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The Virgin Mary is the Theotokos, the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son and Word of God. She conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. She was cared for by her betrothed husband, Joseph, who took the child and his mother into his home as his own. One very strong tradition in the Orthodox Church holds that the birth of Jesus was also miraculous and left Mary's virginity intact as a sign; it is also the tradition of the Church that Joseph and Mary did not have relations after the birth of Jesus. She is also called Panagia, the "All-Holy," indicating her closeness to God in her obedience.

The title Theotokos (in Greek, Θεοτοκος) is a Greek word that means "God-bearer" or "Birth-giver to God."


The Title Theotokos:


1. Adoption at the Third Ecumenical Council

As a title for the Virgin Mary, Theotokos was recognized by the Orthodox Church at Third Ecumenical Council held at Ephesus in 431. It had already been in use for some time in the devotional and liturgical life of the Church. The theological significance of the title is to emphasize that Mary's son, Jesus, is fully God, as well as fully human, and that Jesus' two natures (divine and human) were united in a single Person of the Trinity. The competing view at that council was that Mary should be called Christotokos instead, meaning "Birth-giver to Christ." This was the view advocated by Nestorius, then Patriarch of Constantinople. The intent behind calling her Christotokos was to restrict her role to be only the mother of "Christ's humanity" and not his divine nature.

Nestorius' view was anathematized by the Council as heresy, (see Nestorianism), since it was considered to be dividing Jesus into two distinct persons, one who was Son of Mary, and another, the divine nature, who was not. It was defined that although Jesus has two natures, human and divine, these are eternally united in one personhood. Because Mary is the mother of God the Son, she is therefore duly entitledTheotokos.

Calling Mary the Theotokos or the Mother of God (Μητηρ Θεου) was never meant to suggest that Mary was coeternal with God, or that she existed before Jesus Christ or God existed. The Church acknowledges the mystery in the words of this ancient hymn: "He whom the entire universe could not contain was contained within your womb, O Theotokos."

The title "Theotokos" continues to be used frequently in the hymns of the Orthodox Church.

2. Translating the word Theotokos While some languages used by various Orthodox churches often have a single native word forTheotokos, it gets translated into English in a number of ways. The most common is Mother of God, though God-bearer and Birth-giver to God are also fairly common. There are difficulties with all these translations, however. The most literally correct one is Birth-giver to God, though God-bearer comes close. Theophoros (Θεοφορος) is the Greek term usually and more correctly translated as God-bearer, so using God-bearer for Theotokos in some sense "orphans" Theophoros when it comes time to translate that term (for St. Ignatius of Antioch, for instance). The main difficulties with both these translations for Theotokos is that they are a bit awkward and difficult to sing.

The most popular translation, Mother of God, is accurate to a point, but the difficulty with that one is that Mother of God is the literal translation of another Greek phrase which is found on nearly all icons of the Theotokos: Μητηρ Θεου (Meter Theou), usually in the standard iconographic abbreviation of ΜΡ ΘΥ. Additionally, a number of hymns employ both Theotokos and Meter Theou—translating both as Mother of God can yield some rather nonsensical language, and it destroys the distinction that the hymnographer intended.

The usage that seems to be dominant in English-speaking Orthodox churches in North America is to adopt the original term itself into English (something English speakers have traditionally done with foreign words almost since the earliest known history of the language), transliterating it simply as Theotokos. British usage gives preference to translating Theotokos as Mother of God.


The Full Title of Mary:


The title Our All-holy, immaculate, most blessed and glorified Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary (Greek: Τῆς Παναγίας, ἀχράντου, ὑπερευλογημένης, ἐνδόξου, δεσποίνης ἡμῶν Θεοτόκου καὶ ἀειπαρθένου Μαρίας)[1] is often used in Orthodox services when Mary is mentioned.

1. All-holy
The title Panagia (all-holy) never was a subject of dogmatic definition, but it is accepted and used by all Orthodox. This is because she is the supreme example of cooperation between God and the free will of man. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). Sometimes Mary is called the New Eve because her obedient submission to the will of God offset Eve's disobedience in Paradise.
2. Immaculate
The Orthodox Church calls Mary "immaculate," "pure," or "spotless" (achrantos in Greek). Some Orthodox state that she was free from actual sin, some say she never sinned, and others just say she died sinless.
As for original sin and the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Orthodox Church has never made any formal and definitive pronouncement on the subject. The majority of Orthodox have rejected the doctrine, for it seems to separate Mary from the rest of mankind, putting her in a completely different class from all the other righteous men and women of the Old Testament. It is important that Mary was the same as all mankind so that all Christians can follow her example and submit to God's will. Mary was born a sinner, a human with full human nature. Mary’s Son, Jesus the Christ, took flesh from her. So as Son of God, He assumed fallen human nature from her and redeemed humanity by His Crucifixion and Resurrection. Also, the original doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (1869) implies an understanding of original sin not held by the Orthodox Church.
3. Most blessed and glorified Lady
The Orthodox Church honors the Mother of God on account of the Son. St. Cyril of Alexandria, along with the Fathers of the Council of Ephesus, insisted on calling Mary "Theotokos" not just to glorify her, but to safeguard a right doctrine of Christ's person, theIncarnation. Orthodox Christians feel that one cannot really believe in the Incarnation and not honor Mary.
4. the Theotokos
See above. This is often translated as "the Mother of God."
5. ever Virgin Mary
See below. The Orthodox Church honors Mary as "ever Virgin." In iconography, her virginity before, during, and after the birth of Christ is represented by three stars on her shoulders and forehead.[2]

Feasts of the Theotokos

The Orthodox Church remembers the life of the Theotokos with several feast days. The Liturgical year begins and ends with the feast days of the Theotokos. wonder working Icons of the Theotokos also have their own feast days.

1. The Nativity of the Theotokos is celebrated on September 8.
2. The Presentation of the Theotokos into the Temple is celebrated on November 21.
3. The Annunciation to the Theotokos is celebrated on March 25.
4. The Dormition of the Theotokos (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos is celebrated on August 15.

Of these, the Annunciation and the Dormition are the most festal.


source: OrthodoxWiki



By Archimandrite George
Abbott of the Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios on Mount Athos

So, the Lord Jesus gives us this possibility, to unite with God, and return to the primal purpose,
which God ordained for man. This is why He is described in Holy Scripture as the way, the door, the good shepherd, the life, the resurrection, the light. He is the new Adam, who rights the wrong of the first Adam. The first Adam separated us from God with his disobedience and his egotism. With His love, and His obedience to the Father, obedience unto death, to ‘death on the cross’, the second Adam, Christ, brings us back once more to God. He once again orients our freedom towards God, so that, by offering it to Him, we unite with Him.

But the work of the new Adam pre-supposes the work of the new Eve, the Panaghia who, as well, put right the wrong done by the old Eve. Eve drove Adam to disobedience. The new Eve, the Panaghia, contributes to the incarnation of the new Adam who will guide the human race towards obedience to God. For this reason, as the first human person who achieved theosis – in an exceptional and indeed unrepeatable, way – the Lady Theotokos played a role in our salvation, which was not only fundamental, but also necessary and irreplaceable.

According to the saintly Nicholas Cabasilas, the great 14th century theologian, had the Panaghia, in her obedience, not offered her freedom to God – had she not said ‘yes’ to God – God would not have been able to incarnate. Because God, who had given freedom to man, would not have been able to violate it. He would not have been able to incarnate had there not been such a pure, all-holy, immaculate psyche as the Theotokos, who would completely offer her freedom, her will, all of herself to God, so as to draw Him towards herself and towards us.

We owe much to the Panaghia. This is why our Church honours and venerates the Theotokos. This is why St. Gregory Palamas, summarizing Patristic theology, says that our Panaghia holds the second place after the Holy Trinity; that she is god after God; the borderline between the created and the uncreated. ‘She leads those being saved’, according to another fine expression by a theologian of our Church. And St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, the steadfast luminary and teacher of the Church, pointed out that the angelic ranks themselves are illumined by the light they receive from the Panaghia.

This is why she is praised by our Church as ‘more honourable than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim’.

The incarnation of the Logos and the Theosis of man are the great mystery of our Faith and Theology.

Our Orthodox Church lives this every day with its Mysteries, its hymns, its icons, its whole life. Even the architecture of an Orthodox Church witnesses to this. The great dome of the churches, on which the Pantocrator is painted, symbolises the descent of Heaven to earth; it tells us that the Lord ‘bent down the Heavens and descended’. The Evangelist St. John writes that God became man ‘and dwelt among us’ (Jn. 1:14).

And because He became man through the Theotokos, we depict the Theotokos in the apse of the altar, to indicate that through her God comes to earth and to men. She is ‘the bridge by which God descended’, and again, ‘she who conducts those of earth to Heaven’, the apse of the heavens, the space of the uncontainable, who contained the uncontainable God within herself for our salvation.

To continue, our Church depicts deified men: those who became gods by Grace because God became man. This is why in our Orthodox churches we can depict not only the incarnate God, Christ, and His immaculate Mother, the Lady Theotokos, but also the saints around and below the Pantocrator. On all the walls of the Church we paint the results of God’s incarnation: the sainted and deified men.

Therefore, upon entering an Orthodox Church and seeing the beautiful icons of saints, we immediately receive and experience: we relize the work of God on man's behalf and the purpose of our life.

Everything in the Church speaks of the incarnation of God and the deification of man.