The Mother of God
Orthodox services refer to the Theotokos as 'our all-Holy, pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary'
'All-Holy' - Παναγία - This title is used as she is indeed the supreme example to us all, of cooperation between God and the free will of man. It is through her that Christ entered the world.
'Pure' - Mary fell asleep in the Lord, without having committed any sin, through God's Grace. However, at the same time it is important to remember that we cannot separate the Virgin Mary from the rest of mankind. She was brought into this world like any other human being ( unlike the Roman Catholic doctrine of the immaculate conception ), and it is certainly for this reason that she is an example and a guide for us all. Out of her own freedom, she chose to accept and follow God's will, just as we are asked to do so. We revere and honour Mary as she was ( and is ) the closest person to our Lord, and she remained by His side until His death and glorious resurrection.
'Most blessed and glorious Lady' - Orthodox Christianity highlights that when we venerate, pray to, and give thanks to the Theotokos we are in fact doing so to the One to whom she gave birth. 'God became what we are, that we might become what He is.' ( Athanasius the Great ) This is exactly what we contemplate and give thanks for, when we venerate and remember the blessed Virgin Mary. She is for this reason above all the Saints ( 'All-Holy' ) We simply cannot believe in the incarnation and not honour and venerate her. The Mother of God points us to the mystery of the incarnation - Christ Himself.
'Ever-Virgin Mary' - As the very dwelling place of Christ, Mary became and remained 'All-Holy' and immaculate throughout her life. Her womb was the temple of life itself - Christ. The Ancient Christian teaching has always affirmed that the Theotokos remained a virgin, and it is only till recent years that a number of protestant churches oppose this scriptural view. The early Church and the fathers highlight this :
*Saint Ambrose of Milan - 'The Virgin did not seek consolation of bearing another child.'
*Hippolytus, one of the most important witnesses as to how the early Church worshipped - 'The Creator of all things incorporated with Himself a rational soul and a sensible body from the all-holy Mary, ever-virgin, by an undefiled conception, without conversion, and was made man in nature...the same was perfect God and the same was perfect man.'
*St Ephrem (4th century ) - 'Some dare to claim that Mary became fully Joseph's wife after the Saviour's birth. How could she who was the dwelling place of the Spirit, who was overshadowed by the divine power, ever become the wife of a mortal and bear children in pain..'
*Second council of Constantinople - 'If anyone shall not confess that the Word of God has two nativities, the one from all eternity of the Father, without time and without body; the other in these last days, coming down from Heaven and being made flesh of the holy and glorious Mary, Mother of God and always a virgin, and born of her: let him be anathema.'
The Holy Virgin was the vessel of the Lord of Glory, and bore in the flesh He whom heaven and earth cannot contain. Her blessed body and whole being was truly bound to God, and God alone. ( Ezekiel 44 comes to mind)
Prophecies in the Old Testament - Part 2
*'Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call him Immanuel.' ( Isaiah 7:14)
*'And the Ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the Lord blessed...'( 2 Samuel 6:11) Orthodox Christianity teaches that Mary is indeed a type of the new Ark.
* Psalm 45 depicts Christ as King, and Mary at His side as queen. 'At your right hand stands the queen in gold.'
* This idea of Mary being the queen of heaven is continued: 'And the King said to her, make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you.' ( interceding to Christ our Lord )