The 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.