The Theotokos as Supreme Example and Vessel for Living the Will of God

“The Holy Theotokos alone in her body glorified by God, now enjoys the celestial realm together with her Son.  For earth and grave and death did not hold forever her life-originating and God-receiving body—the dwelling more favored than can we not proclaim her pre-eminence as regards to all creatures.” ~ St. Gregory Palamas

Dearest Spiritual Ohana,

We have now reached the last month of the Liturgical Year, August!  In this month, we have the first 15 days dedicated to Panagia, surrounding her “Holy Dormition/Falling Asleep.”  How beautiful and moving it is that we celebrate her Nativity at the beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year in September, and then the end of the Year, in August, with her departure from the earthly life!

She is, for us, the example “par excellence” of what it means to submit our human will to God, and in so doing so, has become the vessel through which the “Word of God” has taken on flesh, in the Person of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.  Without her being this very vessel, the Incarnation of our Lord could not have been a possibility.  And because of her, who is called and regarded, by us, as the “2nd Eve,” she is the conduit and bridge through which heaven and earth are united so that we can become citizens of Paradise, once again, of which Adam and Eve were once a part of.  But because of their disobedience, they were cast out, not for purposes of punishment, but out of God’s Love to protect them from the dangers incurred as a result of their partaking the fruit of the “tree of knowledge.”  And now, because of the Theotokos (God-Bearer), through submitting her will to the Will of God in faithful obedience to Him, the Doorway to Paradise has been reopened for humankind.  For she said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord.  Let it be to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:38)

The Theotokos is, for us, the greatest among the saints.  For she is the greatest example for us to follow in her total submission of her will to God.  She shows us the heights to what it means to live a life of total devotion to God.  So, let us follow her example!  But, how, we may ask do we do just that?

In one of our recent series of discussions for Adult Religious Education, we had the topic of “A Beautiful Rhythm,” which gave us a vivid and clear picture of what a purposeful life in God actually looks like.  In summary, our vision and goal in our lives, as Christians, is to “Christianize” our “time” and “space.”  Our sense of time is oriented around the Church calendar.  The center of our calendar is the Feast of Feasts, “Holy Pascha” (Orthodox Easter).  Throughout the year, we celebrate the lives of the saints and various feasts, we nurture and enrich our time with prayer, fasting, doing good works in the name of the Lord, with our God-given gifts and talents.  We set up spaces/places of prayer in our homes, such as an icon corner or an altar.  We even can place icons in our vehicles we travel in.  We are not embarrassed to do a prayer before and after meals wherever we are, including public places.  In other words, we fill our lives with God’s Presence at all times and every place, even and especially in our menial daily tasks.

If we truly make the effort to “Christianize” our lives, with the Help and Grace of the Holy Spirit, we will live a life filled with purpose and focused on living our lives according to God’s Will for us which is ultimately to be in communion with Him.  Christ becomes the measure of our days, weeks, months, years, etc.  And the space of our lives become filled with remembrances of the Kingdom/Paradise.

In all times, the Theotokos is our ever-present and fervent Intercessor before God.  We can count on her to pray to God for us, similar to the way we know that our friends and loved ones would pray for us if we asked them to, but even more so.  “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!”  In these days of COVID-19, we are challenged, possibly more than any time in our lives to keep the Faith, because the times and spaces in our lives have been drastically altered.  This disease has forced us into unexpected, unforeseen situations, such as being physically isolated from our loved ones and friends.  We have been denied the opportunities to gather socially, as we are social beings.  Our Churches have not been operating, normally, since March.  We are not able to gather, physically, for the quality time in fellowship we so need.  We face so many challenges.  However, we as Christians, can take these challenges and make them into opportunities.

Stay tuned for opportunities coming our way to help keep our lives “Christianized,” especially during these times.  We will be looking into the implementation of “Faith Tree” to help us maneuver through the challenges we face.

In the meantime, please continue to keep the faith, as best you can, no matter what challenges come your way!

With Love in Christ,

+Fr. Alexander