Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church in Oakmont, PA

August: The Month of Mary

August is the month when the Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Dormition, which, of course, is the name day of our parish. Our website will honor this occasion by devoting our Orthodox Tidbit section to the Theotokos for the entire month of August, featuring different writings about her each week.

Orthodox Christians honor Mary in many ways, first of all in the variety of ways in which we refer to her. Theototoks literally means "God-bearer" and that Mary is the Mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ. She is also referred to by the Orthodox Church as Aiparthenos or "Ever-virgin" and Panagia or "all holy." Some even refer to her as the "Queen of Heaven." Sadly, aside from our Catholic brethren, few — if any — contemporary Christians today give Mary the honor and veneration that she truly deserves. Indeed, Elizabeth blessed Mary when she said," Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." (Luke: 1:42). Moreover, Mary prophesied her honor for all eternity when she said," ......For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed." (Luke: 1:48). It raises the question, as our Orthodox Study Bible notes, of how anyone can truly say they are a "Bible-believing Christian" who obeys the Bible, if they do not bless the Mother of God.

Theotokos We begin this series with two articles from the Very Rev. Peter E. Gillquist, of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. The first is a brief, introductory explanation of why the Orthodox venerate Mary, taken from Father Gillquist's booklet "Making America Orthodox," (Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1984) which answered ten major questions that Protestant Evangelicals have concerning Orthodoxy. It is followed by a link to a lengthy article, also by Fr. Gillquist, "Facing Up to Mary," which provides a most thorough and qualified understanding of this important and vital part of our Orthodox Christian Tradition.

3. The Orthodox Church is preoccupied with Mary

Question in response: Do you have a moment to turn to the New Testament and see what God says about our attitude towards Mary? Let's begin in Luke chapter 1.

a. In Luke 1:42, 43, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, calls Mary "blessed," and "the mother of my Lord." Can we make the same confession? For centuries, the church with one voice has called Mary the mother of God. If God was not in her womb, we are dead in our sins. By this we mean she was not the mother of the Godhead, but the mother of God the Son. She is Theotokos, God-bearer.

b. Not only did Elizabeth call her blessed, Mary herself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, predicts, "All generations will call me blessed" (Luke: 1:48). This is Biblical prophecy. Tragically, our generation has forgotten her prophetic word. Orthodox Christians are careful to bless her in order to obey God and fulfill His holy words.

c. Note: we do not worship Mary. Worship is reserved only for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But we do honor and venerate her as the Scriptures teach.

d. It is important to secure Mary's identity as the mother of God not to unduly glorify her, but rather to protect the identity of her holy Son.

e. In an overreaction against Rome, Protestantism has seriously ignored Mary. The Orthodox Church, on the other hand, has carefully maintained the Biblical injunction to call her blessed, while making the Holy Trinity the sole object of Christian worship.

Facing up to Mary:

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