Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, “Woman behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. John 19: 26-28
Good morning Prayer Team!
As we conclude this week’s topics on the Virgin Mary, today’s Scripture passage shows the Virgin Mary as the “mother” of all Christians. This passage, which took place at the foot of Christ’s cross, depicts Christ entrusting the care for His mother to His beloved Disciple, John. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, is held by tradition to be an older man, who had been a widower. At the feast of the Incarnation, Joseph is shown in the corner of the icon as an older man. He is believed to have children from his first marriage, who would be the half-brothers and half-sisters of Jesus. Hence, when Jesus talks about His “brothers and sisters” He may be in fact referring to them. Tradition holds that Joseph had passed away before the time of the crucifixion, thus the practical need to assign care for Mary to one of the disciples, rather than to her husband.
But this act is more than just entrusting Mary’s care to someone else. This act installs Mary as the Mother of all Christians. She is our “mother.” We are all her “children.” When Jesus said to the Virgin Mary, “behold your son,” He was establishing the church. She would now behold all Christians, all “disciples,” as her children. Then, turning to John, the beloved disciple, He told John to “behold your mother!” In this act, Jesus tells not only John, but all Christians, all of us who are disciples of the Lord, to behold the Virgin Mary as our mother. Each of us has an earthly mother, who gave birth to us. But each of us also has a spiritual mother, the Virgin Mary.
As each of us went to our earthly mothers for comfort and guidance, we are to do the same with the Virgin Mary. Hence she is the first one whose intercessions we seek. In the month of August (and in other times of need), we offer the Paraklesis services, to ask the Virgin Mary specifically for her intercessions. The first hymn of the Divine Liturgy, “Through the Intercessions (Prayers) of the Theotokos, Savior, save us,” asks for her intercessions. Every time we commemorate saints, especially at the end of our services, the first person to whom we ask intercession is the Virgin Mary and THEN others.
As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Her Dormition, we look to her to lead us both in life and in death. In our life, we ask her to intercede for us, to help us cross the sea of life with her constant prayers to her Son, on our behalf. And in death, we look to her as a role model; as the icon of the Dormition shows her being taken into heaven by the Lord. We pray that this is our destiny as well.
Today’s prayers are a couple of stanzas from the Paraklesis service (translation by Fr. Demetri Kangelaris and Fr. Nicholas Kasemeotes), asking for the intercessions of the Virgin Mary:
Assaults of the passions have shaken me; my soul to its limits has been filled with much despair; bring peace o Maiden in the calmness, of your Son and your God all blameless one.
I entreat you, O Virgin, disperse the storm of my grief, and the soul’s most inward confusion, scatter it far from me; You are the bride of God, for you have brought forth the Christ, the Prince of Peace; Only all-blameless One.
With most serious ailments, and with the passions so dark, I am being tested o Virgin, come and bring help to me; for I have known of you, that you are without fail, the endless treasure of cures, only all-blameless One.
Deliver us, all of your servants from danger, o Theotokos; after God we all free to you, for shelter and covering, as an unshakable wall and our protection.
Lady and the Mother of Him who saves, receive the supplications of the lowly who pray to you; mediate between us, and the One you brought forth; O Lady of all people, intercede for us.
With the hosts of Angels, God’s messenger, with the Lord’s Forerunner and Apostles, the chosen twelve, with the saints most holy, and with you the Theotokos, we seek your intercession for our salvation. Amen.
Have a blessed feast!
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