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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros 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
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:22-23
Good morning Prayer Team!
Especially for our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary.
It is truly right to bless you, Theotokos, ever blessed, most pure and mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Serpaphim, without corruption you gave birth to God the Word. We magnify you, the true Theotokos.
If you were to just read through the Divine Liturgy by yourself, each word receiving the same emphasis, you would finish the Prayer of Consecration, where we are remembering “forefather, fathers, patriarchs, prophets” etc. and then you’d read “and for every righteous spirit made perfect in faith, ESPECIALLY for our most holy, pure, blessed and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary.” Because the prayer of consecration is offered silently by the celebrant in most parishes, it seems like a hard segue to go from singing “We praise You, we bless You, we give thank to You and we pray to You, Lord our God” and go right to “Especially for our most holy, pure, blessed and glorious Lady” and remember the Virgin Mary. Again, in the context of the prayer of Consecration and the text of the entire Divine Liturgy, this fits much more easily.
Let’s reflect for a moment on where we have just been. We offered the Gifts on behalf of all and for all. The celebrant then asked the Holy Spirit to come down on us who are present that covers those who are in the church. He continued the prayer, remembering those who have fallen asleep in the faith. And now the service continues remembering specifically the Virgin Mary.
The Virgin Mary is mentioned several times in the Divine Liturgy. There are four times that she is commemorated at the end of a litany: “Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another, and our whole life to Christ our God.” One of the antiphons at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy is dedicated to her: “By the intercessions of the Theotokos, Savior, save us.” And following the Consecration of the Gifts, we again pause to remember and to praise the Theotokos.
After the priest says “Especially for our most holy, pure blessed and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary,” the people respond by singing a hymn in her honor: “It is truly right to bless you, Theotokos, ever blessed, most pure and mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption you gave birth to God the Word. We magnify you the true Theotokos.”
During the Orthros service which precedes the Divine Liturgy on most occasions, there is a set of hymns called “The Magnificat” (also called “The Megalinarion” or simply the 9th Ode of the canon). This set of hymns is based on Luke 1: 46-55:
My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
For He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden, for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
For He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is His Name, and His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts;
He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree; He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.
These verses are broken up into six parts, as I have divided them above. And after each set of verses is the refrain “More honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption you gave birth to God the Word. We magnify you, the true Theotokos.
In the case of the hymn after the Consecration, we offer a different verse to begin, “It is truly right to bless you” and conclude with the same refrain from the Orthros. On feast days of Christ, feast days of the Virgin Mary and during the Paschal season, the hymns of the 9th ode of Orthros are replaced with hymns dedicated to the Virgin Mary but more specific to the feast we are celebrating. The last hymn of the 9th ode (also called Magnificat or Megalinarion), which is called the Katavasia, replaces this hymn of the Liturgy. This is why there is sometimes a substitution.
As we conclude the prayer of Consecration, offering the prayer for “every righteous spirit made perfect in the faith” we invoke the name of the Virgin Mary specifically, honoring her as the greatest of all human beings, because it was she who bore Christ in her womb. Our salvation is a result of Christ coming into the world, but her acquiescence to bear Him is an integral part of the equation. So, while we worship Christ for saving us, we honor the Virgin Mary for bearing Him on our behalf. In this instance, unlike the others where she is commemorated “with all the saints”, here she is remembered and honor alone, above all the saints, above all the angels, above all except the Lord Himself.
Lord, we thank You for Your divine plan for our salvation. Thank you for becoming one of us. We pray through the Virgin Mary, for Your intercessions. May we always look to her as our intercessor and as our role model and guide for obedience, faith, trust and love. Amen.
Honor God today with obedience, faith, trust and love!
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