A homily by Fr. Luke Sidarous on the Vespers of St. Mary’s Feast – August 21, 2019
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen.
The pure, holy Virgin Saint Mary, grabbed the attention of all humanity for all these centuries. The mysteries of the Virgin remained higher than the Heavens. They took all the symbols of the Old Testament and applied them along with all the names and high titles. But, there is an extremely precious title that we love to call her by which is “Our Mother.” Everyone should say, “The Virgin is my mother.” She is a mother. What’s the difference? The world is full of mothers, the mothers’ compassion and tenderness, and the mother’s care. They have written entire books on this topic, drew paintings, and done so many things. Why this mother in particular? What is so special about her? It was said that the Holy Spirit descended on her, purified her, sanctified her, and filled her with grace. So, she is very special. He sanctified all that is in her. When the Lord Jesus Christ willed to dwell in her, the Holy Spirit descended on her and prepared the body that Christ united with from her. So, all that was in her became holy, heavenly. When I say she is a mother, the sentiments and compassion of motherhood were sanctified by the Holy Spirit and was not merely the natural motherhood that is present in any mother in the world. Rather, it became something entirely different than that which any mother possesses. This did not happen to any other woman in the human race. The Spirit of God descended on her and completely sanctified her. Thus, the sentiment of motherhood within her became a work of the Holy Spirit in and through her. Describe mothers in whatever way you choose. The Virgin will always remain unique.
What motherhood is this? She became a mother to the Son of God, the Incarnate Logos. What did she used to call Him? In the second chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke, when the Lord Jesus Christ was visiting Jerusalem during the Passover and they left to look for Him amongst the children, but could not find Him. He agreed to be this way, a small Child, staying amongst the children. What separates Him from the rest? Nothing. This is His will. He emptied Himself and took the form a slave. It was His plan. They returned to Jerusalem, a day’s walk, and were looking for Him for three days. So, He was away from them for five days. When the Holy Virgin found Him, she said, “My son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously” (Luke 2:48). Son, why did you do this to us? This is why I am telling you, who is she a mother to? A mother to the Incarnate God. When the word “Incarnation” and the dogma around incarnation come up, which is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, we say of the Holy Spirt and the holy Virgin, Saint Mary. We pray in the Divine Liturgy and say, “This is the life-giving Flesh that Your only-begotten Son, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, took from our Lady, the Lady of us all, the holy Theotokos, Saint Mary. He made It one with His divinity.” So, every time the word Incarnation comes up, then we must also mention the Virgin. When Christ was incarnate, and she is His mother having all the sentiments of motherhood, she was sanctified by the Holy Spirit and her motherhood became something indescribable. Tenderness? One that was beyond this world. Not the natural tenderness of a mother. Then, what? It is something that surpasses any other.
The holy Virgin, Saint Mary, became a mother to Christ. Christ? What is our faith? He is the firstborn among many brethren. When He took on our nature, He said to Saint Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection, “Go tell my brethren.” The apostles are Your brethren? How are they Your brothers? This is how it is. Brothers share a physical unity of flesh and blood. In like manner, He shared this unity with them. He shared everything with us and He is the firstborn. We are the members of His Body. He gave us the grace of sonship such that we are able to pray and say, “Our Father who art in Heaven.” He is our Father. We became His children when we united with Christ. Our church teaches us that when we pray the Lord’s prayer, we tell the Father that He is our dad. “Our Father who art In Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name.” At the end of the prayer, the Church says – when I am saying to God “My Father” – we say “In Christ Jesus our Lord.” How are we His children? How are we children of the Father? We are children of the Father through Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why I am saying – not just some beautifully crafted words, but a dogmatic truth – that the holy Virgin is a mother to each one of us, with the motherhood that I have spoken about and am unable to describe.
What is this? What a great treasure! Me? I call her my mother and she calls me her son? Yes, in Christ. It is something so beautiful. One needs to truly live this faith and enjoy it. That the virgin be his, his mother, his life companion and friend, the one who stays up waiting for him. She wishes for him every good thing and asks Christ on his behalf day and night. Do we deserve it? I am telling you our faith and the reality of how things are. Do we deserve all this? Believe me, this is how it is. In the icon that goes back to the early days of Christianity, in the repose of the holy Virgin Saint Mary, the Coptic iconographer drew the Virgin on her bed, the holy apostles are around her, and she places her hands on them to bless them as a mother. She is the mother of the apostles and also our mother. This is what I am saying: Blessed is the person who has known this and takes pleasure in it. Drawing close to the Virgin, believe me, we are offering the little we have. What do we have? We praise and venerate her, say the praises and hymns, which are extremely beneficial for the soul. But, it is highly important for each person to have an extremely close and personal relationship with the Virgin. She is our mother! One should draw close to her, love her, talk to her, and ask her intercessions.
We often take refuge in them in our pain, tribulations, illness, problems, exams. No, we are connected to her. It is a life bond, a motherly bond, the Mother of God. The Mother of the Holy One. “That Holy One who is to be born of you.” The one born of you is holy! We are united to Christ. Don’t we partake of His body? Aren’t we baptized and the Holy Spirit has dwelt in us? “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). This is why I am telling you not to treat these relationships as some sort of fantasy or series of meditations, beautifully crafted words, or grand performance. No, not at all! Rather, they are true relationships for each person that lives by the Spirit in Christ Jesus. Draw close to the Virgin and love her, frequently ask for her intercessions, and talk to her night and day. What is she? We say, “Watch over us from on high where you dwell.” Look to us! Behold us. We are your children, even with all the sins that we have. This is how a mother is. There is no mother in the world that is disgusted by her child no matter how filthy he may become. You may say, “Am I even worthy to utter her name with my mouth? I have disheveled myself in all manner of uncleanness.” A mother is never disgusted by the uncleanness of her child. As soon as the child cries, she runs. She drops everything in her hands, even if it breaks. Her child is crying! The sentiment of motherhood within her defeats the entire world.
Imagine, then, if one of us cries out to the Virgin and says, “Save me! I am your son and drowning in the world with its vain pleasures, running after money, fame, glory, sin. My whole life is a mess because I want appearances, people, positions, and what people will say about me.” Sometimes, one is fallen down to the ground: lying, slandering, gossip, talking about each other. Like Saint Paul said, we are eating one another’s flesh and fear that you will destroy each other. One should cry out to the holy Virgin and say, “Save me from this horrible lot. Deliver me from what I have fallen into! I want to take pride in you being my mother. I would love to truly live out this life and feel my mother’s support in spiritual struggle, prayer, fasting, practice of humility, almsgiving, generosity. A mother!”
The first miracle performed by the Lord at the Wedding of Cana of Galilee was by her intercession. When she saw people in distress, not having wine and the wedding would turn into a scandal, no one asked her. She is a mother. She went to the Lord Jesus Christ and said, “They are out of wine. Do something.” He said, “It is not time for it now. This is not how I will do it. Why are you rushing the hour of my Crucifixion?” But, because of her word, He performed the miracle. He turned the water into wine as the beginning of His signs and miracles. Did the signs end? Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Her request is granted. She has the highest boldness before Him. Her prayers and intercessions are answered for each one of us. Be assured that she intercedes for us, and asks God for each one of us, especially the weak, the sinners, and those who have problems. She intercedes for them more. She asks for the salvation of the whole world because she is a mother. She is the Mother of Christ, God, the Pantocrator. She prays more for those who give a vow of celibacy, purity, and holiness. One who says, “I will consecrate myself for Christ.” She helps him so much because she lived, as the Old Testament described her, “overlaid with gold within and without.” She is overlaid with gold on the inside and outside. Everyone who seeks to live a life of holiness, whether they are married or celibate, and says, “My mother, preserve me in holiness” will be supported by her. Therefore, rejoice on this blessed evening and be comforted. Feel and know that she is the great support for us in our estrangement in this world. She intercedes for us before our Lord Jesus Christ.
To God be the glory forever, Amen.