Антоний, митрополит Су́рожский

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SERMON on the Feast of the Mother of God

Sunday, 8th January 1989 (26th December 1988 o/s)

Yesterday we rejoiced in the Nativity of Christ; the Living God had become a living man, there was no separation left between humanity and Divinity; at least in one human person the fullness of humanity was achieved and revealed.

But this, according to the words of Saint Gregory Palamas, would have been as impossible without the total gift of self of the Mother of God as it would have been without God's will. She made Incarnation possible. She was not a passive instrument of the Incarnation, she made it an event in which humanity responded to God. When she accepted to become the Mother of the incarnate Son of God, she not only accepted honour and glory; she was confronted with awe, indeed with terror; because the whole of the Old Testament tells us that God is inaccessible, unsearchable, unapproachable; and numbers of saints of the Old Testament exclaimed with terror at a moment of vision: «I have seen the Lord – I must die! ...». Because God was seen as a consuming fire – and He came as a Light to the world.

Whenever we think of the Incarnation, we must remember that the human body of Christ received all that was human in Him from His Mother, from Mary the Virgin, as He also received all that was His human soul and spirit from Her. Contemplating God incarnate, God incarnate in Christ, it is the Mother of God's humanity which we contemplate, shining with the divinity of God, filled with the Spirit. And when in the Holy Liturgy we celebrate the Mysteries and by the power of the Spirit the bread and the wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, it is Her humanity and His divinity which fill this Bread and this Wine. Of all women, indeed of all human beings, she is the greatest, and it is not in vain that we call her «more honourable that the Cherubim, incomparably more glorious that the Seraphim». Yes, she is the glory of the earth, she is the answer of the whole of mankind to the love of God. Few of us can respond to divine love in this total manner; she did it for us.

When we think of her life, we see that from the first moment she was confronted with tragedy, rejection by all the villagers of Bethlehem, loneliness, and then the danger of death at the hands of the soldiers of Herod, a flight, and a long time away from all that was home to her. But in addition to this, there is in her a dimension which is hardly ever thought of. On the day of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, she brought Him as a living sacrifice, as a blood-offering, according to the commandment of Old Testament which said that, as a ransom for the death of all the first-born children of Egypt, every firstborn child of Israel belonged to the Lord Who had the right and power to take him as a blood-offering, to accept him as a victim to die. She knew this and she brought Him knowing that, perhaps even more than anyone else, her Child would be received, accepted and slain ... And indeed, this is what happened many years later on Calvary, when she again stood wrapped in silence, totally at one with the Will of God and the Will of her Divine Son, giving Him for our salvation, accepting His death that to her was, as it is for every mother, more than her own death. In this she acted, one may daringly but truthfully say, as a priestess; because we all can offer nothing to God but our souls and bodies, our own selves, and she was offering the life and the death of the Son of God incarnate.

Let us think of her with awe, let us think of her with veneration, let us remember her as one who is indivisibly, inseparably united to her Divine Son, in body and soul, in will and in glory; and turn to her, as we would turn to her Son when we are in need, not because she is a woman among women, but because she, the only woman that was, and is, and shall be for ever, one with the Divine Will, one with her Divine Son; and at the same time – one with us, expressing before God, to God all that is of truth, all that is of saintliness, all that is of good in each of us. Amen.


Sermon 154 Sermon 155 Sermon 156