Urbi et Orbi Section: Spirituality, The Orthodox Saints Speak

madonna icona Icone russe Museo Tretyakov

Icon of Mary

Reflecting on Mary’s Blessedness through the Annunciation

Thou knowest, O Mary, things kept hid from the patriarchs and prophets. Thou hast learned, O virgin, things which were kept concealed till now from the angels. Thou hast heard, O purest one, things of which even the choir of inspired men was never deemed worthy. Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and Daniel, and all the prophets, prophesied of Him; but the manner they knew not. Yet thou alone, O purest virgin, art now made the recipient of things of which all these were kept in ignorance, and thou dost learn the origin of them. For where the Holy Spirit is, there are all things readily ordered. Where divine grace is present, all things are found possible with God.

—St. Gregory Thaumaturgus

Mary Is Highest by Virtue of Her Son

O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all. O [Ark of the New] Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides. Should I compare you to the fertile earth and its fruits? You surpass them, for it is written: “The earth is my footstool” (Isa. 66:1). But you carry within you the feet, the head, and the entire body of the perfect God.

—St. Athanasius of Alexandria

The Greatness of Mary

Nevertheless, her mercy was not only toward loved ones and acquaintances but toward strangers and enemies, for she truly was the mother of the merciful one; she was the mother of the Benevolent One and the Lover of humankind who makes the sun to shine on the good and the evil and sends rain on the righteous and sinners (Matt 5:45). She was the mother of the One who became flesh and was crucified for us, enemies and apostates, in order to spread His mercy upon us. She was the mother of the poor and needy and of the enrichment of all, because for our sake the Rich One was made poor in order to enrich us, the downcast and the poor. Now, then, may the discourse up to this point be about her deeds, her benefactions, and her glories. In all this I will say a lot very briefly: she gave birth supernaturally to a Son, the Word of God Incarnate, and her life and conduct also came to an end supernaturally, and in everything before this and everything after, she was made victorious by the abundance and wealth of her benevolence and good works. So greatly was she magnified: she became greater than all, as the sun is brighter than the stars.

—St. Maximus the Confessor

A Love Like Mary’s

In this wise I reflect in my soul: if I who love God so little am so violently heartsick for the Lord, how exceedingly great must have been the grief of the Mother of God when she was left on earth, after the Ascension of her Lord. She put not in writing the tale of her soul’s affliction, and we know little of her life on earth, but this much we must suppose…the abundance of her love for her Son and her God reaches beyond our understanding… We cannot fathom the depth of the love of the Mother of God, but this we know:

The greater the love, the greater the sufferings of the soul.

The fuller the love, the fuller the knowledge of God.

The more ardent the love, the more fervent the prayer.

The more perfect the love, the holier the life.

Not one of us is able to attain to the fulness of the Mother of God’s love, and we have need of repentance like Adam. Yet in part, as we are taught of the Holy Spirit in the Church, we may comprehend that love of hers.

—St. Silouan of Mt. Athos

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