The Holy Virgin St. Mary had certain characteristics, which makes her the model for all of us. She was the first one to receive Christ, and has become the model of what we can become in Christ. In the midst of our troubled world, St. Mary offers us the personification of humanity saying “Yes” to God; she stands as the greatest example of humanity’s free response to God’s offer of salvation. St. Mary reveals to us that the world was not meant to be meaningless and problematic, but was meant to be communion with God. God does not force His will on us and He certainly did not force His will on St. Mary. But her response to God was, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) The Blessed Virgin is our connection to humanity at its best and purest forms. Thus, she is not just a representative of women before God, but she is the icon of all mankind responding to God.
The proper title the Church gives her is “The Theotokos”, i.e. God-bearer, because the One she bore in her womb was the eternal God; our Lord Jesus Christ assumed His human flesh from the Blessed Virgin. This is what the Archangel Gabriel told St. Mary, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) Thus she played a pivotal role in God’s divine plan for our salvation, which is the heart of our Christian faith. Refusal to honor the Theotokos denotes incomplete faith in the mystery of the incarnation of God the Word. The titles given to the Holy Theotokos protect the correct doctrine about Christ.
The Holy Virgin is venerated because of the Son and never apart from Him. We, as Orthodox Christians, honor St. Mary in icons, hymns, and special feasts. Because of her role in God’s plan of salvation and because of her character, we appropriately venerate her as the first among the saints. When we celebrate feasts of the Mother of God, we are actually celebrating facts of what our lives become in Christ through the Holy Spirit. All of us have Christ in us by the Holy Spirit; all of us are temples of God, and all of us will share in the eternal Kingdom of God if we live the life of purity and holiness, which St. Mary lived. Therefore, everything that is praised and glorified in the Holy Virgin is what is offered to all of us in the life of the Church. In the Feast of the Assumption, we celebrate not only the commemoration of the assumption of her body to heaven, but the blessedness of humanity in the victorious Christ. St. Mary’s fate is the destiny of all those whose souls magnify the Lord, whose spirits rejoice in God, whose lives are totally dedicated to hearing and keeping the word of God, and who freely and completely acquiesce their will to God by seeking the Kingdom. All of us are called to be saints and to emulate the Blessed Virgin so that we can become by grace what God is by nature or as St. Peter says, “may be partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Pet. 2:4) This is also what we pray in the Theotokia of Friday when we say, “He took what is ours and gave what is His.”
We are grateful that “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” (Heb. 12:1) with the Holy Virgin at their head. We know we are not alone in our journey towards the Kingdom, but are supported by the prayers of the saints and most of all the intercessions of the Holy Virgin. Those who refuse her prayers and intercessions are poor souls, who do not know what they are missing!