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‘All generations call you blessed, only Mother of God’

When, after the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary visited her kinswoman Elizabeth, who was pregnant with Saint John the Baptist, ‘the babe leapt in her womb’ at their embrace. ‘Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Luke 1, 41) and recognized Mary as the mother of the Messiah, the Mother of God (ibid. 43). Mary was also filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately prophesied and said: ‘Behold henceforth all generations will call me blessed’ (ibid. 48).

None of the Jews of the time- not those who mocked Joachim and Anna for their lack of children; not those who wished to harm her Son and our God, Jesus Christ, forcing her to flee to Egypt, with Joseph, her betrothed, in order to protect him; not those who caused her inconceivable pain by crucifying her Son- none of them could have suspected or imagined that we who believe in the name of Jesus Christ would gather together, 2000 years later, and would raise our voice with the hymn-writer and sing: ‘All generations call you blessed, only Mother of God’, thus fulfilling our Lady’s prophecy. Not only us, but all the generations who came before us and all those who will come after us, unto the end of the ages, innumerable souls and hearts beating with the faith, devout lips will murmur hymns of contrition, hands will be raised in supplication to the heavens, to you, Lady,  Mother of God, our sweetest mother and we’ll hymn the majesty of your person.

And the hymn we offer is sung not out of servile fear, such as that felt by the subjects of some king, nor out of a kind of quid pro quo, whereby we gain a certain favor, as servants do with their employers, but because, astonished by the great miracle, we cry aloud: ‘In you, spotless Virgin, the laws of nature are overcome’. Indeed, through her blessed existence, Mary, the Mother of God, achieved the union between the created and the uncreated, the temporal and the eternal, the restricted and the infinite, human nature and divine, Jesus Christ, who is both God and human. ‘By the royal command of God’, ‘the honorable choir of the apostles gathered miraculously to bury in glory your spotless body’, and we, together with the angels are amazed and astounded and say: ‘What a strange wonder. The source of life is laid in the tomb and the grave becomes a ladder to heaven’. So what kind of death is this, that has filled the whole of the Orthodox world and our hearts with the joy of immortality? Instead of mourning our Lady, who lies before us on her death-bed, eyes closed and the holy arms which held Christ and nurtured him crossed, instead of mourning, we raise our voices, with tears of joy in our eyes, to her who bore the Bread of Life: ‘You have passed over into life, who are the mother of Life’. So sadness is transformed into joy, and the pain of the separation from our mother is interwoven with joy and gladness. It is, indeed, joyful sadness, because ‘Your death has become a passport to a better, everlasting life, Pure One, [it has translated you] from this mortal life to that which knows no end and is divine’.

‘Let no profane hand touch the living ark of God’, the hymnographer tells us and this brings to mind the sacrilege and blasphemy that an impious man attempted to perpetrate when the apostles were burying the holy body of our Lady. He stretched out his hand in order to upset the bier bearing the relics. His hands were broken off and were restored once he’d repented. Unfortunately, many people today are profane unbelievers, or, as Alexandros Papadiamantis described them, ‘with neither incense nor liturgy’. We ignore the traditions of our forebears and reject the virtues such as piety, devoutness, humility, selflessness and personal pride which adorned them. In their place, we’ve elevated the idols of egotism, conceit and selfishness. Daily news stories about heinous crimes, obnoxious acts, disrupted social relationships, broken homes, addicted people and so on prove that the only answer is repentance.

‘Your sacred and renowned memorial is adorned with divine glory’. With this humble, but angelic melody of Orthodoxy, which echoes in our souls, let us, with deep contrition, boldly yet also restrainedly, with love yet also respect, hymn ‘the mother of the everlasting light’ as our own mother and the Mother of our God. Let us open our heart in order to reveal to her what lies within, so that she may understand our pain, help us, come to our assistance in the difficulties and temptations of this present life, and enable us to be partakers in heavenly glory, sanctification and salvation.