An Image of a True Human Being is the Panagia

Here the unique image of true man, who through purity and obedience goes beyond the bounds of nature and becomes more honorable than the cherubim and more glorious than the seraphim, is Mary, Mother of God. The Virgin, an image of true man, gives birth in the flesh to the Word of God and is herself translated to heaven, being Mother of life.  Her life is one of continuous amazement. She asks the child “as He lay in her arms: ‘How wast Thou sown as seed in me? And how hast Thou grown within me, O my Deliverer and my God?’ ” (Doxastikon, Apostikha at Vespers, Forefeast of the Nativity). She who is the unsown field is surprised.  How was the Deliverer sown as seed and how did He grow in her?

One might wonder: Did the Virgin not know how the Word had been sown as seed in her? Had not the Annunciation preceded the birth? Certainly she knew. And for precisely this reason, the melodist of our Church very correctly and reverently puts this question into the mouth of the Most Holy Mother of God, because this wonderful event was a permanent source of amazement for her. “But Mary kept all these things [the words of the angels and the shepherds] pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Spiritual life and knowledge (John 17:3) is the grace, freedom and amazement which alone rises “automatically” from the hearts of those who are offered to God. And one who is offers wonders in bewilderment: How was Thou sown as seed in me and how hast Thou grown within me, my son and my God? My son: the child I have borne, my labor and my flesh. And my God: my freedom, grace and transcendence.

“If the soul is sober and keeps itself from distraction and forsakes its own will, then the Spirit of God comes into it; only then can the soul bring forth, for of itself it is barren” (Abba Kronios, Sayings of the Desert Fathers).

 

From the book Hymn of Entry: Liturgy and Life in the Orthodox Church by Archimandrite Vasileios of Stavronikita, translated from the Greek by Elizabeth Briere, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY,  1984. Archimandrite Vasileios is one of many monks responsible for the revival of monasticism on Mount Athos, the
“Garden of the Panagia,” as it is piously referred.