Also known as "The Prayer of the Heart"
Also known as "The Prayer of the Heart"
The Orthodox Church, following the centuries old teaching which come from the very first days of Christianity, therefore names of the Most Holy Virgin the "Mother of the Lord" or the "Birth giver of God" [Theotokos], and honors her in a sacred manner, and she herself prophesied by saying: "Behold, from hence forth all generations shall call me bless" (St. Luke 1:48), confessing her to be Ever-Virgin, that is forever preserving her vow of virginity.
Is there a foundation for the teaching of the perpetual virginity of the All-Holy Virgin Mary in the Holy Scriptures?
When Archangel Gabriel brought her the glad tidings of her giving birth to a Son who "shall be called the Son of the Highest", in astonishment she replied to him; "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (St. Luke 1:31-34).
Such an answer, full of amazement at the announcement of the angel would have been completely meaningless if she had not given a vow to God to remain a virgin forever. The angel calmed her, explaining to her that her vow would not be broken for she would bear a Son in a supernatural way, without the participation of a man, by the over-shadowing of the Spirit of God.
"The Holy Spirit shall come upon Thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow Thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God," he said to her (St. Luke 1:35).
These words of the Holy Scriptures already in and of themselves serve as a completely sufficient basis for the age-old belief and teaching of the Christian Church that the Most Holy Virgin Mary gave vow to God never to enter into wedlock, always sacredly preserving her virginity. Therefore, the Church honored her "twice wondrous Virgin": a virgin before birth giving, a virgin in giving birth, and a virgin after giving birth.
But who, then, was Joseph, who in the Gospel is sometimes called "her husband" (e.g.. St. Matthew 1:19)? Was he not then her real husband?
Nowhere does it say in the Gospel that the Most Holy Virgin Mary was given in wedlock to Joseph, but it is only said that she was "betrothed" to him (St. Luke 1:27:2:5). It is self-evident that for a young virgin to give the vow of virginity and live completely alone without a protector and defender is extremely difficult and dangerous. Therefore, formally, according to the Law, she was considered as the wife of Joseph, and this protected her from all attempt against the purity and of her virginity. Betrothal, in those times as in others, was legally considered to be equal to marriage, although it was not a complete marriage and did not grant the man who as betrothed the right to enter entirely into the rights of a husband (St. Luke 1:27).
If Joseph the Betrothed had truly been her husband and not just her "betrothed", why would she have expressed such amazement tot he archangel in reply to his announcing the birth from her of a son, and why would she ask: "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man" (St. Luke 1:34). Such an objection on her part would otherwise be completely incomprehensible and meaningless!
In the Holy Scriptures there is no mention of the age of Joseph the Betrothed, but it would have been extremely strange to think that the priest or the Temple of Jerusalem, were the All Holy Virgin Mary was brought up, would have betrothed her, with the purpose of preserving her virginity, to a young man, who had not yet married, as is the tendency of though, in agreement with their own aims, of the protestants and sectarians, in opposition to the tradition which has come down from deep antiquity, that Joseph was an elderly widower and already had from his first real and not just seeing marriage grown children, who in the eyes of those around, naturally were considered the "son of Joseph" (cf. St. Luke 4:22; St. Matthew 13: 55-56).
That the Gospel of St. Matthew states concerning Joseph and the All Holy Virgin: "He knew her not until she had brought forth her first born son; and he called his name Jesus" (St. Matthew 1:25), does not mean that he afterwards "knew her" and lived with her as a wife.
Entirely correct is the commentary of St. John Chyrsostom that a righteous man such as Joseph (and that he was a righteous man is clear from St. Matthew 1:19), could not decide to know a virgin after she had in such a miraculous way - - through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit - - became the Mother of the Son of God Himself. And the same Chrysostom cities a whole series of places in the Holy Scripture where this word "until", which is the translation of the Greek "heos", has meaning entirely opposite to the meaning attributed to it by the protestants and sectarians.
"This word," he says "does not lay down limits beyond which the action did not continue, does not signify any allotted time." Thus, in the account of the book of Genesis of the universal flood, it is said "and the raven did not return to the ark until [heos] the water had receded from the earth" (Genesis 8:6), but it did not return even after this. Likewise, concerning God, the Scripture says: "even from everlasting Thou art" (Psalm 89:2), but by this no limits are laid down. Likewise we also read in the 109th Psalm; "The Lord said unto my Lord: Sit Thou at My Right hand, until [heos] I make Thine enemies the footstool of thy feet" (Isaiah 55:10), but it is obvious that when it was watered the earth, the rain will not return.
In the parable of the merciless detour it is said, "And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors till [heos] he should pay all that was due until him" (St. Matthew 18:34), i.e. in essence forever, for how and what could he pay his debt when he was in the hands of the tormentors? The word "heos" is used in the farewell of the Lord with His disciples: "Lo, I am with you always, even unto [heos] the end of the age" (St. Matthew 28:20); but this does not mean, as Blessed Theophylact rightly notes, that after the end of the age of Christ all will no longer be with us. No! It is precisely then that He will even more so be with us.
That the Evangelist Matthew states that the Most HOly Virgin Mary "brought forth her first born son" (St. Matthew 1:25) in no way gives rise to the thought that after Jesus she bore other children. "The first born son" is the name applied to Jesus here not because He was the first, and, furthermore, the only one, born of her. In the Old Testament, as we know, God commanded to dedicate to Him "every first male", with no view whatsoever as to whether there would be other children after him or not" (cf. Ex. 13:2; Num. 3:13).
So easily and simply do all these unfound claims of the protestants and sectarians fall apart, when they deny with such vicious stubbornness the ancient teach of the Christian Church concerning the Ever-Virgin Birthgiver of God! They do not even take the trouble to consider why the Lord Jesus Christ would entrust His MOther to His disciple John, during the Crucifixion, if she had several of her own sons and daughters? Would none of them really have taken her in as a mother and cared for her?
What, then, is the reason for such surprising and stubborn dislike on the part of the protestants and sectarians for the ancient teaching of the Christian Church concerning the Ever-Virgin Mother of God?
The reason is revealed quite simply; it is their general dislike for the ascetic labor of virginity!
The founder and inspirer of protestantism, Martin Luther himself, a Roman Catholic monk who had given the vow of virginity and not feeling himself capable of fulfilling vow, trampled on it by marrying a nun. And in order to justify himself he began the false teaching that for salvation no ascetic labors are necessary at all, but faith alone in Christ is by itself sufficient.
Yet this is in direct opposition to the Holy Scriptures, which the protestants claim as their only authority, although with complete freedom in its interpretation. It is sufficient to cite just one saying of the Holy Apostle James, the Brother of the Lord, who in his catholic epistle states, that faith alone cannot save a person, for "the devils also believe and tremble" (St. James 2:19), and therefore "as body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (St. James 2:26).
Concerning the vow of virginity, this vow is instituted by one one other than by the Divine Virgin and the Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, in His discourse with the disciples on marriage and virginity [St. Matthew 19:3-12].
When the Lord spoke that marriage could not be dissolved except for the sake of adultery, the Apostles were disturbed and said, "If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry" (St. Matthew 19:10). Correcting a light-minded statement by the disciples, the Lord confirmed that is is indeed "better not to marry", but, at the same time stated that the preservation of chastity is an ascetic labor which all cannot bear. "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given" (St. Matthew 19:11), and thus He established virginity on the same moral height as the loftier and more perfect states of spiritual life. Further, the Lord compares the ascetic labor of virginity with voluntary eunuchs; words, which, of course, are not to be taken literally, in the coarse, physical sense, "and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake" (St. Matthew 19:12).
To make oneself a "eunuch for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake" means to cut off completely carnal desire, to slay carnal lust and to decide to lead an unmarried, virginal life, for the sake of a more complete service to God and attainment of the Kingdom of Heaven.
"He that is able to receive it, let him receive it" (St. Matthew 19:12). This means that no one is forced to the ascetic labor of virginity, but be who feels himself, with God's help, must do so.
This is clear undeniable institution by our Savior HImself of the ascetic labor of virginity, which is so great and so pleasing before God. For this reason many thousands of Christian men and women honored the lightness of this ascetic labor and chose it for themselves, and throughout the entire history of the Church they have been glorified for the sanctity of their lives. It was only in the 16th century, that the protestants, in the person of Martin Luther, joined in attach against this Christian institution and, in their dislike for it, did not stop even at blasphemy against the Ever-Virgin Mother of God, denying her virginity and sacrilegiously recognizing her simply as another average woman, like all others who bear children from their husband, and they do not wish to glorify her in opposition to her prophesy, "Behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed" (St. Luke 1:48).
For this reason it is not surprising, and is even the logical conclusion, that the more extreme of the protestants came to the denial of the miraculous birth from her of the Son of God, as of a pure and undefiled virgin, and strive now to demonstrate that in the great prophesy of Isaiah concerning the birth of Emmanuel of a virgin, one should not read "virgin" but "young maiden" (Isaiah 7:14). Thus step by step, they give in to the propaganda of the atheists, who do not recognize anything lofty or holy.
No one forbids protestants and sectarians from entering into legal matrimony, if they do not feel themselves capable of a virgin life, and to bear children. But why deny and blaspheme that which always over the ages has been sacred in the eyes of all true Christians. And now do they dare to lower and blaspheme the lofty virginity of the Most Pure and All immaculate Virgin -- the Mother of Christ our Hod!
The voice of the Ecumenical Church of Christ unanimously pronounced upon them and all their sympathizers a terrible sentence, already in the ninth century, a sentence which has been included in the magnificently compunction ate Service of Orthodoxy.
"To all who dare to say that the All Pure Virgin Mary was not before giving birth, in giving birth, and after giving birth a Virgin - - anathema!
And we glorify Her with the angelic doxology, Rejoice, Thou full
of grace, the Lord is with Thee!" (St. Luke 1:28).
And for each of us Christians She is the Mother of My Lord" (St.
And we glorify Her with the angelic doxology, Rejoice, Thou full of grace, the Lord is with Thee!" (St. Luke 1:28).
And for each of us Christians She is the Mother of My Lord" (St. Luke 1:43).
Source: Orthodox Life., Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York.
In The Love Of Christ Our True God,
Rev. Father Demetrios Serfes