Subject: The Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, and the Annunciation
Date: 9 April 2016 21:38:11 GMT+01:00
From: Bishop Chrysostomos
To: Diocesan Clergy, Faithful, and Friends:
following is a question that was sent to us by a modernist Orthodox
believer and which I have answered. I thought that it might prove
helpful to some of our our readers.
would like to ask about the Virgin Mary and why the celebration of the
Annunciation is so important. It seems to me that the Church puts much
more emphasis on the Virgin Mary than on Christ and the Holy Spirit. My
husband, a Protestant, constantly tells me this. I do not know what to
say. Could you help me?
unfortunately, in reacting against the excesses of Roman Catholicism,
represent a deviation from the teachings of the Church as much as the
Roman Catholics. With regard to the Holy Spirit, we do not divide the
Trinity up, but know the fullness of God through the Holy Spirit, Who is
God and Whom we constantly glorify during the Liturgy when we glorify
the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is not three
entities, but is known to us in His Three Hypostases, which are
indivisible. God is One in His three Hypostases. If you worship the
Father, you also worship the Son and the Holy Spirit. If you worship the
Son or the Holy Spirit, you also worship the Father.
when Roman Catholics speak of the Holy Spirit as coming forth from the
Father and the Son, as a result of their alteration of the universal
Symbol of Faith (the “Creed” as Westerners call it), they risk the
heresy of subordinationism (which, ironically, they were trying to avoid
when they changed the Synbol of Faith), which leads to the idea that
the Holy Spirit is somehow subordinate to the Father and the Son, thus
failing to understand the Oneness of God.
Protestants, in reacting to this tendency (which the Reformers
understood as wrong, to some extent), place such emphasis on the Holy
Spirit that He seems somehow separate from the Father and the Son,
making the Father and the Son subordinate to the Holy Spirit, they also
fall to error. Like the Latins, they lack, despite their often exemplary
piety and love of God, a full understanding of the Trinitarian God.
for the Mother of God, Scripture tells us that all generations shall
call Her “blessed,” and She is praised as being “Filled with Grace.”
Anyone who thinks that these are superficial praises is not thinking
Scripturally or rightly.
Roman Catholics so
distort this special status among humans that they claim She was born
without sin, the “ancestral curse," making her an equal to Jesus Christ,
which is a heretical understanding of the Redeemer. It distorts the
very nature of Christ—of God made man. Orthodox teach that the Theotokos,
the Bearer or Birthgiver of God, was not born without the human
proclivity for sin and the weaknesses of the flesh, but that she did not
succumb, as some Protestant sectarians believe, to the weaknesses of
the flesh. She bore God (Christ) miraculously, remained a Virgin, and by
giving birth to Christ in body, without violating her virginity,
underwent theosis (union with Christ) in a bodily way, just as we
must unite to Christ, in imitation of the All-Holy Mother of God, in a
In other words, Roman
Catholics and Protestants do not, from an Orthodox perspective, have a
correct understanding of the Holy Spirit or the Mother of God.
They have deviated from revealed doctrine, the teaching of the Fathers,
and Holy Scripture. They have done so by separating the sacred mysteries
and events of the New Testament into artificial categories, making
distinctions in the nature of God and failing to understand that the
Annunciation, the Virgin Birth, Christ’s Sacrifice, the Resurrection,
and all aspects of the Christian saga are interrelated.
of Christian teaching is aimed at restoring humankind to unity with
God, transforming sinful humans into God’s sons by adoption (Romans
9:4)—indeed into “gods" (St. John 10:34)— and bringing them in to
participation in the nature (Energies) of God (II St. Peter 1:4).
Salvation is union with God, and thus Christ, the Archetype of all
humankind restored (Perfect God as Perfect Man), making us small “Jesus
Christs” within Jesus Christ, is present in all of those who are united
to Christ: the Mother of God, the “New Eve,” the Saints, and all of
those who are saved. All Scriptural events and the whole narrative of
human salvation is centered on Christ and on those who are united with
Just as the Holy Spirit is understood
correctly only as one with the Holy Trinity, so the Holy Virgin, and of
course her Annunciation, is understood only through Christ and through
the entire unified story of man’s restoration in Scripture, in the
writings of the Fathers, and in the Orthodox experience: the path to
deification and union with our Redeemer.
found the following quotation, which I have translated, from a sermon
(found in a collection of Sunday and Festal sermons, compiled by
Theodore K. Zographos) that appears on the Holy Synod’s website. It
brings together in a wonderful way what I have said, linking the Holy
Spirit, the Annunciation, and a correct understanding of the redemptive
Witness of Christ. It is a wonderful tribute to True Christianity and
celebrate today, my beloved, this great Feast of the mystery of the
union of God with man, the incarnation of the Word of God, yet also the
deification of man; for the Son of God, preserving unchanged His Divine
Nature, assumed a sentient human body from the chaste blood of the
Ever-Virgin Mary, by the good pleasure of the Father and the synergy of
the Holy Spirit, and in this manner became Perfect Man, that He might
make man God, inasmuch as those who believe in Him are, by His deifying
Grace, divinized and, by the partaking of His all-pure Body and Blood,
united to Him."
Theodore K. Zographos, Collected Sunday and Festal Sermons (Volos, 1914), pp. 62-64.