesus Himself is the supreme satisfaction of all men’s needs. And He is that now, as we pray. Let us not regard our prayer in relation to fulfillment in the future, but in relation to fulfillment in Jesus now. He is more than the giver of what we and others need, He is also the gift. He is both giver and gift, containing in Himself all good things. If I hunger he is my food. If I am cold he is my warmth. If I am ill he is my health. If I am persecuted he is my deliverance. If I am impure he becomes my purity. He “is made unto us… righteousness, and sanctification and redemption” (I Corinthians 1:30). This is quite another thing than if he had merely given them to us. Now we may find in his Name all that He is. Therefore the Name of Jesus, in so far as it links us with Jesus Himself, is already a mystery of salvation.
The Name of Jesus brings victory and peace when we are tempted. A heart already filled with the Name and presence of Our Lord would not let in any sinful image or thought. But we are weak, and often our defenses break down, and then temptation rises within us like angry waters. In such case do not consider the temptation, do not argue with your own desire, do not think upon the storm, do not look at yourself. Look at Our Lord, clinging to Him, call upon His holy Name. When Peter, walking upon the waters to come to Jesus, saw the tempest, “he was afraid” (Matthew 14:30) and began to sink. If, instead of looking at the waves and listening to the wind, we single-heartedly walk upon the waters towards Jesus, He will stretch forth his hand and take hold of us. The Name may then be of great use, as it is a definite, concrete and powerful shape able to resist the strong imagery of temptation. When tempted, call upon the Holy Name persistently, but quietly and gently. Do not shout it nor say it with anxiety or passion. Let it penetrate the soul little by little, till all thoughts and feelings come together and coalesce around it. Let it exercise its power of polarization. It is the Name of the Prince of Peace; it must be invoked in peace, and then it will bring us peace, or, better still, it will (like Him whose symbol it is) be our peace.
The Name of Jesus brings forgiveness and reconciliation. When we have grievously sinned (and so much the more when we have sinned lightly), we can, within one second, cling to the Holy Name with repentance and charity and pronounce it with our whole- heart, and the Name thus used (and through which we have reached the person of Christ) will already be a token of pardon. After sin let us not “hang about”, delay and linger. Let us not hesitate to take up again the invocation of the Name, in spite of our unworthiness. A new day is breaking and Jesus stands on the shore. “When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord he cast himself into the sea” (John 21:7). Act like Simon. Say “Jesus”, as though beginning life afresh. We sinners shall find Our Lord anew at the invocation of His Name. He comes to us at that moment and as we are. He begins again where He has left us, or rather, where we have left Him. When he appeared to the disciples after the Resurrection, He came to them as they were-unhappy, and lost, and guilty-and, without reproaching them with their past defection, He simply
Thus the Holy Name can bring about reconciliation after our actual sins. But it can give us a more general and fundamental experience of the divine forgiveness. We can pronounce the Name of Jesus and put into it the whole reality of the cross, the whole mystery of the atonement. If we link the Name with faith in Jesus as propitiation for the sins of all men, we find in the Holy Name the sign of the Redemption extended to all times and to the whole universe. Under this Name we find “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), “the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
All this does not gainsay or tend to lessen the objective means of penitence and remission of sins offered to us by the Church. We are here only concerned with the hidden life of the soul. What we have in view is the inner absolution which repentance produced by charity already obtains, the absolution which the publican received after his prayer in the temple and of which the Gospel says: “This man went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:14).
6. THE NAME OF JESUS AND THE INCARNATION
… And the Word became flesh. John 1:14
We have considered the “saving” power of the Holy Name; we must now go further. In proportion as the Name of Jesus grows within us, we grow in the knowledge of the divine mysteries. The Holy Name is not only a mystery of salvation, the fulfillment of our needs, the abatement of our temptations, the forgiveness of our sins. The invocation of the Name is also a means of applying to ourselves the mystery of the Incarnation.lt is a powerful means of union with Our Lord. To be united to Christ is even more blessed than to stand before Him or to be saved through Him. Union is greater than presence and meditation.
You may pronounce the Name of Jesus in order “that Christ may dwell in your hearts” (Ephesians 3:17). You may, when His Name is formed on your lips, experience the reality of His coming in the soul: “I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). You may enthrone His Person and His Name, as signifying the Person, within yourselves “They have built Thee a sanctuary therein for Thy name” (II Chronicles 20:8). It is the “I in them” of Our Lord’s priestly prayer (John 17:26). Or we may throw ourselves into the Name and feel that we are the members of the Body of Christ and the branches of the true vine. “Abide in me” (John 15:4). Of course nothing can abolish the difference between the Creator and the creature. But there is, made possible by the Incarnation, a real union of mankind and of our own persons with Our Lord,–a union which the use of the Name of Jesus may express and strengthen.
Some analogy exists between the Incarnation of The Word and the indwelling of the Holy Name within us. The Word was made flesh. Jesus became man. The inner reality of the Name of Jesus, having passed into our souls, overflows into our bodies. “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). The living content of the Name enters physically into ourselves. “Thy Name is as ointment poured forth” (Song of Songs 1:3). The Name, if I repeat it with faith and love, becomes a strength able to paralyze and overcome “the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:23). We can also put on ourselves the Name of Jesus as a kind of physical seal keeping our hearts and bodies pure and consecrated: “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm” (Song of Songs 8:6). But this physical seal is not a piece of wax or lead. It is the outward sign and the Name of the living Word.
7. THE NAME OF JESUS AND TRANSFIGURATION
… The fulness of Him that filleth all in all. Ephesians 1:2-3
The use of the Holy Name not only brings anew the knowledge of our own union with Jesus in His Incarnation. The Name is also an instrument by which we may obtain a wider view of Our Lord’s relation to all that God has made. The Name of Jesus helps us ‘to transfigure the world into Christ (without any pantheistic confusion). Here is another aspect of the invocation of the Name: it is a method of transfiguration.
It is so in regard to nature. The natural universe may be considered as the handiwork of the Creator: “… The Lord that made heaven and earth” (Psalm 134:3) can be considered as the visible symbol of the invisible divine beauty:
The animal world may also be transfigured by us. When Jesus remained forty days in the wilderness, he “was with the wild beasts” (Mark 1.13). We do not know what happened, then, but we may be assured that no living creature is left untouched by Jesus’ influence. Jesus himself said of the sparrows that “not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12.6). We are like Adam when he had to give a name to all the animals. “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them” (Genesis 2.19). Scientists call them as they think fit. As to us, if we invoke the Name of Jesus upon the animals, we give them back their primitive dignity which we so easily forget, – the dignity of living beings being created and cared for by God in Jesus and for Jesus. “That was the name thereof” (Genesis 2.19).
It is mainly in relation to men that we can exercise a ministry of transfiguration. The risen Christ appeared several times under an aspect which was no longer the one his disciples knew. “He appeareth in another form…” (Mark 16.12); the form of a traveller on the road to Emmaus, or of a gardener near the tomb, or of a stranger standing on the shore of the lake. It was each time in the form of an ordinary man such as we may meet in our everyday life. Jesus thus illustrated an important aspect of his presence among us, – his presence in man. He was thus completing what he had taught: “I was an hungered and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty and ye gave me drink… naked and ye clothed me. I was sick, and ye visited me. I was in prison, and ye came unto me… Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25.35-36,40). Jesus appears now to us under the features of men and women. Indeed this human form is now the only one under which everybody can, at will, at any time and in any place, see the Face of Our Lord. Men of today are realistically minded; they do not live on abstractions and phantoms; and when the saints and the mystics come and tell them “We have seen the Lord”, they answer with Thomas: “Except I shall… put my finger into the print of the nails and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20.25). Jesus accepts this challenge. He allows Himself to be seen and touched, and spoken to in the person of all his human brethren and sisters. To us as to Thomas He says: “Reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20.27). Jesus shows us the poor, and the sick, and the sinners, and generally all men, and tells us: “Behold, my hands and my feet… Handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24.39). Men and women are the flesh and bones, the hands and feet, the pierced side of Christ, — His mystical Body. In them we can experience the reality of the Resurrection and the real presence (though without confusion of essence) of the Lord Jesus. If we do not see Him, it is because of our unbelief and hard-heartedness: “Their eyes were holden that they should not know Him” (Luke 24.16). Now the Name of Jesus is a concrete and powerful means of transfiguring men into their hidden, innermost, utmost reality. We should approach all men and women — in the street, the shop, the office, the factory, the “bus, the queue, and especially those who seem irritating and antipathetic — with the Name of Jesus in our heart and on our lips. We should pronounce His Name over them all, for their real name is the Name of Jesus. Name them with his Name, within His Name, in a spirit of adoration, dedication and service. Adore Christ in them, serve Christ in them. In many of these men and women — in the malicious, in the criminal — Jesus is imprisoned. Deliver Him by silently recognizing and worshipping Him in them. If we go through the world with this new vision, saying “Jesus” over every man, seeing Jesus in every man, everybody will be transformed and transfigured before our eyes. The more we are ready to give of our-selves to men, the more will the new vision be clear and vivid. The vision cannot be severed from the gift. Rightly did Jacob say to Esau, when they were reconciled: “I pray thee, if now I have
8. THE NAME OF JESUS AND THE CHURCH
… To gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth. Ephesians 1.10.
In pronouncing the Name of Jesus we inwardly meet all them that are united with Our Lord, all them of whom He said: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mathew 18.20).
Where Jesus is, there is the Church. Whoever is in Jesus is in the Church. If the invocation of the Holy Name is a means of union with Our Lord, it is, also a means of union with that Church which is in Him and which no human sin can touch. This does not mean that we are closing our eyes to the problems of the Church on earth, to the imperfections and disunity of Christians. But we only deal here with this eternal, and spiritual, and “unspotted” side of the Church which is implied in the Name of Jesus. The Church thus considered transcends all earthly reality. No schism can rend her. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman: “Believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.. The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (John 4 .1, 23). There is an apparent contradiction in the words of Our Lord: how could the hour be still coming and yet already be? This paradox finds its explanation in the fact that the Samaritan woman was then standing before Christ. On the one hand the historical opposition between Jerusalem and Garizim still existed, and Jesus, far from treating it as a trifling circumstance, emphasized the higher claims of Jerusalem: ‘Ye worship ye know not what. We know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4.22).In that sense the hour was not yet, but was still coming. On the other hand the hour already was, because the woman had before her Him who is greater than Jerusalem or Garizim, Him who “will tell us all things” (John 4.25) and in Whom alone we can fully “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4.24). The same situation arises when, invoking the Name of Jesus, we cling to His Person. Assuredly we do not believe that all the conflicting interpretations of the Gospel which we hear on earth are equally true nor that the divided Christian groups have the same measure of light. But, fully pronouncing the Name of Jesus, entirely surrendered to His Person and His claims, we implicitly share in the wholeness of the Church, and so we experience her essential unity, deeper than all our human separations.
These departed, whose life is now hidden with Christ, form the heavenly Church. They belong to the total and eternal Church, of which the Church now militant on earth is but a very small part. We meet in the Name of Jesus the whole company of the Saints: “His Name shall be in their foreheads” (Revelation 22.4). In it we meet the angels; it is Gabriel who, first on earth, announced the Holy Name, saying to Mary: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus” (Luke 1.31). In it we meet the woman “blessed among women” to whom Gabriel spoke these words and who so often called her son by His name. May the Holy Spirit make us desire to hear the Name of Jesus as the Virgin Mary first beard it and to repeat that Name as Mary and Gabriel uttered it! May our own invocation of the Name enter this abyss of adoration, obedience and tenderness!
9. THE NAME OF JESUS AS EUCHARIST
… This do in remembrance of me. Luke, 22.1,9
The mystery of the Upper Room was a summing -up of the whole life and mission of Our Lord. The sacra-mental Eucharist lies outside the scope of the present considerations. But there is a “eucharistie” use of the Name of Jesus in which all the aspects which we have seen till now are gathered and unified.
The original meaning of “eucharist” is: thanksgiving. Our inner Lord’s Supper will first be a thanks-giving over the great gift, the gift made to us by the Father in the person of His Son. “By him… let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually…” (Hebrews 13.15). The Scripture immediately explains the nature of this sacrifice of praise: “… that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” So the idea of the Name is linked with that of thanksgiving. Not only may we, while pronouncing Jesus’ Name, thank the Father for having given us His Son or direct our praise towards the Name of the Son himself, but we may make of the Name of the Son the substance and support of the sacrifice of praise rendered to the Father, the expression of our gratitude and our offering, of thanks.
Every Eucharist is an offering. “That they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness ” (Malachi 3.3). We cannot offer to the Father a better offering than the person of His Son Jesus. This offering alone is worthy of the Father. Our offering of Jesus to His Father is one with the offering which Jesus is eternally making of Himself, for how could we, alone, offer Christ? In order to give a concrete shape to our offering we shall probably find it helpful to pronounce the Name of Jesus. We shall present the Holy Name to God as though it were bread and wine.
The Lord, in His Supper, offered to His disciples bread which was broken and wine which was shed. He offered a life which was given, His body and blood ready for the immolation. When we inwardly offer Jesus to his Father, we shall always offer Him as a victim— both slain and triumphant: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive… honor, and glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5.12). Let us pronounce the Name of Jesus with the awareness that we are washed and made “white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7.14). This is the sacrificial use of the Holy Name. This does not mean that we think of a new sacrifice of the cross. The Holy Name, sacrificially used, is but a means to apply to us, here and now, the fruits of the oblation once for all made and perfect. It helps us, in the exercise of the universal priesthood, to make spiritually actual and, present the eternal sacrifice of Christ. The sacrificial use of the Name of Jesus will also remind us that we cannot be one with Jesus, priest and victim if we do not offer within Him, within His Name, our own soul and body: “In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure : Then said I, Lo, I come” (Hebrews 10.6-7).
There is no Lord’s Supper without a communion. Our inner Eucharist also is what tradition has called “spiritual communion”, that is, a feeding by faith on the Body and Blood of Christ without using the visible elements of bread and wine. “The bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world… I am that bread of life” (John 6.33,48). Jesus always re-mains the bread of life which we can receive as a food, even when we do not partake of any sacramental element : “It is the spirit that quickeneth; The flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6.63). We can have a purely spiritual and invisible access to the Body and Blood of Christ. This Inner, but very real, mode of approach to Our Lord is something distinct from any other approach to His Person, for here is a special gift and benefit, a special grace, a special relationship between Our Lord, as both feeder and food, and ourselves partaking (though invisibly) ofthat food. Now this spiritual communion of the divine Bread of life, of the Body and Blood of the Saviour, becomes easier when it is given expression in the Holy Name, receiving from the Name of Jesus its shape, its frame and support. We can pronounce the Name of Our Lord with the special intention of feeding our soul on it, or rather on the sacred Body and precious Blood which we try to approach through it. Such a communion maybe renewed as often as we desire. Far from us the error of treating lightly or lowering in esteem the Lord’s Supper as practised in the Church. But it is to be hoped that everybody who follows the way
Through the Eucharist we “do show the Lord’s death till he come” (i Corinthians 11.26). The Eucharist is an anticipation of the eternal Kingdom. This “eucharistie” use of the Name of Jesus leads us to its “eschatological” use, that is, to the invocation of the Name in connection with the “end” and with the Coming of Our Lord. Each invocation of the Holy Name should be an ardent aspiration to our final re-union with Jesus in be heavenly kingdom. Such an aspiration is related to the end of the world and the triumphal Coming of Christ, but it has a nearer relation to the occasional (and, as we should ask, more and more frequent) breakings in of Christ into our earthly existence, His wonderful forcible entrances into our, everyday life, and still more to the Coming of Christ to us at the time of our death . There is a way of saying “Jesus” which is a preparation for death, an aspiration towards death conceived as the long-expected appearing of the Friend “whom having not seen, ye love” (i Peter 1.8), a call for this supreme meeting, and here and now a throwing of our heart beyond the barrier. In that way of saying “Jesus”, the longing utterance of Paul, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear. .. ” (Colossians 3.4) and the cry of John, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22.20), are already implied.
10. THE NAME OF JESUS AND THE HOLY SPIRIT
… I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. John, 1-32
The Name of Jesus occupied a pre-eminent place in the message and action of the Apostles. They were preaching in the Name of Jesus, healing the sick in His Name; they were saying to God: “Grant unto thy servants… that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus” (Acts 4.29,30). Through them “the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified” (Acts 19.17). It is only after Pentecost that the Apostles announced the Name “with power”. Jesus had told them: ‘Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1.8). In this “Pentecostal” use of the Name of Jesus we find clear evidence of the link between the Spirit and the Name. Such a Pentecostal use of the Name is not restricted to the Apostles. It is not only of the Apostles, but of all “them that believe” that Jesus said : “In. my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues… they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16.17-18). Only our lack of bold faith and charity prevents us from calling upon the Name in the power of the Spirit. If we really follow the way of the Name, a time must come when we become able (without pride, without looking at ourselves) to manifest the glory of Our Lord and to help other men through “signs”. He whose heart is become a vessel of the Holy Name should not hesitate to go about and repeat to those who need spiritual or bodily relief the words of Peter: “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3.6). o that the Spirit of Pentecost may come and write within us the Name of Jesus in flames!
The Pentecostal use of the Name is but one aspect of our approach to the Holy Ghost through the Name of Jesus. The Name will lead us to some other and more inward experiences of the Spirit. While pronouncing the Name we may obtain a glimpse of the relationship between the Spirit and Jesus. There is a certain attitude of the Spirit towards Jesus and a certain attitude of Jesus towards the Spirit. In repeating the Name of Jesus we find ourselves at the crossroads, so to speak, where these two “movements” meet.
When Jesus was baptized “The Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him” (Luke 3.22). The descent of the dove is the best expression of the attitude of the Spirit towards Our Lord. Now let us, while saying the Name of Jesus, try to coincide, if we may say with the Jesus-ward movement of the Spirit, with the Spirit directed by the Father’ towards Jesus, looking to Jesus, coming to Jesus. Let us try to unite ourselves — as much as a creature can unite itself to a divine action — to this flight of the dove (“Oh that I had wings like a dove…” (Psalm 55.6)) and to the tender feelings expressed by her voice: “The voice of the turtle is heard in our land” (Song of Songs 2.12). Before making “intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8.26), the Spirit was and eternally remain sighing after Jesus. The book of Revelation shows us the Spirit, together with the Bride (that is, the Church), crying to Our Lord. When we utter the Name of Jesus, we can conceive it as the sigh and aspiration of the Holy Ghost, as the expression of the Spirit’s desire and yearning. We shall thus be admitted (according to our feeble human capacity) into the-mystery of the loving relation-ship between the Holy Ghost and the Son.
Conversely the Name of Jesus may also help us to coincide with the attitude of Our Lord towards the Spirit. Jesus was conceived by Mary “of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1.20). He remained during His whole earthly life (and still remains) the perfect receiver of the Gift, He let the Spirit take complete possession of Him, being “led up of the Spirit” (Matthew 4.1) or driven by it. He cast out devils “by the Spirit of God” (Matthew 12.28). He returned from the desert “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4.14). He declared: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Luke 4.18). In all this Jesus shows a humble docility towards the Holy Ghost. In pronouncing the Name of Jesus we can (as far as it is given to man) make ourselves one with Him in this surrender to the Spirit. But we can also make ourselves one with Him as with the starting point from which the Spirit is sent to men: “He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you (John 16-15)… I will send him unto you” (John 14.7). We can see the Name of Jesus as the focus from which the Spirit radiates towards mankind: we can see Jesus as the mouth from which Spirit is breathed. Thus, in the utterance of the Name of Jesus, we can associate ourselves with these two moments: the filling of Jesus with the Spirit, the sending of the Spirit by Jesus. To grow in the invocation of the Holy Name is to grow in the knowledge of the “Spirit of his Son” (Galatians 4.6).
11. THE NAME OF JESUS AND THE FATHER
… He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. John, 14-9
Our reading of the Gospel will remain superficial as long as we only see in it a message directed to men or a life turned towards men. The very heart of the Gospel is the hidden relationship of Jesus with the Father. The secret of the Gospel is Jesus turned towards Him. This is the fundamental mystery of the life of Our Lord. The invocation of the Name of Jesus may afford us some real, though faint and transient, partaking in that mystery.
And now we must humbly enter into the filial consciousness of Jesus. After having found in the word “Jesus” the Father’s utterance: “My Son ! “, we ought to find it in the Son’s utterance: “My Father ! Jesus has no other aim than to declare the Father and be His Word. Not only have all Jesus’ actions, during His earthly life, been acts of perfect obedience to the Father “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me” (John 4.34); not only has the sacrificial death of Jesus fulfilled the supreme requirement of the divine love (of which the Father is the source): “Greater love hath no man than this, that a may lay down his life…” (John 15.13) — not only the deeds of Jesus, but His whole being were the perfect expression of the Father. Jesus is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1.3). The Word was “towards God” (John 1.1) – the translation “with God” is inaccurate. It is this eternal orientation of the Son towards the Father, his eternal turning to Him, which we should experience within the Name of Jesus. There is more in the Holy Name than the “turning to” the Father. In saying “Jesus” we can in some measure join together the Father and the Son, we can realize and appropriate their oneness. At the very moment when we utter the Holy Name, Jesus Himself says to us as He said to Philip: “Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in me?… Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me” (John 14.10,11).
12. THE NAME AND THE TOTAL PRESENCE
… that ye may be filled unto all the fulness … Ephesians 3.19
We have considered the main aspects of the invocation of the Name of Jesus. We have disposed them according to a kind of ascending scale, and we think that this scale corresponds to the normal progress of the life of the soul. Nevertheless God, who, “giveth not the Spirit by measure” (John 3.34), overpasses all our limits. These aspects of the Name intermingle; a beginner may straightway be raised to the highest perception of the content of the Name, while somebody who has been waiting on the Name for years may not go beyond the elementary stages (it is not this that matters, the only thing that matters is to do what Our Lord wants us to do). So the pattern which we have followed is, to a large extent, artificial and has but a relative value.
This becomes quite evident to anybody who has had some experience of all the aspects of the Name which have been described here. At that stage — the reaching of which does not necessarily imply a greater perfection, but often some intellectual and spiritual acumen, some quickness of perception and discrimination concerning the things of God — it becomes difficult, even wearisome and tedious, and sometimes even impossible, to concentrate on this or that particular aspect of the Name of Jesus, however lofty it may be. Our invocation and consideration of the Holy Name then becomes global. We become simultaneously aware of all the implications of the Name. We say “Jesus”, and we are resting in the fullness and totality of the Name of Our Lord; we are unable to disjoin and isolate its diverse aspects, and yet we feel that all of them are there, as a united whole. The Holy Name is then bearing the whole Christ and introduces us to His total Presence.
This total Presence is more than the Presence of proximity and the Presence of indwelling of which we have already spoken. It is the actual “givenness” of all the realities to which the Name may have been for us an approach: Salvation, Incarnation, Transfiguration, Church, Eucharist, Spirit and Father. It is then that we apprehend “what is the breadth and length and depth and height…” (Ephesians 3.18), and that we perceive what to “gather together in one all things in Christ” (Ephesians 1.10) means.
This total Presence is all. The Name is nothing without the Presence. He who is able constantly to live in the total Presence of Our Lord does not need the Name. The Name is only an incentive to and a support to the Presence. A time may come, even here on earth, when we have to discard the Name itself and to become free from everything but the nameless and unutterable living contact with the person of Jesus.
When we separately consider the aspects or implications of the Name of Jesus, our invocation of the Name is like a prism which splits up a beam of white light into the several colors of the spectrum. When we call on the “total Name” (and the total Presence) we are using the Name as a lens which receives and concentrates the white light. Through the means of a lens a ray of the sun can ignite some combustible substance. The Holy Name is this lens. Jesus is the burning Light which the Name, acting as a lens, can gather and direct till a fire is kindled within us. “I am come to send fire on the earth…” (Luke 12.49).
The Scripture often promises a special blessing to them that calLon the Name of the Lord. We may apply to the Name of Jesus which is said of the Name of God. We shall therefore repeat: “Look upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name” (Psalm 119.132). And of every one of us may the Lord say what he said to Saul: “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name…” (Acts 9.15).
Because of recent discussions about the Catholic Church’s considering defining a new dogma concerning the Virgin Mary it might be of interest to Christians of other Churches to have some explanation of the Orthodox Church’s position concerning her.
The Orthodox Church honors and venerates the Virgin Mary as “more honourable than the Cherubim and more glorious without compare than the Seraphim …” Her name is mentioned in every service, and her intercession before the throne of God is asked. She is given the title of “Theotokos” (Greek for “Birth-giver-of-God), as well as “Mother of God”. She has a definite role in Orthodox Christianity, and can in no way be considered an instrument which, once used, was laid aside and forgotten.
Objections to the veneration of the Theotokos are based primarily on what is called “a lack of scriptural evidence to support such a practice.” While it is true that the Church depends heavily on her Tradition other than Holy Scripture (Ecumenical Councils, liturgical books, and the writings of the Fathers) for details and the precise definition of the nature of the veneration of the Virgin Mary, there are several passages of the New Testament that really form the basis for our practice.
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to announce to the Virgin the birth of the Saviour: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women.” (Luke 1:28) This angelic salutation forms a part of the hymn of the Church most frequently sung in her honor. Could we be wrong in repeating the words of the very messenger of God? Elizabeth, the Virgin’s cousin, considered it an honor for the Mother of her Lord to visit her. “And whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43) Is there any real difference between saying “Mother of God” and “Mother of the Lord”? Surely, God is the Lord! (Psalm 118:27) In the course of her visit to Elizabeth, the Blessed Virgin spoke the words that form the principal hymn sung in her honor at the Matins service.
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden, for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” (Luke 1: 47-48)
Elizabeth had already been “filled with the Holy Spirit”, precisely that she might cry out: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” (Luke 1:41, 42) This honor given the Theotokos by her cousin is exactly what all generations of the Church do when they call her blessed. Finally, when Jesus saw His mother and the disciple John standing by the cross, He entrusted him with her care, but He also established a new spiritual relationship between them in saying to the disciple: “Behold thy Mother!” (John 19:27) What possible significance could this declaration of our Lord have except to make His Mother the Mother of all Christians? If she really had other children would she be in need of an outsider’s home?
The Incarnation of God was foretold in the Old Testament. A race was chosen for a specific purpose: to produce a holy humanity from which God could take flesh. Mary is the one who, in the Lord’s words, “heard the word of God and kept it.” (Luke 11:28) Through her personal sinlessness she fulfilled all the hopes and prophecies of Israel. She figured greatly in the very prophecies, the most important of which is that of Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) The Church has always considered the following as prefigures or symbols of the role of the Theotokos in the Divine plan, and appoints them to be read on the eves of three of the feasts dedicated to her memory. The first is the story of Jacob’s ladder, which refers to her being the means by which God chose to enter into the world physically. “He saw in his sleep a ladder standing upon the earth, and the top thereof touching heaven, the angels also of God ascending and descending by it”. (Genesis 28:12) Then from the Prophecy of Ezekiel are the words concerning her perpetual virginity: “And the Lord said unto me: This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it; because the Lord God of Israel hath entered in by it, and it shall be shut.” (Ezekiel 44:2) The same is true of the burning bush seen by Moses: Mary contained in her womb the God-man, Jesus Christ, the God who is a consuming fire, and was not consumed.
The consequences of denying the Theotokos a part in the life of Christians are more serious than one may think in view of all its implications. Orthodox theology insists upon the two perfect natures of our Lord Jesus Christ; He was perfect God and perfect Man. The Virgin Mary communicated the humanity of the Incarnate God. The redemption of the human race was possible through the union of God and man in Christ. De-emphasis of the sinlessness of Christ’s Mother, insistence upon her having other children by Joseph (which cannot be demonstrated by the New Testament), and failure to remember her part in the history of the salvation of mankind have contributed to a general misunderstanding in some churches of the Incarnation in all its fullness and power. Very closely related to the above-mentioned things is the denial of the virgin birth of Christ, a rather popular feature of present-day liberal theology. After the virgin birth, the next basic teaching under attack is the divinity of Christ, and His resurrection, and with that, the Holy Trinity Itself.
The Virgin Mary in the Orthodox view is not regarded as a mediatrix or co-redemptress. She is an intercessor for us, and the content of prayer addressed to her is a request for her intercession. The Orthodox concept of the Church is the basic reason for the invocation of the Theotokos and all the saints. The Militant Church on earth and the Victorious Church in heaven are intimately bound together in love. If it is proper for one sinner to ask another sinner to pray for him, how much more fitting it must be to ask the saints already glorified and near the throne of God to pray for us. Surely, they know something of what goes on here, for else how could there be rejoicing in heaven over the conversion of one sinner? (Luke 15:10) The saints in heaven are equals of the angels (Luke 20:36), who are used by God in the accomplishment of His purpose (Acts 12:7)
There is scriptural evidence to support the traditional Orthodox attitude toward the Virgin Mary and the saints. The other equally valid parts of Tradition also afford abundant evidence of its soundness and importance.
From The Dawn