Today we celebrate the birth of Mary, the Mother of God. In the Orthodox Church, we speak of Mary as “Theotokos,” God-bearer. This honorific emphasizes that the one born of her was the Son of God himself. Christ’s incarnation did not begin on the day of his birth, but nine months earlier, at the moment of his conception. Mary carried God himself in her womb.
The Orthodox Church’s reverence for Mary is grounded in some very important Biblical teachings. First, in the Gospel of Luke, Mary herself prophecies that “all generations will call me blessed.” Those who adhere to a completely literal interpretation of the Bible should take note. Honoring Mary for her singular role in our salvation–the calling to be the mother of the world’s Savior–is a scriptural directive for “all generations.”
Another bit of scripture that comes into play when considering how Christians should view Mary is the Ten Commandments, specifically number five: “Honor your father and your mother.” It is clear from the Gospels that Jesus had a deep love for his mother. At the beginning of his earthly ministry, it is at the prompting of Mary that Jesus performs his first miracle, when he changed water into wine at a wedding feast. At the conclusion of his earthly ministry, in the midst of unimaginable physical and spiritual suffering on the cross, Jesus took the time to entrust his mother to the care of the Evangelist John.
Ultimately Mary is to be honored for her faithful obedience to the Lord’s will. Having heard God’s word for her, that she was called to give birth to the Messiah, she diligently kept it in her life. Mary wasn’t just a passive vessel for Jesus’ entrance into the world, but she was a continuous presence (and we can even say influence) in his earthly ministry.
Christians are members of the body of Christ. We share an intimate fellowship with him, a communion. Through Christ, we call God our Heavenly Father. Does it not make sense that through him we would also honor his mother, Mary, as our own mother?
Mary pondered in her heart all of those things she knew about Jesus and saw unfold in his life. She also holds close to her heart the hopes and fears, the successes and failures, of all those who are her spiritual children through her son.
Without a doubt, the work of Mary’s son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is of infinitely greater importance to us in our salvation. But it’s good to know that we have the “highly-favored one” herself in our corner as well.