In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

As I was thinking this week about the feast that we celebrated yesterday, the Dormition of the Theotokos, the question that I naturally thought of was, ‘what is the place of the Theotokos is the Church?’ There are many different angles that you can take to look at this question, from historical to popular piety to the feasts of the Church. But I think that we have the simplest and most direct answer demonstrated by the two icons in the center of the Temple – the icon of the Dormition and the icon of Christ “Not Made By Hands.” The Mother of God, from her birth and her life, to her death and even now after her death, the place of the Theotokos is the Church is pointing mankind to Christ.

Like any of the Saints, we remember the Theotokos not in and of herself, we remember her in relationship to Christ. The Gospel that we read for all of the Feasts of the Mother God spells it out – she has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her. And the Gospel ends with the words, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it. From her very childhood, the Theotokos hears the word of God and keeps it. Her image for us is incredibly powerful – as an image of what we are all called to be in Christ. From her birth, she was part of God’s plan – we sing at the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos that she was born to be the Mother of the Messiah, the Mother of God. We’re all born with this potential, to be a part of the greater plan of God for the salvation of the world. The difference is that we often make choices that alienate us from God, choices that move us outside of the will of God. The Virgin Mary conforms her will always to the will of God. We hymn her as being most pure and without sin – she was born with the inheritance of ancestral sin like any other human being (death), but she never submitted her will to evil. She lived a normal human life without sin, always in the will of God.

At the Annunciation we see the Archangel Gabriel announcing that she would be the mother of the Messiah, and we praise her for this honor constantly in the hymnography of her feasts. But the announcement of the Archangel is not what defines the relationship of Mary to Christ – God chooses her as His mother because of her relationship with Him. She’s not holy because she was the Mother of Christ – she was chosen to be His Mother because she was holy. We see this dynamic in the lives of all of the Saints – and if we take the words of the Prophet Jeremiah, that he was called even from his mother’s womb, if he chose a path that took him away from God, that calling would be of no effect. Our will and our actions have to meet God’s calling. We are baptized into the Body of Christ – but if we turn away from this great grace, then it doesn’t help us, if anything, having the call and turning from us is for our damnation.

The Theotokos stands out in history as the one person [outside of Christ] who did exactly what we are created to do – she lived in Christ at every moment of her life. And that the Theotokos has such a highly exhalted place in the Church is no surprise – when we look at Christ people often make the very human excuse, sure He perfect because He was God. But in the Theotokos we don’t have that rational – she was like us in every way, yet she lived a life that entirely directed to her God. She would take no honor of herself – in the early Church she doesn’t come out as a leader because she was the mother of Christ – she stays mostly in the background, in prayer and in support of the faithful. She points all of the praise and the honor and the glory to Christ.

Friday night, in the Lamentations before the Tomb of the Theotokos, we praised her for the great gift that she was given, to be the mother of God. To carry the Creator of all in her womb, to nurse him, to raise him. But our praise never stops there – it’s always put in the perspective of why she was chosen. She gave everything she was to God. She grew up in the Temple, living a life of prayer and fasting and virginity. She intended her entire life to be dedicated to God, she wanted nothing else. And God was able to take her humble offering, and do something great with it, something that changed the course of human history.

More than anything else, the Mother God points us to Christ by her life. We all face a myriad of choices every day – and every choice can have only two outcomes – drawing us closer to Christ, or leading us away from Christ. If our choices lead us away from God, we have Judas as our example – moving away from God leads us only to death. But the Theotokos shows us that not only should we constantly choose Christ –which we know – she shows us that we can. We can lay aside all earthly cares, as we’ll sing in a few minutes at the Cherubic Hymn. We can choose good, and truth, and beauty – we can choose Christ every moment of every day. But it takes a radical dedication to Christ – look at how the Mother of God lived – she grew up in the temple, in prayer and praising God and in intercession and supplication. Everything in her life was centered on God, and every moment was given to Him. Every decision, every action, was weighed in the light of God. That’s the dedication we have to live with as Christians. One of the desert Fathers said this, and I’d like to end with it – If a man wills it, he can attain to the measure of God this day. If our will is there, like we see in the life of the Theotokos, we can be perfected in Christ even today.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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