Monday, April 11, 2016

Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, and the Annunciation

Sharing: The Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, and the Annunciation

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Dan Everiss

Sun, Apr 10, 2016 at 11:56 AM

Subject: The Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, and the Annunciation
Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2016 19:40:39 +0100

Begin forwarded message:

From: Bishop Chrysostomos 
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:

The 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.


I 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?


Protestants, 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.

Thus, 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.

When 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.

 As 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 “non-bodily” way. 

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.

All 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 Him. 

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.

I 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 Genuine Orthodoxy:

"We 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.

Here is the Greek original:

Tοῦτο τὸ μέγα τῆς ἑνώσεως τοῦ Θεοῦ πρὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον μυστήριον πανηγυρίζομεν, ἀγαπητοί, σήμερον, τὴν ἐνανθρώπησιν τοῦ Θεοῦ Λόγου, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὴν θέωσιν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου· διότι ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, τηρουμένης ἀτρέπτου τῆς θείας αὐτοῦ φύσεως, προσέλαβεν ἔμψυχον ἀνθρώπινον σῶμα ἐκ τῶν ἁγνῶν τῆς Ἀειπαρθένου αἱμάτων, Πατρὸς εὐδοκίᾳ καὶ ἁγίου Πνεύματος συνεργείᾳ, καὶ οὕτω τέλειος ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος, ἵνα Θεὸν ἀπεργάσηται τὸν ἄνθρωπον· καθόσον οἱ εἰς αὐτὸν πιστεύοντες διὰ τῆς θεοποιοῦ αὐτοῦ χάριτος θεοῦνται καὶ διὰ τῆς μεταλήψεως τοῦ παναχράντου αὐτοῦ Αἵματος καὶ Σώματος μετ’ αὐτοῦ ἑνοῦνται.

Θεόδωρος Κ. Ζωγράφος, Κυριακοδρόμιον…καὶ…Ἑορτοδρόμιον [Kyriakodromion kai heortodromion] (Βόλος, 1914), σελ. 62-64.

The Most Reverend Chrysostomos, former
Archbishop and Metropolitan emeritus of Etna

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