The Holy Virgin Mary is properly called in Orthodox worship the Theotokos. This Greek word means “she who gave birth to God.” This title preserves the apostolic teaching of the Church that Christ Jesus is God Himself incarnate in human flesh and blood. For this reason she is depicted in icons prominently, so that we might be ever mindful of both her obedience, who said, “Let it be unto me according to Thy will” (Luke 1:38) and the essential cornerstone of our Faith, that God became flesh to save us.
- “For it was necessary that Adam be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up in immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin.”
- “In His unbounded love, God became what we are that He might make us what He is.” St. Irenaeus of Lyon (+ c. 200)
For Orthodox Christians the Theotokos is the first to walk in the path of salvation. Her obedience is a symbol and example of the obedience required by us also as we set Christ on the Throne of our hearts. As such she is the very beginning of our salvation.
- “Today is the beginning of our salvation and the manifestation of the mystery that is from all eternity. The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel announces the good tidings of grace. Therefore let us also join him and cry aloud to the Theotokos: Rejoice thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” (Troparion of the Annunciation)
She is a symbol of the Church itself, whose members are called to consider the body the “temple of the Holy Spirit,” (I Cor. 6:19) just as she became the Temple of the Holy Spirit and Throne of Christ the King at the incarnation of the God. Thus at the Feast of the Annunciation and throughout the year we commemorate her obedience and the incarnation of the Son of God, and the faithful venerate her icon lovingly and with grateful hearts, for in her the first fruits of our salvation have come forth.
“O pure Virgin, thou hast contained Him who by nature cannot be contained; thou hast held Him who upholds all things; thou hast given suck to Him who sustains the creation, Christ the Giver of Life.” (from the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete)