Monday, November 19, 2007

The Joy of All Who Sorrow

joy |joi| noun-a feeling of great pleasure and happiness
sorrow |ˈsärō| noun-(a) a feeling of deep distress caused by loss, disappointment, or other misfortune suffered by oneself or others (b) the outward expression of grief; lamentation
Perhaps to some this might appear to be a contradiction in terms, to me it is great comfort. The Cathedral which St John spent the rest of his life serving in is named Holy Virgin Joy of All who Sorrow Cathedral and it is a most beautiful place, you cannot help but feel as though you are in the presence of God when you are there, whether there are services or not. So peaceful. So uplifting. A true Joy. When I think about the Theotokos being the Joy of all who Sorrow, I think how very literally it should be taken. I take Joy in her life, her sacrifice and repose.
Her life was spotless, she grew from a child in the temple of our God and did not wish to lose her virginity and so was betrothed to a capable man, far older, but protective that she might remain without knowing a man intimately. To have the Archangel Gabriel appear, even just to see him, is something great and as the messenger of God he delivers this, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will concieve in your womb and bring forth a son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." -Luke 1:30-33 Of course, since she has never known a man asks how this can be and the Archangel tells her of the Holy Spirit, and He shall be the Son of God and that her cousin has also concieved in her old age and that nothing is impossible for God. To which she replies, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. -Luke 1:38 What life changing moment, how she must have felt, what a large responsiblity and task.
The sacrifice of her Son, although He was not really hers, the child came from her belly, sent from God and she outlived her baby. Just because this child is God does not change that she was His mother. Not only did she outlive her Son, she watched Him be tortured and crucified. I can only imagine what sort of strength it takes to endure something so terrible, beyond words to describe the awful truth of His betrayal and death. It must have taken amazing Faith that this is the will of God and that she was not suffering in vain. Perhaps this why God chose her, that she had such staunch Faith in Him forever, never doubting. At the hour of Christ's death, she was given to John as a mother and so became thus to him and all the brothers and sisters of the Lord. She lived out the rest of her days with His disciples, who cared for her as their mother and she for them as if she was theirs. We are no different, we are a part of that family.
If we are ever having troubles we can look to her in our sorrow and she can be of great joy. To think of all the things that she has been through is of great comfort, that she had such strength to be chosen and fulfill the word of God. I know I am trying and failing miserably to try and explain why this is important to me, but it is. As a mother, I can only imagine my child dying before me, it brings a well of emotion I cannot describe or want to ever experience. I suppose what I am trying to say is that she is a good model of love, strength, perseverence and everything motherly. Whether anyone thinks she is the Saint of all Saints, or a saint at all, she is still a good example. A pillar of Faith and piety, accepting all that God would give her. No matter how I sorrow, I can always look to God for strength and to Mary, for a solid, living example of steadfastness in tribulation and I pray that God helps me to remember this in my times of need.
Much Love, Me


Миша said...

I loved your post. I love the life of the Theotokos. Her life is an icon in and of itself of service and submission to the Will of God. She was not forced or coerced into saying yes to God, she did it freely and without constraint. She said "Let it be done unto me according to Thy Will."

The interesting thing is that when we read of the Annunciation and we read those words we think that she was speaking here of only the Birth of the Christ. She was not. She was aware, fully and completely aware, of what this meant, of what "it" all meant. Yes, birth, raising, watching, loving... but also suffering. Think back to the prophecy of Symeon... "And as to thee a sword shall pierce thine own soul also - in order that the reckonings of many hearts might be revealed."

"Symeon uses the word sword for the effect of the Lord's Passion and death on the cross; and this sword will pierce Mary's soul, for she could not without painful sorrow see Him crucified and dying." St. Bede the Venerable.

"He means by the sword of the pain which she suffered for Christ, in seeing Him, Whom she brought forth, crucified." St. Kyril

Mary knew from the beginning what her "yes" would mean. Both for her, for her Son, and also for us. This is why, although she was meant to see her Son betrayed, mocked, beaten, spat upon, tortured and crucified, she knew that He was God made Flesh and that only He could save the world. Her sacrifice was very great. Both her and our rewards are even greater.

She brought forth in her womb the God-made-Man, the Word Incarnate through one of the greatest mysteries known on the earth and THIS is why we call her Blessed. Because through her God worked out the miracle of our salvation. This is why she is "more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim!" Because "Thou who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word true Theotokos, (true Mother of God), we magnify Thee!"

And then there are those who do not see this. They see her as "just a woman." "Just a vessel." It has been said by some and I agree with them, "if you do not honor the mother, you do not honor the Son." Why is this? Because She was blessed by God. She was set apart from the rest of creation for her task of bringing forth our salvation. God knew it, Gabriel knew it, Elizabeth knew it, John the Forerunner while still in the womb knew it, The Magi knew it, the Shepherds knew it, Symeon and Anna knew it, and Zacharias knew it. Why do some not honor the Mother of God as she is due? She was blessed in the Scriptures as being "the Mother of my Lord" by Elizabeth. And yet for some that is not merely enough. They seek a direct command from thee Scriptures. They would want it spelled out in black and white with a direct command to accept things. I would think that if they had their way the Bible would look something like this.

The New Commandments:
1. Thou Shalt Go To Church on Sunday.
2. Thou Shalt Worship According to the Old Testament model but worship in Trinity.
3. Thou Shalt Eat of My Flesh and Drink of My Blood, for My Flesh is True Food and My Blood is True Drink." (Wait... that one is in there and they still deny it.)

As for me and my house we shall serve the Lord. We will honor those who honor Thee and bless those that Bless Thee and love those that love the beauty of Thy House.

Commemorating our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary with all the Saints, let us commend ourselves and all our lives unto Christ our God. Just as she did.