Saturday, September 5, 2015

Most Holy Mother of God Save Us!...

Iconostasis of the Nativity of the Forerunner Church
   On the 6th of August we celebrated the “Transfiguration of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” on the mountain. And the mountain is thought to be the “Mount of Thabor”. There, the appearance of the Lord Jesus changed and His clothes became white shining like snow and His disciples saw that.
   The light that the disciples saw on the mountain, that which made the garments of the Lord Jesus shine like snow, is the Light of Theology. The Lord Jesus was, and still is, and will remain forever God and the second hypostasis of the Holy Trinity.  Thus, this light is the Uncreated Light. It is the Light that shines from the Essence of God. This is the Divine Light. The remarkable thing is – and Saint Marc the Evangelist is the only one to speak about the glistening of the clothes of the Lord Jesus and how they became exceedingly white like snow – that the Lord Jesus Christ encompassed the Divine totally which glowed through His body and through His garments.

   Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the “Dormition of the Mother of God”. And today, we are still in the period of the feast. I started talking about the Transfiguration of our Lord in order to say: that if the garments– not to mention the body of the Lord Jesus –became immersed with His Divinity, then what can we say about Mary, the Mother of God, upon whom the Holy Spirit overshadowed, and she conceived the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God, the second hypostasis of the Holy Trinity! The Mother of God was filled with the presence of God, and the Holy Spirit descended and settled in each and every one of her cells, hence she became filled with light of the Uncreated Light in her entity. In her settled the Divine in the same way as a man comes and dwells in a house. The Church has called Mary in which the Holy Spirit settled: “the Mother of God”, in order to dismiss any strange thought that might cross our mind, saying that the Holy Spirit settled in Mary’s womb and left her afterwards, an idea that profess some people who claim that they are Christians. Mary did not give birth to a human being, but to God in the flesh. Thus, she is the Mother of God, she was the Mother of God when the Spirit of God came upon her, she continues to be the Mother of God, and will remain to be so forever. Therefore, Mary the Mother of God was immersed inside out with the Light of Theology which settled in her. When Saint Seraphim of Sarov wanted to indicate what the aim of Christian life is, he said: “the aim of Christian life is for man to acquire the Holy Spirit”. When man acquires the Holy Spirit, he would have achieved the purpose for which God has created him, he would be an accomplished human being. Mary is the first human being to have fully acquired the Holy Spirit; she was filled with Divine Grace. In other words, she was deified. She was deified through the grace that came and dwelt in her. The Lord Jesus is the incarnate God, whereas Mary is the first human being deified. This is why the Church said, and still says, that Mary is the New Eve. And “Eve”, the word, means “the mother of all living”. Thus when the Holy Church says that the Lord Jesus is the New Adam, and that Mary, the Mother of God, is the New Eve, this implies that the New Eve is now participating with God in generating the new deified humanity. Hence, in reply to whomever says that our relationship is only with the Lord Jesus and therefore, there is no need for us to have a relationship with Mary, because the Lord Jesus is sufficient for us, we say that the Lord, could have, in all cases, been sufficient. For there is no measure to God’s greatness. But, He was pleased, primarily, to settle in Mary’s womb. This was His Divine Plan, His Economy for the salvation of mankind. It was not necessarily an unavoidable situation. The Lord God was not obliged to save us in this manner, not at all. But He was pleased to become a human being through the Holy Spirit settling in Mary’s womb. This was His Economy. And His Economy was also that Mary the Mother of God, in the continual confession of the Church, throughout all ages, in the same way that she participated in giving birth to God in the flesh, that she be given, according to the status that the Lord Jesus gave her, to participate, as the first deified human being, in the generation of a humanity in the Spirit, in other words she was given to participate in the deification of humanity. When the Lord lights a candle, He gives it to light all the unlit candles. Humanity was a group of unlit candles. But the Lord God has lit, with Divine Light, one candle, Mary’s candle; thus she became the Mother of God; and she became, at the same time, the New Eve who participates in lighting all human candles, all people.
   Thus, we are not talking anymore solely at the level of the flesh or at the level of the spirit, because we have in Mary a deified human being! She is the first deified human being! Thus we do not approach this human being, who was given to become the first deified human being, as we would approach one another at the level of emotions, feelings and sentiments. We approach Mary as Eve who participates with her Son in the salvation of humanity! This is why, even if the Lord Jesus is the Saviour, and the only intermediary between God and man, but, by means of His Divine Economy, as described above, we now say, in the Holy Church, something different that indicates the participation of the Mother of God in the salvation of humanity, we now say: “Most Holy Mother of God save us”!. This is not a depreciation of the fact that the Lord Jesus is the Only Saviour. But that He was pleased that His Mother be a participant in the salvation of humanity. Of course, it is absurd to think that man can be redeemed through the Mother of God alone without the Lord Jesus. This is why people who relate to the Mother of God, and find the Lord Jesus difficult and unattainable, commit a big mistake, because the Mother of God does not stand on her own. The Mother of God has no value whatsoever without the Lord Jesus. She is just a human being, no more and no less. And a human being cannot save another human being. In the icons depicting the Mother of God, we always see her carrying the Lord Jesus and pointing to Him. In all cases she does not stand alone. This is also how she deals with us, she does not point to herself when she reaches for us to save us, when she helps us to be saved, rather she points to her Son, since He is the Saviour not she. She disappears in His Presence, the same way as Saint John the Baptist disappeared, he who considered himself to be the friend of the bridegroom, and rejoiced greatly at His Voice, saying: “He [the Lord Jesus] must increase, but I [Saint John the Baptist himself]  must decrease” (John 3:30). In this same manner, the Mother of God brings us to Her Son, and gradually withdraws, leaving the Lord Jesus to increase in us; thus becoming everything to us. This is the pattern of the relationship that was set by the Mother of God, because when dealing with each other we point to the Lord Jesus not to ourselves. I, for example, am a priest who addresses you with words. But I am not pointing to myself. And if I did so, I would be an impostor. I point to the Master, I talk to you about the Master, I say to you: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). I conceal myself, and I beseech you to leave me behind reaching out for Him fully! I rejoice, only in the fact that you may know that He is God and that you head towards Him. It is inevitable that at a certain point in time we should leave one another for the Master. Saint John the Baptist was left alone, at the end, after he bore witness to the Lamb of God, and was beheaded, thus completing his course. That was enough for him. Glory is due to the Lord Jesus, and not to us human beings. We point to His Glory and rejoice only because our Lord was glorified, and is glorified in us, every time we struggle and seek to empty ourselves from our old self so as to be filled with the joy of His presence in our life, and in the life of every single person in the world.
   This is why the Mother of God as the New Eve has established a new relationship for us with God, which we pursue with her help, thus becoming in Spirit and truth, henceforth, not the descendants of the old Eve anymore, who led us to sin and death, but rather the descendants of the New Eve, who brings us forth to the Kingdom of God, to Eternal Life. Amen.

Archimandrite Thomas (Bitar)
Sermon of Sunday 16th  August 2015