January 27th, 2006


This weekend, global events, Mary

We’ve reached Friday, haven’t we? We awoke early to attend matins. We went out for tea and coffee with a priest and a quiet choir lady and an old and gentle Serbian man. We drove to work. I left the car, no longer a ‘we’ but now an ‘I’.

And what of this weekend? We’ll visit an old bookstore in an old church full of old books. A Saturday service and a Sunday morning service (we go to a lot of church).

I’m reading through three short stories of Oscar Wilde’s. I am looking for a CD to purchase. I am working out the existential meaning of my very existence…I think that it might be found in livejournal posts. Ha!

Some interesting things that are occurring in the world:
-Hamas was elected among the Palestinians: somewhere in the sky, the god of democracy is chuckling.
-Samuel Alito is on his way to confirmation: not too surprising.
-Canada elects the Tories: hurrah?
-Seattle and Pittsburgh in the Superbowl: Go Seahawks! My northwestern brethren!

Okay, enough social commentary.

Perhaps the greatest hurdle that was met on my journey to Orthodoxy was the veneration of Mary, the Theotokos (Greek for “The birth-giver of God”). In light of Christian history, that difficulty with Mary is a novelty, it would be an alien thing to most of the professed Christians of the last 2,000 years. Until the Reformation of the 16th century, honoring Mary was a Christian norm. It was in the Protestant Reformation, largely due in a sincere reaction to the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church, that Mary was suddenly cut out of the picture – though certainly not by Martin Luther himself, who held her in highest esteem and preached her ever-virginity.

But it is a strange journey for someone in a tradition 500 years removed from Mary to suddenly be confronted by her. It is like meeting a relative you’d always known about but had largely ignored, only to find out how important she was to the larger part of your family. Anyhow, it’s all too deep to get into on this electronic contraption, but I’m going to post some thoughts that dawned on me on my walk home last night:

When God descended on Mt. Zion, His presence made it a most holy place; a place unapproachable to all but God’s chosen servant Moses. When God came to dwell on the Ark of the Covenant, only the high priest could approach, and even then in fear of the holiness of that place. God’s presence in the burning bush turned middle-eastern dirt into sacred soil.

Wherever God chose to manifest himself physically there was holiness and utter sanctification. And God was never more physically in a place than in the place of Mary’s womb. Is is suprising that the great host of Church Fathers considered her to have been changed? How could she not have been sanctified by His grace into a most pure and holy place?

With this thought in mind it is easy to see why she has been honored by the Christian Church for ages. We can also understand why the Church has known that Joseph chose not to have any normal martial relations with her after Christ’s birth, for if anything the Jews had a sense of the Holiness of the temple of God – the place in which God dwells.

And not only should this lead us to a spirit of reverence, but also a spirit of inspiration. For Mary was the first among many millions to become the temple of the living God. Christ longs to dwell in us and He never dwelt more fully in any other than in the one called the Theotokos. She is our example of what humanity’s response to God should be: obedience which leads to the indwelling of Christ.