Feast of the Protection of the Theotokos

On this Sunday, we celebrate the feast of the Protection of the Theotokos. This commemorates the vision of St. Andrew, the Fool for Christ, who, during an attack, as the people kept an All-night Vigil of Prayer, saw the Mother of God holding a protecting veil over her city. We can say, then, that this feast celebrates the power of Mary, who fights on behalf of Christians, and is a mighty protector of the people. On this day we read the common Gospel from St. Luke on feasts of Mary, the story of Mary and Martha. Maybe a better gospel would be the story of the wedding at Cana in Galilee. There, at Cana, it was Jesus’ mother, a woman, who by her plea, guided God to make wine out of water, telling the stewards, and through them, saying to all of us, “Do whatever he tells you.” As his mother, she began the story of Jesus’ mission, even though he had said, “My hour has not yet come.” This truly is power given to her by God. This is still Mary’s relationship with us. She is our protector and motherly intercessor. She is the mother of all believers, for our Lord, on the cross, gave her to his beloved disciple and through him to all of us. Her message to us always, every time she appears, is “Do what my Son tells you.”

Today, we have fierce debates about the role of women in the Church. But the evidence here is for the power of women, just as Eve brought about the fall of the human race by her disobedience (Adam only ratified her decision), so Mary brings salvation into the world by her obedient decision to become the mother of God Incarnate. She said, as every Christian must also say, ““Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” And Mary receives this great power in a human way, through humility and weakness. She plays a hidden role in the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles, but it is through her weakness that the Christian finds strength, it is in her humility that we find wisdom, and in her death we are given the hope of life, “O Theotokos, … in your falling asleep you did not forsake the world … and through your prayers you deliver our souls from death. (Troparion of the Feast of the Dormition)

Today is our day of hope as we pray, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!”

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Feast of the Birth of the Theotokos

Christians of East and West can express their gratitude for today’s feast to brought  to our awareness by Eastern monks. It was in the seventh century, this feast  of Our Lady was celebrated by Greek Christians. The narrative of Mary’s Nativity is not testified to in sacred Scripture but known only from apocryphal sources. By the end of the seventh century this feast gained acceptance in the Diocese of Rome.

Our meditation for today

The Epistle today is from Philippians, and it is about Christ, “Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. (Philippians 2:7-9)” The mystery of Mary, the Theotokos, the Birth-giver of God, is united with the mystery of Jesus our Lord, the Giver of Life to all. Every feast is a celebration of the one Paschal Mystery, how through his death on the Cross (“by death trampling upon death”) the Son of God bestowed life upon the whole world, and how, therefore, in our humiliation, in giving ourselves in love to God and, through him, to each other, we find glory in God.

Joachim and Anna were humbled and desolate, barren of children, and yet, “from infertile ground, the fertile ground is born. From her has grown the Gardener (see that Mary Magdalene mistakes the risen Christ for a gardener) of all fruit, the flower bringing life, who by the will of God nourishes the universe. (1st Troparion, Ode 3, Matins of the Pre-feast)” Today we chant that “Joachim and Anne were freed from the reproach of childlessness.” This mystery must be re-lived in the life of Christ, the child born of Mary, who dies on the Cross in desolation, so that all the universe may be freed from the “despair of death,” and find life in God.

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

Dormition’s blessing of herbs and flowers

Tonight at the Divine Liturgy, Father Iura blessed herbs and flowers.

In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death. (Byzantine Liturgy; Troparion, Feast of the Dormition)

The Dormition of the Theotokos

“Come, all you ends of the earth, let us praise the blessed passing of the Mother of God. She delivers her sinless soul into the hands of her Son; through her holy Dormition, the world is given new life.” (Stichera at the Litija)

The feast of the birth of John the Baptist is sometimes called the summer Christmas, so also the Dormition (falling-asleep) of the Mother of God might be called the summer Pascha. In both these feasts the cosmic change accomplished by the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God is seen in the lives of human beings, for in Christ the order of mortality is overturned. In the mystery of Mary’s falling-asleep, we see our sinfulness is over-written by the sinless one, who in obedience turns over her “sinless soul” to the incarnate God.

The Gospel today is a story not about Mary, the Theotokos, but about Mary of Bethany, but the words addressed by God to her sister Martha become iconic for all human beings: “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her. (Luke 10:42)” What has she chosen? To sit at the feet of our Lord, to put Jesus at the center of her life, and to listen to him. This is Mary’s eternal mission, as she tells the stewards at the wedding in Cana: “Do whatever he (Jesus, her Son) tells you. (John 2:5)” This is the mystery the ends of the earth celebrate today, for it has transformed the meaning of human life, and “through he holy Dormition, the world is given new life.”

Meditation by Archpriest David Petras

May is the Month of Our Lady

In addition to the myriad of feast days honoring Our Lady in her many titles and virtues, the entire month of May is especially given to her praise. In the words of Pope Paul VI: May is “a month which the piety of the faithful has long dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God . . . For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration; and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God’s merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother’s throne.”

Fourth Sunday of Great Lent

This weekend we are celebrating the mystery of our Lord’s accepting human nature for our salvation. The Archangel Gabriel asks Mary to receive God’s plan and become the mother of the Son and Word of God, to be named “Jesus,” “Savior.” Mary replies, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)” Mary’s response to God was perfect and reversed the sin of Eve. In our Lenten journey, we are asked the same question by God, “Can you be perfectly obedient to my will.” This is not to put us into slavery, but to free us from the power of sin and death. Jesus gave the power to cast out evil to his followers, but in this Sunday’s Gospel, a distraught man who has a son possessed by a demon, comes to Jesus and laments, “I asked your disciples to cast it out and they were not able. (Mark 9:18)” Jesus immediately tells the man it is because of their lack of faith, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? (Mark 9:19)”

Mary’s obedience to God was perfect, and she gave birth to salvation, our obedience is not perfect, and so we are unable to cast out evil from our lives. Why is this? It may be because of weakness, that we are not strong enough to keep God’s law, and are in need of his strength through grace. It may be that we do not fully understand God’s will, and mix up our own desires with it. In any case, our Lord asks us to become more faithful in the second half of the Great Fast, since “this kind cannot be drive out by anything but prayer and fasting.” This is true faith.

Annunciation of Mary, the Mother of God

Annunciation of Mary, the Mother of God (Theotokos), March 25th
 
The Solemnity of the Annunciation is a Holy Day of Obligation. Our Worship begins at 9:45 a.m. with Lytijia and Blessing of Bread and at 10:00 a.m. with the Divine Liturgy, followed by anointing.
 
“Today is the Prelude of joy for the whole world. Let us then anticipate the feast and celebrate with glee, for behold, Gabriel is on his way with the glad tidings for the Virgin; he is about to cry out in fear and amazement: ‘Hail, O Woman full of grace! The Lord is with you!'” (Troparion)

Does the Theotokos “save” us?

bvm-detailThe following meditation opens an interesting question about Mary, the Mother of God (Theotokos means the bearer of God). A daughter of an Orthodox priest, Sister Vassa, a native of Nyack, NY, earned a doctorate in liturgical theology from the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome, now is a researcher and teacher in Vienna. She produces a the popular program, “Coffee with Sister Vassa.”

“Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” (Byzantine prayer)

What, exactly, are we asking for in this prayer? Are we calling for another human being, Mary, to “save” us, as only our One Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ can?

No. We are calling for the “Birth-Giver of God” in the flesh, the “Theo-tokos,” in Her unique ministry of bringing Him into the world, to bring us His salvation. He willed it to “save” the world in His incarnation, coming to us through Her over 2,000 years ago. And we believe in Him as in One Who continues to come to us, to “come again” and again (καὶ πάλιν ἐρχόμενον, и паки грядущаго) as the incarnate Lord.

Thus when we say, “Most Holy Theo-tokos, save us!” – and not “Mary, save us!” – we are calling also upon His name, the name of “God” incarnate, Who has brought us His salvation not without Her. We thus embrace that great mystery, of the Incarnation, when we say this today, because that mystery continues to work its salvific consequences in His One Body that is the Church. “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” I say today, embracing His coming as He does, not only spiritually, but also physically, into holy communion with us.

Synaxis of the Theotokos

synaxis-of-the-theotokosToday, the day after the Christmas feast the Byzantine Church honors Mary, the Mother of God (Theotokos) with a special feast day of remembrance.

Our meditation is given by Father David Petras.

Many Byzantine feasts have a commemoration on the day after a great feast called a “synaxis,” that is, an “assembly” or “gathering” in honor of one who participated in the feast. No more honorable person could ever be found than the holy Lady, the Mother of God. This feast of her Synaxis was actually the most ancient, the first, celebration of her memory on the church calendar, because her giving birth to the Son of God was truly her greatest glory. It was by her free will, ““Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38),” that our God and Creator became one of us. It was certainly her joy that she gave birth to this child, but we commemorate on this day all the suffering she bore because of her choice, the near repudiation by Joseph, the persecution of her son by Herod, causing them to flee for their lives to Egypt, until, at the end, she had to endure seeing her beloved son crucified as a common criminal on the cross.

So, Simeon the prophet told her, “ “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, and you yourself a sword will pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:34-35)” Truly, she became by her suffering an intercessor with her Son. We must ask if we are prepared, as St. Paul, who wrote “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body. (Colossians 1:24)” We also have the comfort of knowing, if we unite our will with that of Mary, that we, too, can become bearers of God through Communion in his Body and Blood by our own free will.

Conception of St Anne Liturgy

iconstsannejoachimmaryThe Divine Liturgy will be offered on Thursday, December 8th at 9:00 a.m. for the feast of Conception of St Anne [also called the Maternity of Holy Anne].

It is a holy day. 

In the Roman Church, the feast is called the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

“With the Angels let us celebrate the aIl-glorious conception of the Mother of God” (from the Office of Matins).

Holy Scripture does not about about the birth and infancy of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The early Christians believed, based on the Protoevangelium of St. James, a document compiled by an unknown author in the middle of the second century. In this text the  birth of Mary was considered as miraculous in manner that we consider the birth of St. John the Baptist to be.

More about today’s feast can be read here.