Comments on the Salutation Service
"Hail Mary, the Lady of us all!"
Unquestionably, the indefectible Mother of God embodies all the valuable qualities shown by mankind for so many centuries. This is why the patristic preaching has respectfully devoted a big part of its spiritual-driven writings to a theopneustic approach to the glories of the Most Holy Mother and, especially, to her contribution to the mystery of divine incarnation.
The Bible takes also part in this offering with the called-by-God name of the Ever-Virgin Mary which is compiled by the initials of the names of five women in the Old Testament. According to St. Andrew from Crete , their endearing qualities were embodied in the Most Holy Mother, the wreath of Graces.
The Virgin and prophet Mariam, sister of Moses, foreshows the ever-virgin Daughter who prophesized her future glory to Elizabeth .
Beautiful Asyneth, wife of Joseph, the most-virtuous, shows the Most Favoured bride of Father God and the Unwedded Mother, fairer in beauty of all the sons of men .
The modesty and humiliation of Rebecca, Jacob's mother, reflects the humiliation of the Most Holy Mother throughout the centuries; it was Her that God watched and chose as the blessed one amongst women in order to conceive Christ as man in her all-blameless womb.
So the Most Holy Mother, as another Judith, crashed the head of Holofernes, the primordial Devil, and became the people's awe-inspiring and honoured protector.
Finally, the All-Immaculate Theotokos gave birth to the Saviour of the New Israel of the grace, as Anna gave birth to the Samuel the Prophet, the support of the Israelite people.
Furthermore, Anna means Favour or Grace. The fact Anna, the prophet, was sterile shows the sterility of human hearts prior to the appearance of the God-Man. This sterility was disrupted in the person of the Most Holy Mother that cultivated the God-covetable ethos of virtues to an inconceivable extent and, as the one Full of Grace, gave birth to Christ who broke the binds of this sterility.
By giving birth to Christ, she became, therefore, an accomplice in the world salvation and blessing, a living paradise who feeds the whole of the Church with her grace. She feeds with the Grace found in God as it was revealed to her by the Archangel, the bearer of good news, and it is ecstatically praised by Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem: " Do not be afraid, Mariam, for you have found favor with God (the ever shining, the all-famous, the all-bright, the never ending, the saving, the eternal); the one that no one has seen… no one was able to accept.
Others before you have flourished with outstanding holiness. But to none as to you has the fullness of grace been given (None has been endowed with happiness as you, none adorned with holiness like yours; none brought to such great magnificence as yours, no one was ever possessed beforehand by purifying grace as were you)… for no one came as close to God as you did; no one was enriched with God's gifts as you were. You have surpassed everything people admire; you are higher than all the gifts bestowed by God to all."
The Most Holy Mother illuminates the angelic orders, leads as a bride the saints' souls, brings grace to the spirits of the righteous, sanctifies the pious Christians, supervises and provides and prays for her Son's flock with motherly courage and freedom. Her Graces, intercession, miracles, overwhelming care, stemming from the inexhaustible source of motherly sympathy, bring to the human race that falls into spiritual starvation without her compassion the pity of Divine mercy.
And let us fight to bear fruit worthy of the salvation under her graceful protection placing our hopes in the sweet river of mercy of the Most Holy Mother of God.
It is what we confess every evening in front of her icon: " All my hope I place in thee, O Mother of God: keep me under thy protection."
"Queen Lady of us all, full of grace, listen to the ones begging you."
THE AFFIRMATION OF OUR HOPE
Comments on the Salutation Service
By father Agathangelos K. Haramantides
Contemplating the sweet face of the Most Holy Theotokos during the Salutation Service, without distinguishing it from the face and the glory of her Son, we have to speak for our hope and the reason for this hope, the hope of the small deserted, the hope of the children of the Church of Christ.
According to the New Testament, the life of the Christians is described as a life full of hope. We were reborn by the God and Father of Jesus Christ in a living hope so that the only accountability whether we have responded to our divine call or not to be the expression about the hope within us .
Christian life means expectation of the blessed hope and glorious appearing of the glory of God, it means preservation of the present hope; continuous fixation on the hope of the Gospel means rejoice in hope of the glory.
This Christian hope, though, is something unique. While human hopes are always associated with the promises about the world and existence, Christian hope, on the contrary, is freed from the conventional and human and resorts to the only source of life and possible: the Revealed and Living God.
Christian hope is radically different from human hopes, because this is the hope, not a product of human imagination and nostalgia, but the fruit of the Spirit, a call of the Divine Grace, the hope of His calling, as it is characterized by Apostle Paul. Christian hope is revealed in the call of God which is announced daily with the logos and mystery of Christ. Anyone that wishes to live in this hope must accept the call of God, the words of His truth, the words of His Gospel.
Expectation, freedom, salvation
This call of God to a living hope is not a gift to the mystic or to the hierophant; it is not a magical instillation of the Divine in human nature. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our hope is the God's gift in the power of the Holy Spirit. This truth describes and exclusively and concisely exhausts all the meaning of Christian faith and life.
The specific expectation of Christian hope is salvation. Salvation means life in Christ. Only when we live in Him does our existence become a true life. It is life because, if it is wholly offered to Christ, it will become life again, when He returns in order to give eternal life.
Christian existence is identified as life with freedom and salvation. This freedom is our possession and our big expectation. Freedom and salvation from lethal contemplation and fixation to ourselves, freedom to give and receive, freedom within the grace of the redeemed, freedom from voluntary Passion seeing the glory of the Coming One and personal glorification. The glory which is our expectation and which penetrates our existence is the magnificence of the freedom of eternal life, the sight of God's love.
We are asked, thus, to have hope. Faith must and can be converted into hope in the Resurrection, where human limitations were surpassed. God heard our wails and opened the horizon for us in order to see, but man retreats and is afraid. God asks us to trust the present as well as the future, which does not exist yet. This hope, which we have to affirm with our lives, enables us to carry the cross of the present and challenges history. This is the special characteristic of Christian hope; to experience Cross and offer Resurrection. The God of Hope is not the One who is exhausted in the present but He is the One who giveth life to the death and calleth the things that are not, as though they were. Our hope, therefore, as St. Isaac the Syrian says, becomes the joy of the present, the repose and comfort, because the mercy of God is around us and does not disgrace us.
Expectation gives a different meaning in life, because only the ones that are expectant make the present their own and feel content not only in joy but also in pain; happiness not only in happiness but in unhappiness. In this way, our hope becomes a triumphant faring because it is the only thing that can predict the future, even of the finite and mortal, the only thing that dismisses and kills despair. This is why the language of philosophy says that life without hope is not life. Hell is despair itself. Dante was absolutely right about the inscription in the Gate of Hell: “You who enter abandon all hope.”
The assembly of the Orthodox Christians in the Salutation Service for the Most Holy Theotokos is an affirmation and completion of our hope. Our life reveals the point and the mystery of hope. Who brings us strength and support? Who instils the breath of life into us? The Lord himself and His Holy Mother. The Most Holy Mother of God is the joy and comfort for our people. Let us remember here the words of St. Siluan the Athonite: “ When Virgin Mary stood next to the Cross, her grief was enormous like the ocean and the pain of her soul was incomparably bigger than the pain of Adam after his fall from Paradise , because her love was incomparably bigger than the love of Adam for Paradise . And she lived only with the Divine strength, the support of the Lord, because His will was to see the Resurrection and then His Assumption, to stay as the comfort and the joy of the Apostles and the new Christian people.”
God is in front of us as our absolute future. Strength and obedience stem from there, from the Coming One. A contemporary Orthodox thinker writes: “ Christians practice hope and fight and through these they learn to hope and by hoping to act more. Their hope is precious, illuminated and exciting. With the measure of this hope they rock the certainty of immovable situations and demystify the negative securities, the self-evident and the falsities of life and take part in keeping life and history open for new conquers, unexpected and surprising.
Can we, thus, not hope? We have tasted the experience of the Lord's grace, we have our Church, our Holy Mother –love is enough to end men's evil throughout the centuries. This is why we respectfully place our hope for tomorrow to the Theotokos continuing our lives and fights with patience.