Home Message of the Month Orthodox Links Prophecies Life of St. POIMEN About Our Brotherhood
Receive Our Periodical Order Orthodox Homilies / PublicationsContact Us
MESSAGE OF THE MONTH
On the Holy Mother of God
By Elder Sophrony, from “Saint Silouan the Athonite,” St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY (1999), pp. 390-393.
When the soul abides in the love of God—how good and gracious and festive all things are! But even with God’s love, sorrows continue and the greater the love, the greater the sorrow. Never by a single thought did the Mother of God sin, nor did she ever lose grace, yet vast were her sorrows; when she stood at the foot of the Cross her grief was as boundless as the ocean and her soul knew torment incomparably worse than Adam’s when he was driven from Paradise, in that the measure of her love was beyond compare greater than the love which Adam felt when he was in Paradise. That she remained alive was only because the Lord’s might sustained her, for it was His desire that she should behold His Resurrection, and live on after His Ascension to be the comfort and joy of the Apostles and the new Christian peoples.
We cannot attain to the full love of the Mother of God, and so we cannot thoroughly comprehend her grief. Her love was complete. She had an unlimited love for God and her Son but she loved the people, too, with a great love. What, then, must she have felt when those same people whom she loved so dearly, and whose salvation she desired with all her being, crucified her beloved Son? We cannot fathom such things, since there is little love in us for God and man. Just as the love of the Mother of God is boundless and passes our understanding, so is her grief boundless and beyond our understanding.
holy Virgin Mary, tell us, thy children, of thy love on earth for thy Son and
Tell us how thy spirit rejoiced in God thy Saviour.
Tell us of how thou didst look upon His fair countenance, and reflect that this was He Whom all the heavenly hosts wait upon in awe and love.
Tell us what thy soul felt when thou didst bear the wondrous Babe in thine arms.
Tell us of how thou didst rear Him, how, sick at heart, thou and Joseph sought Him three long days in Jerusalem.
Tell us of thine agony when the Lord was delivered up to be crucified, and lay dying on the Cross.
Tell us what joy was thine over the Resurrection.
Tell us how thy soul languished after the Lord’s Ascension.
We long to know of thy life on earth with the Lord but thou was not minded to commit all these things to writing, and didst veil thy secret heart in silence.
Many are the marvels and mercies that I have witnessed at the hands of the Lord and of the Mother of God but there is naught I can render in return for this love of theirs.
What could I give our most holy sovereign Lady for coming to me and bringing enlightenment, instead of turning away in loathing for my sin? I did not behold her with my eyes but the Holy Spirit gave me to know her through her words, which were filled with grace, and my spirit rejoices and my soul leaps to her in love, so that the mere invocation of her name is sweet to my heart.
Once, when I was a young novice, I was praying before an icon of the Mother of God, and the Jesus Prayer entered into my heart and there began to repeat itself of its own accord. Moreover, another time in church I was listening to a reading from the prophet Isaiah, and at the words, Wash you, make you clean, (Isa 1:16), I reflected, “Maybe the Mother of God sinned at one time or another, if only in thought.” And, marvelous to relate, in unison with my prayer a voice sounded in my heart, saying clearly, The Mother of God never sinned, even in thought. Thus did the Holy Spirit bear witness in my heart to her purity. However, during her earthly life, even she was not quite perfect and complete—she did make some “mistakes” that did not involve sin. We can see this from the Gospel when on the return from Jerusalem she did not know where her Son was, and together with Joseph sought Him for three days: And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple. (Lk 2:44-46).
My soul trembles and is afraid when I consider the glory of the Mother of God.
Small and of no account is my mind, poor and sickly my heart, but my soul rejoices and would fain set down if but a little concerning her.
My soul fears to touch upon this matter but love constrains me not to conceal my thankfulness for her compassion.
The Mother of God committed to writing neither her thoughts nor her love for God and her Son, nor her soul’s suffering at the Crucifixion, because in any case we could not have understood, for her love for God is stronger and more ardent than the love of the Seraphim and Cherubim, and all the hosts of angels and archangels marvel at her.
And though the life of the Mother of God is hidden, as it were in a holy silence, our Lord allows our Orthodox Church to know that she embraces the whole world in this love of hers, and in the Holy Spirit sees all the peoples of the earth, and like her Son pities all men and has compassion on them.
O, if we might only know the love of the most holy Mother of God for all who keep the commandments of Christ, and how she pities and sorrows over sinners who do not reform! I had experience of this myself. Of a truth I say, speaking before God, Whom my soul knoweth: in spirit I know the Most Pure Virgin. I never beheld her but the Holy Spirit gave me to know her and her love for us. Were it not for her compassion I would have perished long ago but she was minded to come to me and enlighten me, so that I should not sin. This is what she said: It is painful for me to look upon thee, at what thou doest. And her words, soft, quiet and gentle, wrought upon my soul. Over forty years have gone by since then but my soul can never forget those sweet words, and I know not what return to make for such love towards my sinful self, nor how to give thanks to the good and forbearing Mother of God.
Verily she is our advocate before God, and alone the sound of her name rejoices the soul. But all heaven and earth, too, rejoice in her love.
Here is a wondrous thing, which passes understanding: she dwells in heaven and ever beholds the glory of God, yet she does not forget us, poor wretches that we are, and spreads her compassion over the whole earth, over all peoples.
And this most pure Mother of His, the Lord has bestowed on us. She is our joy and our expectation. She is our Mother in the spirit, and kin to us by nature, as a human being, and every Christian’s soul leaps to her in love.