No woman in history is more misunderstood than the Holy Virgin Mary. The Reverend Billy Graham once said, “We evangelical Christians do not give Mary her proper due.” However, Saint Mary receives her “proper due” within the Orthodox faith.
St. Mary is the greatest woman that ever lived. She was chosen by the Father to bear His Only-Begotten Son, gave birth to the Savior of the world, and was the first person in history to receive Christ as her Savior. Consequently, she is our model of obedience and submission; of purity and holiness; of humility and royalty.
In the fourth century, when a heretic named Nestorious claimed that Jesus was a man but not God, the Church defended the divinity of Christ and insisted that Mary be referred to as the “Theotokos” (Greek for God-bearer) to safeguard the full deity of Christ.
We also believe that the Virgin Mary is the Ever-Virgin. The Church Fathers repeatedly refer to the prophesy of this: “The gate will be shut and it will not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.” (Ezekiel 44:1-2). The interpretation of the Church fathers generally that Mary is the Temple, Christ is the Prince of Peace, and the gate is Mary’s womb through which Christ entered into the world. This interpretation is shared by the great majority of the Church fathers, as well as the Reformation Leaders such as Martin Luther.[quote style=”boxed”]“The gate will be shut and it will not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.” (Ezekiel 44:1-2).[/quote]
The Coptic Church venerates the Virgin Mary, though worship belongs to God alone. God, the angels, and mankind all venerated Saint Mary. God, through Archangel Gabriel; and St. Elizabeth, declared to her “Blessed are you among women.” (Luke 1:28, 42). St. Mary herself declared, “henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:48). Thus, our church fulfills this commandment and example by offering the voice of sweet praises and hymns to our Lady, the Virgin Mary.
When Christians depart this life, they remain a vital part of the Church, the body of Christ. They are alive in the Lord, are “registered in heaven.” (Revelation 4:10), and inhabit His heavenly dwelling places (John 14:2). They are the “great cloud of witnesses” which surrounds us; we seek to imitate them in running the “race set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1).