“God of all things, having known in advance your worth, loved you; and because of this love, he predestined you, and at the end of times he brought you into being and revealed you as Theotokos”

O ever-virginal little daughter who needed no man to conceive! He who has an eternal Father was borne in the womb by you! O earth-born little daughter who carried the Creator in your God-bearing arms! the ages competed as to which one would be exalted by your birth, but God’s will, which had been determined beforehand, defeated the competition of the ages—God having created the ages [in any case]—and the last became first and were in happy possession of your nativity. Truly you became more precious than the whole of creation. For from you alone the Maker received a share, [that is], the first-fruit of our dough. For his flesh is from your flesh, and his blood is from your blood, and God suckled milk from your breasts, and your lips were united with the lips of God. O incomprehensible and ineffable matters! God of all things, having known in advance your worth, loved you; and because of this love, he predestined you, and “at the end of times” he brought you into being and revealed you as Theotokos, Mother, and Nurse of his own Son and Word. . . .

“A luxuriant vine” has sprouted from Anna and bloomed with a cluster of grapes of sweetness, a drink of nectar for those who dwell on earth which wells up into eternal life. Joachim and Anna have sown in themselves [a source] leading to righteousness and harvested a fruit of life. They have illumined in themselves a light of knowledge and have sought out their Lord; and an offspring of righteousness has come to them. Let the earth and children of Zion take courage! “Rejoice in the Lord your God” since “a wilderness has budded”; a barren woman has born her fruit! Joachim and Anna, like spiritual mountains, “have dropped sweetness.” Be glad, most blessed Anna, for you have born a female [child]. This female [child] will be Mother of God, gateway of light and source of life, and she will do away with the accusation against the female sex. “The rich of the people shall supplicate the person” of this female. Kings of nations will venerate this female, offering gifts. You will lead this female to God, the Universal King, as if “robed in golden-tasselled garments,” which are the well-ordered comeliness of her virtues, and adorned in the grace of the Spirit whose glory is within. For whereas the husband who comes from outside represents the glory of every woman, the glory of the 4eotokos is from within, [since it is] the fruit of her womb.

O desired and thrice-blessed female! “Blessed are you among woman and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” O female, daughter and mother of the King, daughter of King David and Mother of God, the Universal King. O divine, living image in whom God the Creator has rejoiced, possessing a mind which is governed by God and which is devoted to God alone, whose whole aspiration has been directed towards that which alone is desirable and worthy of love and whose anger is directed only against sin and against him who engendered it, [offering] a life that is better than [human] nature! For you did not live for yourself, just as you were not born for your own sake. Hence you lived for God, on whose account you have come into life, in order that you may assist in the salvation of the whole world, [and] in order that the ancient plan of God for the incarnation of the Word and for our deification may be fulfilled through you. [Your] appetite is to feed on the divine words and to be fattened on them, like “a fruitful olive in the house of God,” like a “tree planted by the streams of waters”  of the Spirit, like a tree of life, which gave its fruit at the time predetermined by God, [fruit which is] the incarnate God, the eternal life of all things. You draw on every thought that is nourishing and useful for the soul, but you reject every one that is superfluous and harmful for the soul before even tasting it. Your eyes are “continually before the Lord,” seeing eternal and unapproachable light. Your ears hear the divine words and delight in the harp of the Spirit; through them the Word entered that he might become flesh. Your nostrils are charmed with the scent of the Bridegroom’s ointments, who is himself a divine ointment which is willingly poured out to anoint his own humanity, for “Your name is ointment poured out,” says Scripture. Your lips praise the Lord and are attached to his lips. Your tongue and throat discern the words of God and are filled with divine sweetness. Your heart is pure and unblemished, seeing and desiring the unseen God.

A womb in which the Uncontained dwelt and breasts of milk from which God, the little child Jesus, was nourished! Ever-virginal gateway of God! Hands which carried God and knees, a throne that is higher than the cherubim, through which “weak hands and feeble knees” were strengthened! Feet which were guided by the law of God as by a lamp of light, and which run behind him without turning back until they have drawn the beloved One back to the one who loves him. Her whole being is the bridal chamber of the Spirit; her whole being is a city of the living God which “the flowings of the river gladden”; [that is] floods of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. She is “all fair,” entirely the “companion” of God. For she who was raised above the cherubim and the seraphim, as a transcendent being, was called “companion of God.”

O marvel above all marvels! A woman has become higher than the seraphim since God has been seen “made a little less than angels”! Let the most wise Solomon be silent and let him not say, “Here is nothing new under the sun.” O Virgin full of divine grace, holy temple of God which the Spiritual Solomon, Prince of Peace, constructed and inhabited; you are not adorned with gold and lifeless stones, but in place of gold you shine with the Spirit. Instead of precious stones you have Christ, “the pearl above price,” the coal of divinity. Beg that it may touch our lips so that purified, we may praise him together with the Father and the Spirit, crying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts!” one divine nature in three hypostases.

Holy God: who is Father, well pleased in you you and in the accomplishment from you of the mystery which he had determined before the ages. Holy, Strong: the Son of God and Only-begotten God, who has brought you forth today as first-born from a barren mother in order that, since he himself is Only-begotten from the Father and “First-born of all creation,” he might be born from you a virgin mother as only son, “first-born among many brethren,” like us since he partook of flesh and blood from you. But he did not bring you forth from a father or from a mother alone, in order that to the Only-begotten alone should be reserved [the title] of Only-begotten in every way: for he alone is Only-begotten from the Father alone and alone [born] from a mother alone. Holy Immortal: the all-holy Spirit, who with his own divine dew kept you unharmed from the divine fire. For this is what the bush of Moses hinted at in advance.

St John of Damascus

 

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7 Responses to “God of all things, having known in advance your worth, loved you; and because of this love, he predestined you, and at the end of times he brought you into being and revealed you as Theotokos”

  1. Again, much as I love this post. I have to kick back against this veneration of Mary, this time with Jesus words Himself. One of the churches issues is the obsession with Mary. If she were here she would point the finger at Jesus! It’s not about her. It’s about Him. And this veneration of her is in danger of pointing to her! Not Him. What made Mary blessed was not who she was. It was her obedience to God! That is why she was blessed. So, this is what Jesus had to say when a woman said how venerated His mother should be! Luke 11 v 27 As Yeshua was saying these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice to call out, “How blessed is the mother that gave birth to you and nursed you from her breast!” 28 But he said, “Far more blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”Complete Jewish Bible.

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    • brian says:

      Well, the veneration of Mary is key to recognizing the theophanic dimension of creation. Moreover, the Marian assent to Incarnation is the great yes of created being to the love of the Creator. It is the most important decision on the side of mere creatures ever enacted to subvert the diabolic contagion of death. I suspect your interpretation is deaf to the analogic depths contained in the infinite plenitude of the scriptures. Anyway, folks are aware of the incident you highlight. The same ecclesial authority that included it in the canon of scripture thought it right to contemplate the wondrous beauty of the Theotokos.

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      • Possibly. I am still learning. But I would see it as yes, you are totally right, it was Mary’s obedience that was a yes. But we all still have to say a yes. And although I revere Mary for her obedience, I will not go further. But Father Al has kindly given me some things to read. To help my understanding. So. I am going to read them before I say any more!

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Why think that the veneration of the Theotokos in anyway detracts from the worship and adoration of Jesus? If you were to attend the Divine Liturgy at your local Orthodox parish, you would see that that is most certainly not the case.

      We venerate the Blessed Virgin and invoke her intercessions precisely because she is the most-holy Mother of the incarnate Word whose fiat made possible the salvation of all humanity. We venerate her because Jesus loves her with the love of a son. We venerate her because she is the Mother of the Church, the body of Christ. And we invoke her prayers because her risen son, the Son, has raised her from death and exalted her as Queen of Heaven. And so we sing:

      It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, without defilement you gave birth to God the Word. True Theotokos we magnify you!

      There is no competition between the Holy Trinity and the Theotokos.

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      • Hi Father Al, Thankyou for taking the time to reply. I appreciate that. I am not orthodox at all! Although I am deeply interested. I am just a follower of Christ. Coming out of Deep Calvinism. With a Pentecostal evangelical background. I do not mean to offend. I get fed up. Of people saying how holy she is, and how we should pray to Mary…..A family member being a Catholic…..does not help……about the reverence Mary is given, when Jesus clearly tells us it is obedience that is more important. I get your point. But even if she had not given her Fiat, someone would, and we would be saying the same about them. I guess it comes across that way to me, that Orthodox and Catholic seem to worship her and I have an issue with that. But it could be, with orthodox at least, I am jumping ahead into something I know nothing about! And am reading it wrongly. But when I hear the words, ‘most holy mother,’ it makes me cringe. Not because we should not be respectful, nor even that we should not honour (as I said I truly do see your point) but because we are making her, or at least in danger of making her, higher than any other human being. And I have a real issue with that. Where are we told in the bible, Jesus made her queen of heaven? I have never read that! Where does he say pray to her? He does not! He tells us to pray to His Father! After all why go second best?! And if we are all his brothers and sisters, as He himself says, techniquely speaking, I see the point she could be seen as the spiritual mother. But I truly do not think Jesus would see her that way. We came out of the side of the pierced CHRIST, as I understand it. It is HE who is both our mother and father. (Spiritually speaking, certainly!) As for Jesus, yes, for a time He was her Son. But He is always begotten of the Father, so techniquely He needs no mother, the mother was for us, not Him, in that we needed a Saviour. And He chose to relate to us through our form. And He came to be with us as we are. So yes, he needed human birth in that sense. But He appeared in human form before then. Even tho, He needed a human body to die. Even then, I am still not convinced that means Mary is elevated above all others. No where does the Bible says she is. And when others try to elevate her, as in the verse I gave, Jesus makes it clear that’s not so! I guess I am trying to say, to raise up any human is to do what Jesus does not do. Have hierarchy. The only hierarchy, if one is going to argue this way, would be the disciples. But Jesus would then say, no! They are not the top, but the bottom! The very foundational wall of the human body of Christ. The feet upon which we are all standing. As He is the head. If that be the case to argue that way, Mary would be the earth under them! (Not in any sense disrespectful, but because CHRIST Himself said the disciples were the twelve stones upon which He would build His church. (And she cannot be stone, as THEY are the foundational bottom stones…..so she then would be the world beneath them…..) In any case to claim a heavenly hierarchy means it would works upside down, not downside up! Even then, with Mary as the earth foundation; that makes no sense. And I would argue the following; God alone is our salvation and rock. I would say the disciples foundation itself is also CHRIST! It cannot be human kind. I would go further and say CHRIST has no favourites, at least biblically we are taught God does not have them! That we are all the same. So that even Mary, much loved and revered is still the same as us all. I agree we are all higher than the angels; God lives in us and not them! Not even the mightiest of them! So all of us are in that bracket. So although I do understand reverence and respect to Mary, I do think we have to be careful not to elevate ANYONE. And giving her the title of ‘Queen of Heaven’ goes too far, far to far, as I see it. And Mary needed saving as much as anyone else. And we are told it’s by faith no one can boast. I guess it’s seeing her as Honoured not worshipped. Blessed but not God. I can do that. It’s the praying to her I find difficult, she is just a person. And to revere her puts us in danger of saying she is higher than the rest. And if we regard her as higher, (Queen of heaven) we are then we are saying there is a level of human higher than the rest. Magnifying belongs to God alone.
That’s how I view it. Although, I am open to change. Hope this makes sense!

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      • I just say your link and reply to my last post! So I will read it. Thankyou so much for helping me learn and sharing it! Maybe I will have a different view!

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  2. Jonathan Geltner says:

    I love this. I wish I had more time to read things like this. The last line reminds me of Bulgakov’s book, The Burning Bush.

    At the risk of airing more of my possibly irritating But-It’s-All-Poetry! view of life (outside of a post actually about genuine poetry), I will say that I like the language of the immaculate conception. It’s mysterious, intriguing, and it has good style. I don’t care too much about the logic of it, the “scandal of particularity.” Or rather, I like the scandal of particularity. It makes life interesting. Sometimes, I think, if we follow the logic of theology too far, we end up feeling obliged to wish for a world that no one would in fact want to live in, a blessedness that is utterly boring.

    For me, well, I guess I’m a modern or postmodern or maybe I just read a bit of Wittgenstein once upon a time, but anyway I don’t read “Mary Immaculate” as a metaphysical proposition. I read it as doxology, a certain “language game” you could even say–provided one understands game and play as holy. Simply, it’s a way of praising Mary as unique among creatures. We live in language. Language comes first, it is more than us, it leads us. Marian doxology, up to and including the language of immaculateness, is a particular discourse or mode of speech which seems to have evolved very naturally out of the main older forms of Christianity. I cherish it as a poetry for its own sake. If I have to give a quasi-intellectual, extrinsic reason for cherishing it, for placing an especially high value on prayers like the rosary or the Stabat Mater and many others, I would say that Marian devotion is and will always remain a mystery, that it points to truths we can only begin to glimpse in this life. In that haphazard glimpsing we will no doubt hit upon language which is not always perfectly “accurate”… yet the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

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