Serbian Orthodox Church
Reflections on the Mother of God
by Fr. Rodney Torbic
Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the
virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."
Centuries ago the Holy Prophet Isaiah said the words that would last until the present.
Centuries ago the Holy Prophet Isaiah said the words the capture the minds of believers for
centuries to come.
One can only wonder about these words being preserved down through the centuries.
One can only wonder and be amazed about the work of God. One can only wonder thinking
surrounding these words in the centuries before Christ and since.
Biblical scholars and theologians, individuals interested in Holy Scripture have comments
regarding the words of Isaiah. Contemporary Christians address their place in history and
ponder the meaning of the words of Isaiah.
Contemporary Christians carry a great responsibility. Contemporary Christians have a
sacred trust. Contemporary Christians are in Christ's Church and must come to terms with God,
Who as it is said in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, spoke through the prophets.
A believer must come to terms with God's presence through the centuries and beyond the
reach of the finite mind. A believer's finite mind must wrestle with the concept of time and
God in and beyond time as it is known to be measured.
Isaiah spoke of a virgin conceiving and bearing a Son and it is this virgin birth
believers ascribe to at Holy Baptism. The Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed is recited at
Holy Baptism and each Divine Liturgy.
The virgin birth is God at work. The mind of the believer must be comfortable with the
virgin birth. The virgin birth is fundamental to the Orthodox mind.
The Mother of God, the Ever-Virgin Mary, was chosen from all women of all centuries to
give birth to the Christ Child. The Mother of God, the Ever-Virgin Mary holds a singular
place in history.
The Mother of God, the Ever-Virgin Mary has a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ
unlike any other person. At the same time, every other person can turn to the Mother of
God as an example and an inspiration in seeking complete unity with Christ.
The words of the Holy Prophet Isaiah had an effect on individuals down through the
centuries before and after the birth of the Christ Child. The words were preserved through
Contemporary believers benefit by thinking more about God having spoken through Isaian.
Contemporary believers benefit by thinking more about the time of God and the work of God
through the centuries.
Matthew 1:18 - Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was
betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
How much of each day do Orthodox believers devote to thinking about the Holy Spirit?
How often during the course of the year, other than at the time of Pentecost, do Orthodox
believers think seriously about the Holy Spirit?
Believers are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit at Chrismation. The Holy Apostle
Paul speaks about the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor.6:19).
How many believers treat the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. How many believers
give serious thought to the uniqueness of the Mother of God? How many believers take time
to ponder the work of the Holy Spirit throughout each day and throughout the centuries?
The world is totally different because of the birth of the the Christ Child. The finite
mind will never fully comprehend the difference. The finite mind can in its limited state
begin to appreciate God at work and God's goodness.
Contemporary believers look back in retrospect with the benefit of historical accounts.
Contemporary believers have the benefit of God's Holy Church. Contemporary believers have
the benefit of Christ's life and teaching.
At least from the time of Isaiah, the virgin birth has a recorded history. Christians
daily struggle with the decisions that lead to the Kingdom. Christians daily make decisions
that either increase their knowledge about Christ and bring them closer to Christ, or they
do the althernative.
Mary, the Mother of God, is historical and contemporary. Believers not only look back
on the Mother of God at the time of the birth of the Christ Child. Believers turn to the
Mother of God in prayer at present.
The practice of turning to the Mother of God for help from the Lord Jesus Christ is not
new. The Mother of God's association with miracles is not new (John 2:1-11)
Joseph and Mary are spoken of in the same verse. Joseph is a historical figure also.
Contemporary believers facts to use in formulating beliefs. Contemporary believers have
information to process, consider and weigh.
The beliefs one ascribes to defines the way a person lives. The beliefs one ascribes
defines the way a person will prepare for death. The beliefs one ascribes to will affect
the way a person will consider the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
One cannot separate one's thoughts about the Birthgiver of God, the Ever-Virgin Mary
from the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Matthew 1:19-20 - Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a
dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 'Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to
the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child's life are dead.'
From the outset of Christ's earthly life, threats against His life are recorded. Mary,
having given birth to the Christ Child, one can only imagine her thoughts regarding these
Current believers cannot enter Mary's mind. Current believers can only begin to imagine
the thoughts Mary had. Current believers can only speculate feelings may have had regarding
the endangerment facing the Christ Child, Mary and Joseph.
On Christmas Day, believers hear the Gospel message that includes the divine warning
received to avoid Herod (Nativity Gospel Mt. 2:1-12) Current mothers
can identify with Mary in concern for their own children.
Contemporary society has daily headlines dealing with the abduction of children,
the molestation of children, the killing of children. The Gospel of St. Mattew indicates
Herod killed all children under two years old out of anger. (Mt. 2:16)
One need only visit the jails and prisons of America or review the court dockets to see
how widespread child abuse is today. Contemporary believers benefit from thinking about the
purity of the Mother of God in addressing societal ills.
Contemporary believers benefit from thinking about the relationship of the Mother of
God with the Lord Jesus Christ in steeling themselves for the confrontations of modern life.
Joseph and Mary heeded the divine warning and travelled an alternate route
(Mt. 2:12). Contemporary believers do well to heed the divine warnings
set forth in the Holy Gospel to address the dangers of the present.
Parents caring for their children will look to Mary for the love she manifested. She
gave of herself for Christ. She was not selfish. She was not fearful when approached in
behalf of God. Mary was obedient to the will of God. She was cooperative with the will
of God (Lk 1:38)
Parents serious about the welfare of their children will heed the will of God.
Parents serious about the welfare of their children will have God as the guide for
their earthly journey with the ultimate destination being the Kingdom of God.
The worst criminals often have the love and support of their mothers. The love of the
Mother of God for the Lord Jesus Christ can only be imagined. The love of the Mother of
God for the sick, the suffering, the imprisoned, the stranger with whom her Son is
identified (Mt. 25:31ff) can only be imagined.
In the Akathist to the Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrow, the believer learns of the
far ranging love of the Mother of God for the afflicted, the suffering, for mothers and for
Matthew 1:23 - "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call
His name Immanuel," which is translated ,"God with us."
The verse from Isaiah finds its way into the Gospel of St. Matthew. Centuries after it's
origin, the verse from Isaiah still holds forth the timely message.
Mary experienced Christ in her midst. When believers meet, the greeting often is "Christ
is in our midst." In the Holy Gospel, we learn the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: "Where two
or three are gathered together in My name, I am the in the midst of them."
Orthodox believers at the Feast of the Nativity hear the choir singing "Snami Bog" - God
is with Us!. Today and yesterday, God is with us. We know from Hebrews "Jesus Christ is the
same yesterday, today and forever." (Heb.13:8)
Mary experienced Christ in her midst as no other person has. At the same time,
person can learn from Mary and turn to her as an example and source for further learning.
From Mary, believers can learn lessons for seeking unity with Christ. From Mary,
believers can draw images of unity with Christ and seek to translate the images into
the reality of their lives.
Mary's experience as the Birthgiver of God establishes the possibility for believes
to have unity with Christ. Believers willing to be obedient to the will of God, believers
willing to give of themselves, believers willing to be open to receiving Christ, can
experience unity with Christ. This is the lesson of Mary.
When the message "God with us" is pondered, the believer then has to respond
appropriately. The believer is faced with being open to God and being guided by
God or denying God and being less than fully cooperative with God.
Believers make choices as did Mary when in the presence of God. The choice believers
make have results. Mary made the correct choices and holds the position of honor that no
other holds. At the same time, we know from the lives of saints that cooperation with God,
being faithful to God, is of great benefit and is possible for those who choose wisely.
Believers are told God is with us. Knowing that God is with us is comforting. It is
reassuring. It is inviting. Knowing that God is with us is challenging. It is inspiring.
The birth of the Christ Child changed the world. Each year, the world becomes new at
the Feast of the Nativity. Believers choose how to respond to this newness. Believers choose
whether to incorporate this newness into their lives.
New life in Christ establishes a course of life directed towards the heavenly Kingdom.
Life in Christ presumes fundamental decisions pleasing to Christ.
Mary sets the foremost example for believers in every century.
Matthew 2:11 - And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary
his mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasurers,
they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The visitors to Mary and the Christ Child came with gifts. Do contemporary believers
come to Christ bearing worthy gifts? Do contemporary believers come to Christ freely and
with great joy giving their best?
Do contemporary believers devote a great percentage of their talents and resources for
the glory of God? Do contemporary believers maintain this image of the wise men visiting
Mary and Jesus?
Do contempory believers see the wisdom of seeking to be in Christ's presence?
Do contemporary believers see the wisdom in studying the relationship between Jesus and Mary?
Relationships can be a problem in modern life as they were in all ages. Study of the
relationship between Jesus and Mary can be a source of learning. Believers can learn from
the relationship between Jesus and Mary and apply this learning to contemporary relationships.
Contemporary mothers must raise sons and daughters. How many contemporary mothers
beseech the Mother of God in prayer for help in raising their children?
How many contemporary mothers honor the Dormition Fast and come to church on the feasts
of the Mother of God? How many contemporary mothers have icons of the Mother of God in their
homes and know the many different prayers to the Mother of God?
Centuries have passed. Contemporary billboards can be found that read" Wise men still
seek Him!" The wisdom of seeking Christ never grows stale. Wise individuals will heed Mary
presence's in salvation history.
Individuals seeking to nourish and save their souls will be comprehensive in their
thinking. They will ponder the place of Mary in Christ's birth and in subsequent years.
Contemporary believers will ponder the miracles attributed to Mary through the centuries.
They will ponder prayers to Mary in every century. They will ponder the confidence placed by
believers in prayers to Mary.
The Holy Orthodox Church constantly refers to Mary as part of the divine services of the
Church. The Holy Orthodox Church refers to Mary in the present.
Time has not been considered to have eroded Mary's ability to intercede with her Son.
The passage of time only verifies and increases the confidence believers may have in Mary.
Matthew 13:55 - "Is this not the carpenter's Son? Is this not His mother called Mary?
And his brothers, James, Joses, Simon and Judas?"
Every person having heard of the Lord Jesus Christ has a reaction. Some embrace
Jesus Christ as King and as God. They become faithful and devout Orthodox believers.
Some are lukewarm, expressing belief in Jesus Christ as King and God but not acting in
ways consistent with the expression. Some deny the divinity of Christ. Some actively work
against Christ and persecute Christians.
Many people reverence Mary as the Mother of God. Many people view Mary in the Orthodox
context, praying to her for interecession before the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many people attribute miracles to Mary the Mother of God and to icons bearing her image.
Many people sing the music of the Church depicting Mary as the Church holds her to be.
Some individuals are critical of the Orthodox Church's view of Mary. Some individuals
go to great lengths in prayer to the Mother of God and in reverencing icons of her.
In each century, at each moment, individuals with any knowledge of the Mother of God
make determinations about her that are part of their belief systems.
The Orthodox Church places the image of the Mother of God upon the iconastasis in a place
of honor. The Orthodox Church includes extensive references to the Mother of God in the Divine
Liturgy and other daily and occasional services of the Church.
The Orthodox Church has certain services which reference the Mother of God almost
exclusively. The Akathist to the Most Holy Lady the Theotokos, the Akathist in Honor of
the Dormition of the Theotokos, the Akathist to the Theotokos, the Joy of All Who Sorrow
and the Akathist in Honor of the Kurst Root Icon of the Sign as services which focus
primarily on the Mother of God
A person would not have to look far to find other Akathists to the Mother of God
including Akathists to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, Akathist to the Mother
of God-Healer of Cancer, and Akathist to the Mother of God of the Inexhaustible Cup are
three Akathists available from the St.Paisius Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Arizona.
Orthodox believers, in the context of their minds, hearts and souls, refine and
establish the way they see Mary the Mother of God. The Orthodox Church's view of Mary
has many dimensions and expressions.
The believer need to work extensivey to attempt to master and comprehend
the wide range of information and declarations regarding Mary, Mother of God.
Luke 1:30 - The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid , Mary, for you have found favor with
Mary was chosen from all women of all centuries to be the bearer of the Christ Child.
The number of women not being chosen to bear the Christ Child is beyond human comprehension.
Mary found favor with God. This favor is recorded in Holy Scripture. This favor finds
expression in the Holy Orthodox Church in the life of believers. Parents routinely name
their daughters Mary in honor of the Mother of God.
Many Orthodox churches and chapels are dedicated to the Mother of God.
The Mother of God has a special place of honor on Mt.Athos. She is depicted in iconography
as "Abbess of Mt.Athos."
Contemporary believers have to come to terms with moral issues. Contemporary believers
have to come to terms with decadence in society. Contemporary believers have to raise children
in the midst of a diverse society.
Parents need to have examples for their children. Parents need to be able to pray in
confidence when seeking direction for the raising of children. Adults need help with
relationships that can be frayed or need renewed.
The Mother of God is an example for men and women in her purity, in her obedience,
in her unity with Christ. Men and women can turn to the Mother of God in confidence in
prayer for her intercession with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Wayward children and distressed parents can find direction and help in Akathists to the
Mother of God. Individuals with drug and alcohol problems, individuals with medical problems,
individuals grieving the loss of loved ones can turn to the Akathists of the Mother of God.
Individuals serious about prayer will pray the Akathists to the Mother of God.
Individuals serious about making changes in their lives will pray the Akathists to the
Mother of God.
Faithful Orthodox believers will experience the beauty of the Akathist services to the
Mother of God held during the course of the year. On the Fifth Friday of Great Lent, the
Akathist to the Mother of God is commonly served in Orthodox Churches.
C.Zvegintzov in the Our Mother Church wrote regarding the serving on the Akathist
the Mother of God on the Fifth Friday of Great Lent:
This was first done in Greece in thanksgiving for Our Lady's ehlp in times of trouble.
It is now held to help us keep our trust in Her, our heavenly protectress, the Mother of God.
She prays for us to Her Son to defend us not only from our earthly enemies, but in our
struggle with unseen spiritual foes."
Luke 1:41 - And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary,
that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Mary the Mother of God has lived in a particular time in a particular place. She is
identified in written documents. Her identity is preserved in the documents of the Church.
Mary is named in reference to other particular individuals in particular locations.
Individuals seeking information about Mary have points of reference to use in their research.
Individuals clarifying their understanding of Mary have many documents to go to.
Researchers will look at the liturgical texts of the Holy Orthodox Church to get an
understanding of the theological understanding of Mary.
Researchers will turn to the work of the Ecumenical Councils to get a better understanding
of Mary. Father Thomas Hopko wrote regarding the Fourth Ecumenical Council: "It affirms that
the Virgin Mary is truly Theotokos since the one born from her 'according to the flesh' in
Bethlehem, is the uncreated, divine Son of God, one of the Holy Trinity."
No substitute exists for the actual experience of praying the Akathists to the Mother of
God with great sincerity of faith. No substitute exists for praying the prayers to the Mother
of God, for hearing and reciting the troparia and kontakia to the Mother of God.
No substitute exists for entering the quiet Orthodox church or chapel and focusing
on the icons of the Mother of God with prayer, contemplation and with great reverence.
No substitute exists for being in the presence of individuals who have exerienced the
veneration of icons, coming to know that a change has taken place in them as a result.
No substitute exists for sensing the love for the Mother of God manifested by sincere
Orthodox believers. This love is realized and manifested in prayer. This life is expressed
in words, but more than in words, in bodily expression accompanying the words and reflecting
the message of the heart.
Mothers turning to the Mother of God in distress for a wayward child do so out of
desperation and with a sense of hope. Individuals afflicted with cancer, those facing
major surgery turn to the Mother of God for help, for hope, for comfort.
The Mother of God is real. The Mother of God physically existed centuries ago but
continues to be experienced by contemporary believers. The Mother of God is viewed in
the present. She is viewed as a continuing presence.
The Mother of God is not confined by the passage of centuries. Her birth is celebrated.
Her dormition is commemorated.
Luke 2:19 - But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Mary had much to consider in her heart. She had experiences with other individuals and
their relationships with Jesus that certainly would affect her. Mary had experiences with
Jesus Christ that would affect her as a Mother.
The hearts of believers are affected by their relationship with Jesus Christ. A war exists
in the hearts of believers for dominance. Will Jesus dominate the heart of the believer?
Will the life contrary to Christ dominate the heart of the believer?
Will the believer think about Mary and the heart of Mary? Will the believer think about
the mind of Mary and joy she experienced? Will the believer think about the anguish Mary
would face knowing that Jesus' life was threatened?
Will the believer take time to think about the comprehensive picture of Mary developing
through the centuries, but never completed? Will the believer have a simplistic view of Mary
based in minimal experience?
Will the believer devote serious thought to Mary and the cumulative influence she has
had? Will the believer be able to separate fact from legend, fact from fiction, fact from
distortion regarding Mary?
Will the believer be able to separate Orthodox beliefs from non-Orthodox beliefs? What is
the cumulative conscious experience of the Orthodox believer with Mary the Mother of God?
How many books or articles has the average Orthodox believer read regarding the Mother of
God? How many minutes, hours or days per year does the average Orthodox believer consciously
think about the Mother of God or participate in services that are specific to the Mother of God?
How many Orthodox believers attend every Divine Liturgy served during the course of the
year for Feasts of the Mother of God? How many believers in the average parish are in
attendance on the Feasts of the Nativity of the Mother of God, Presentation in the Temple,
the Meeting of the Lord, Annunciation, Dormition, Protection of the Mother of God and the
Synaxis of the Mother of God?
What impact occurs as a result of the believers faithfully coming to the Divine Liturgy
on the Feasts of the Mother of God? The prayers are far reaching. In some parishes, in some
monasteries, on the feasts of the Mother of God, large overflowing numbers of people are in
attendance. They are memorable occasions having effects well beyond the individuals in
Orthodox believers are charged with viewing the Mother of God consistent with the
position of the Holy Orthodox Church. Orthodox worship, Orthodox prayers, Orthodox
iconography, Orthodox teachings regarding the Mother of God are to be with the balance
and understanding known as accepted practice and thought of the Church.
John 19:26 - When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He love standing by,
He said to His mother, 'Woman, behold your son!'
Mary stood at the foot of the Cross. She had the full and direct view of Jesus Christ
being crucified. She had the experience of the Lord Jesus Christ expressing words of care
In this pivotal moment in history, Jesus Christ took time to care for His Mother.
Jesus showed that even in times of personal suffering, care for one's mother is important.
The relationship between mother and child is unlike any other relationship. Not all
relationships between mother and child are loving relationships. Anyone familiar with the
work of family courts, child welfare, or the criminal justice system will quickly learn of
abuse, abandonment, extreme punishment, neglect and assaults perpetrated by a minority of
mothers upon a minority of children.
The Lord Jesus Christ said:"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to
sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned
in the depth of the sea." (Mt.18:6)
Jesus' care for children is well expressed in the Holy Gospel. Jesus said: "Let the little
children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
Mary the Mother of God was with Jesus Christ from the time of the birth of the Christ
Child until the time of the Crucifixion. Mary was with the Lord Jesus Christ at the time of
His physical entry into this world in human flesh until the time of His death upon the Cross.
Mary the Mother of God is depicted in the icons of the Holy Ascension
of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When a child departs this life before a parent, the order of life is different than is
normally expected. Believers await the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Believers
await the glorious Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mary the Mother of God had much to ponder when she was approached and told she would
give birth. Mary the Mother of God had much to ponder when she gave birth. Mary had much
to ponder when she saw Jesus Christ upon the Cross.
The Holy Gospel preserves the words of the Lord Jesus Christ to His mother from the Cross.
Do believers take time to think about Jesus on the Cross and the care Jesus demonstrated
for His mother? Do believers think about Jesus Christ upon the Cross and the effect the
Crucifixion had upon Mary.
Mary the Mother of God deserves the careful thought of Orthodox believers.
Back to St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Carmichaels
- Home Page