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MESSAGE OF THE MONTH
The Three Attributes of Our Panagia
On September 8th, our Church celebrated the Nativity of the Theotokos, in remembrance of that blessed day for all of humanity on which the Mother of our Savior was born.
The Orthodox Church celebrates the birth of only two persons: Our Theotokos and St. John the Forerunner. These two persons are very unique and extremely significant for our Holy Faith. The Theotokos is more honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, and St. John the Forerunner among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than him (Mt 11:11).
Thus, since our Church makes this rare exception and celebrates the nativity of only these two individuals, all other Orthodox Christians, including all of us, ought to not celebrate birthday. We instead must celebrate our name day, on the same day that we celebrate the memory of our patron saint whose name we were given during our baptismal. Birthday celebrations belong to the Protestants who do not recognize or celebrate the Church’s saints. Let us then not protestantize our Holy Faith, and also avoid the temptation of adopting the improper customs of other Christian “denominations.” Our religious customs are significantly superior to theirs and their adoption constitutes an improper and unnecessary compromise by all of us.
With the opportunity afforded to us through the Feast Day of our Holy Theotokos’ Nativity, we will address three great attributes, all of which unified in the one person of Panagia. These three same attributes are impossible to be found among any other person or saint of our Holy Church.
Is it possible for one woman to become the daughter, the bride, as well as mother of the same man? Of course not; it is not “natural.” However, this that is considered impossible or against the “laws of nature” became possible through spiritual intervention. Our Panagia is God’s daughter; she is also the Bride of our God, in a uniquely spiritual manner, for she gave birth not through human sperm, but through God’s power; and, of course, she is the Theotokos, the mother of God.
Reviewing our Psalter, we find therein all three of these great attributes for Panagia. They are described within Psalm 44, a psalm that is characterized by its grandeur for its immeasurable poetic content as well as its inexplicable divine mystery. The psalm starts with the following magnificent words: My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever. Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. (Pss 44:1-3).
In verses 10, 11, and 14 the Psalmist says: Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him... The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. In accordance with these words, God is the King and Panagia is the queen, the bride of God the King, in a spiritual and extremely unique manner. Honorably, the queen is placed and attended to on the right of the King. She is also shown clothed in golden and multi-colored garments, symbolizing her many internal virtues, her glory, her grandeur! Let us also note, however, that the queen is concurrently the King’s daughter!
The King has countless number of daughters. All pious and saintly women are God’s daughters. However, our Panagia is the most select and significant among them all. There have been many other women that were quite select and important to the King: Sarah, Rebecca, Mariam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, Anna, Samuel’s mother, Deborah, Ruth, Esther, Solomoni, the mother of the Macabbes, Anna, the mother of the Holy Theotokos, Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Forerunner, Maria, the sister of Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, the leading Myrrhbearer and the first to see our Resurrected Lord, Thekla, Paraskevi, Kyriaki, Euphemia, Irene, Barbara, Katherine, Marina, Makrina, Matrona, Markella, Synglitiki, Filothei, and many other wonderful and highly admirable women. Our Panagia, however, is superior among all of God’s daughters; she is the most select among the elect. Her unique and great merit and worth is exemplified by the praise afforded to her by the Heavens. She is Maiden full of grace, full of God’s grace, full of the virtues of the Holy Spirit. She is blessed among women (Lk 1:28), and a few days after the annunciation, she is again called blessed and greeted by righteous Elizabeth with the words blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb ( Lk 1:42). She is the woman that is clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars (Rev 12:1). And we also read: There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number. My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her. Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners? (SS 6:8-10). She is a pure dove, perfect, and unique!
Not only is she superior to and above all of God’s daughters, but also a queen, bride of the King-God, in an extremely unique manner. All faithful souls are God’s brides. Panagia, however, is God’s bride in an additional manner, a manner that exemplifies a meaning that is original and does not apply to anybody else. She is bride unwed, unwed with a man but wed with God. Let us not lose focus of our Lord’s birth: The Theotokos gave birth to Christ not through the sperm of a man but rather through the power of God. It is as in that one and only one day of Creation, when the earth gave birth to plant life without the contribution of any seed whatsoever; it was done then as it was done with Panagia: God’s power gave life to countless species of plants and again, on that even more significant day for humanity, our Most Powerful God’s power enabled her that is more honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, to give birth to Christ without any contact with a man.
For with God nothing shall be impossible. Where is this written? In Lk 1:37 and in other similar biblical sections. In Psalm 2, a psalm that is truly Christological, God referring to Christ as Man says: Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Pss 2:7) This word of God means that God, referring to Christ the God-Man, says: “You are My Son; You are not the Son of any man; You are not Joseph’s Son (as the Jews claimed); I, God, gave birth to You, as I deemed time to be ready for You; I formed You from the flesh and blood of the Theotokos, and I brought You into this world as another Man.”
Panagia is God’s precious daughter, as well as His unique maiden, and His mother! In verses 6-7 of Psalm 44, we read the following most strange and odd words: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. The psalmist words convey the following: “You, Who is our God, have an everlasting throne; You are our One and Only Immortal King. This is why, You, our God, were chrismated by Your God with the heavenly oil of joy, and exultation, in a manner that is clearly superior to Your normal ways.”
The oddness of these words lies within the statement that God also has a God Who chrismated Him. Yet how can this be possible? How can there be a God for our God? Is it not true that there is nothing or nobody above God? One would thus easily surmise that this statement by the Psalmist is not only strange and odd but quite bold and even blasphemous! Besides its oddity, the Jews never dared ostracize it from within the holy writings of the Old Testament. They left it alone, in its original place, as they did with other paradoxical and equally odd sentences within the Old Testament. While the Psalmist’s words represented an enigma in the days before the arrival of our Lord into this world, these same words took full meaning in the Blessed Person of Jesus Christ. God became Man, and as a Man, he also has a God. God became Man and God chrismated Him as a Man, in other words he rendered Him as Christ. This chrismated Christ, the Son of the Virgin, He is the God of the paradoxical Psalmist for as a Man, He has a God.
Thus, the Holy Virgin conceived, carried to term, gave birth, nursed, and raised God Himself! A woman, albeit pure but nevertheless a woman, became the mother of God Himself; she became God’s birthgiver, the one and only Theotokos! The human mind becomes perplexed, confused, astonished and dizzy when it thinks about this event, about the honor bestowed upon this humble daughter of Nazareth, our Panagia. The verses of the Holy Scriptures that stand as witnesses for this event of events, and the countless miracles that affirm that Christ is God, the full Divine Essence, the complete Deity and Domination, just as the Father and the Holy Spirit, are countless. Looking beyond Pss 44:7-8, we must all take note of another most paradoxical verse, the one in Lk 1:43: And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? The mother of St. John the Forerunner expresses her astonishment for the honor bestowed upon her to receive the mother of “her Lord” in her home. A fetus that is barely a few days old, carried in the womb of the Virgin, is announced by Elizabeth as her Lord, her God. These words could have never entered the human mind. They entered Elizabeth’s mind because she was filled with the Holy Ghost (Lk. 1:41). It is this type of paradoxical and odd-sounding words that the Holy Bible contains—these are all God-inspired verses.
We deservedly honor our Panagia as the most elect daughter of God, the unwed Bride of God—Bride of that most special meaning and significance, and mother of our Lord and Savior, the only Theotokos. Those who are faithful surely honor her more than any other saint thus also becoming part of her own words and fulfilling her own prophesy: Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. (Lk 1:48-50). Amen!