Patricia Anastasia Bartlett is the author of 'Glimpses of Glory', a collection of meditations published by Synaxis Press. Over the years, she has contributed to a number of local newspapers and magazines as a freelance journalist, humour, lifestyle and/or religion columnist. She, her husband and five children joined the Orthodox Church in 2000. She and her husband presently attend and serve at St. Aidan's Orthodox Mission in Cranbrook, BC.
When I was growing up, I never really gave Mary, the mother of Jesus, much thought, except at Christmas. We were a church-going family, and our church did the whole Sunday School Christmas play thing. That’s when Mary came front and centre. Who would play her? She was, after all, vital to the piece because the baby Jesus needed a mother.
Being chosen to play Mary was an honour, one usually reserved for the favourite of the play director, but there were other compensating roles. One year, I played Herod’s wife. I got to wear a really beautiful sari-like costume and exotic make-up and was, as far as I was concerned, drop-dead gorgeous. Even though I was only on stage a few minutes and had no lines, I preferred it over the role of Mary. She was too humble, too wishy-washy, too plain.
As an adult, I did land the role of Mary in a women’s group Christmas presentation, but that was only because I had a three-week old daughter who played Jesus. Interestingly enough, that same daughter grew up to play Mary in a community Christmas play 17 years later.
When we first discovered the Orthodox Church, the presence of Mary year-round intrigued me. For the first time, I began to see her as an integral part of Christian worship. The Orthodox Church didn’t just trot her out once a year because the baby needed a mother. Mary was presented as the second Eve, the one who selflessly devoted herself to God bringing about reconciliation with Him, unlike the first Eve, who considered her own desires first, thus creating a separation from God.
As I learned about the traditions in the Orthodox Church, I learned to call Mary, not just Theotokos, Mother of God, but Mother; mother of me, my husband and my children. There were many times when I worried over my kids and didn’t know what to do, and I would ask the Theotokos to pray for them and intervene in the situation. Over the years, I gave all my children into her care and protection. I believe her guidance has helped them to remain faithful to God. Even though they are now all grown, and especially since I no longer have the influence I once did, I still pray she looks after them.
She is the mother to all of us, and especially to the motherless.
She is the mother of our Saviour and also mother to all of creation. When Adam and Eve abdicated their responsibility to care for creation, Jesus came as the second Adam through Mary, the second Eve, to reconcile all of creation back to God.
The Theotokos is the first Christian, the first to declare the divinity of the Child within her.
Throughout time, people all over the world had stories and prophecies of the impending birth of a Saviour. For thousands of years, the Israelites were disciplined to become the tribe from whom God’s salvation would come. For generations, Mary’s family was shaped to produce the virgin mother. For 13 years, Mary, herself, prepared to become the mother of Jesus. She wasn’t just some random Jewish uterus chosen by God for convenience.
Mary was an integral part to God’s plan for salvation. If she said no, He wasn’t just going to knock on the door of the next Jewish virgin. If she had said no, He would have started all over, and we might not have even yet experienced the first coming of Christ the Saviour.
Mary isn’t just necessary for the annual Christmas play. She is necessary to salvation.
Without Mary, the Theotokos, we would have no hope.
True Theotokos, we magnify you.
“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And His mercy is on them who fear Him from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:46-50 KJV)
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