15 September 2008

Prayer to the Theotokos II: Post-communion prayer, part 4

The prayer continues:

"O thou who gavest birth to the True Light, do thou enlighten the spiritual eyes of my heart; thou who gavest birth to the Source of Immortality, revive me who am dead in sin; thou who art the lovingly-compassionate Mother of the merciful God, have mercy on me and grant me compunction and contrition in my heart, and humility in my thoughts, and the recall of my thoughts from captivity."

These petitions paint, in words, what is written in colors on icons: our beliefs concerning Mary are directly tied to our beliefs concerning her Son. She enlightens, because she gave birth to the Light; she revives, because she gave birth to enfleshed Life. Because she continues to be the mother of the Merciful Lord, she has mercy on us who are pilgrims, directing us always to Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

One of the last Lutheran theologians to believe in her perpetual virginity, Francis Pieper, said that if a man's Christology were in all other respects correct, he need not affirm her perpetual virginity. Here we see the last glowing embers of a fire of recognition: one last time, before bibliolatry swallowed Christology, an awareness that a deficient view of the Theotokos almost always implies a deficient Christology.

Orthodox are sometimes accused of having an overinflated view of Mary; in fact, Protestants have a deficient Christology and soteriology. Their god is too small.

"And vouchsafe me until my last breath to receive without condemnation the sanctification of the most pure Mysteries for the healing of soul and body; and grant me tears of repentance and confession, that I may hymn and glorify thee all the days of my life, for blessed and most glorified art thou unto the ages. Amen."

How can we ask the Theotokos to vouchsafe us to receive the Mysteries rightly? Isn't that God's work? Yes, of course it is. But how does he accomplish his work? In no other way than through the prayers of his people, and chiefly through the prayers of his Mother. As Nicholas Cabasilas pointed out, against western calumnies of the eastern liturgy, prayer itself a confession of our own weakness and inability. When we ask the prayers of others on our behalf, it confesses that weakness even more strikingly. Apart from the prayers of others, I cannot be saved (not because God is not gracious, but because salvation is communion, with God the Holy Trinity and with all the members of the Body of Christ). This is true, in a preeminent way, of the prayers of the one God glorified to bear his Son in flesh, and whom all generations call blessed.

1 comment:

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Thank you so much for this series. I'm sure it helps many people, and I'm one of them.