It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, without defilement you gave birth to God the Word. True Theotokos we magnify you!
Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with You. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, for you have borne the Savior of our souls.
Most Holy Theotokos, save us!
Growing up, I was taught my prayers. I started with “Our Father” and it evolved from there. I remember receiving a lesson on the “ACTS” form of prayer, or “Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication”, which is patterned after the “Our Father” prayer.
Prayer is one of our connections to God. And while reading many of the New Testament letters, you will see Paul (1 Tim 2:5), John (1 John 2:1), and Peter (1 Peter 3:18) all telling Christians that our mediator between us and God the Father is Christ Jesus.
This was ingrained into me, and one of the most common complaints against Roman Catholicism (and by extension, Orthodoxy) that I heard. So once again I will point out that simply entering the church and seeing the high position that Mary holds, was difficult for me, and tore at my conscience.
Obviously, I have changed my position on this, but it wasn’t without great difficulty.
Father Phil was extremely patient with me on all my issues with Mary. He even had me The Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, which is a well-researched account of Mary’s life, from various sources.
We also discussed prayers to the saints and most importantly, prayers to the Holy Theotokos.
Me: “Why pray to them, if we have Christ as our mediator?”
FP: “Why did Paul ask the Thessalonians to pray for him, if Christ was enough?”
Me: “Well, we all pray for each other, I pray for my wife, and she for me.”
FP: “Why should it be any different for those who are in heaven? ‘He is not the God of the dead, but the living…’ If they are still alive in heaven, shouldn’t we ask for their prayers just like we ask each other here on Earth? In fact we should approach them since they have an even closer connection to God in heaven than we do here on Earth!”
Me: “But why ask Mary to ‘save’ you. Only Christ can save us.”
FP: “Eternal salvation is only possible through Christ, but our prayers to Mary are to pray to Christ on our behalf for our salvation.”
I’ll be honest, that this didn’t really help me understand. I was confused and not sure how to articulate my confusion in an intelligible way for Father Phil to give me an adequate answer.
Thankfully, God provides when we don’t expect it.
I was listening to a talk by one of my favorite Priests, Father Andrew Stephen Damick. And while the below is not specifically from the talk, it is from a blog post he wrote on this topic, and which helped me understand why we pray to Mary.
The Apostle Paul is of the opinion that he can save people and that others can do so, too, that they can even save themselves:
For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. (Rom. 11:13-14)
Then further down in the post he states:
So while we wouldn’t say that all these people and things “save” us in the sense that God alone can save us, we certainly can affirm with the apostles cited here that we “save” one another, that prayer “saves,” and that baptism “saves.” That is, all these things contribute to our salvation which comes solely through Christ.
This reasoning to me was similar to the word “sanctify” or to make holy. Proverbs 27:17 came to mind, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” When I asked my brothers in Christ at a discipleship meeting when I was in a protestant church to pray for me, I was asking them to help “save” me from myself and my sinful passions. That through their prayers I might be rescued by my God.
This really helped me come to terms with the prayers to Mary. And recognizing her role as Queen of Heaven, the Mother of God, who has a special place with Christ to make supplications on our behalf, why wouldn’t we do everything we can to bring ourselves closer to Christ through theosis?
What I’ve come to realize is that Protestants have a misconstrued view of Orthodoxy, like a fun-house mirror. I was guilty of the same thing, and even today I learn more and more and see more clearly what and why certain practices are done.
The Theotokos is a holy woman, blessed by God, bore the Savior of the World, and works tirelessly through her son on our behalf. I have come to realize that she totally deserves my respect and honor, above all else. She is the new Eve, just as her son is the new Adam. Through them we have new life and new hope in God.
Most Holy Theotokos, save me!