The Theotokos, Motherhood and Salvation

“Conqueror, adventurer, builder, man is not fatherly in his being.

An ancient liturgical text projects upon the motherhood of the Virgin the light of the divine fatherhood: ‘You have given birth to the Son without a father, the Son whom the Father brought forth before the ages without a mother.’ The virgin Mary’s motherhood is thus a human figure or image of the fatherhood of God. Here we have an explanation of why the religious principle of dependence on the beyond, of receptivity, of communion is expressed so immediately by woman. The particular sensibility to pure spirituality resides far more in the anima than in the animus. It is the feminine soul which is nearest to the sources, to the origins, to birth. The Bible presents woman as the quintessential image of human nature’s spiritual receptivity. In actuality, the promise of salvation was given to woman, for a woman received the Annunciation of the birth of Christ and it was a woman who first saw the Risen Lord, and it is a woman ‘clothed in the sun’ who is the image of the Church and of the heavenly city in the Book of Revelation.

Further, it is in the images of the beloved and the bride that God chose to express his love for us and the marital nature of his communion with us. Finally, the most important fact is that the Incarnation was accomplished in the Virgin’s feminine nature. It is she who gave the Word of God her flesh and blood. To divine fatherhood as a specific feature of God’s very being directly corresponds the motherhood of woman, her receptive capacity for the divine. The whole goal of Christian life is to make of every human being a mother, a being predestined for the mystery of birth, ‘so that Christ may be formed in you’ (Gal. 4:19). Sanctification is precisely the action of the Spirit who makes possible the miraculous birth of Jesus in the depths of the soul. This is why the Nativity symbolizes and expresses the charism of every woman, that of bringing God to birth in destitute souls: ‘The Word is constantly born anew in our hearts.’ says the Letter to Diognetus. For St Maximus the Confessor, the mystic is the one in whom the birth of Christ is manifest. In order to describe his spiritual fatherhood, even St. Paul used the image of motherhood: ‘I undergo the sufferings of childbirth’ (Gal. 4:19).”   (Paul Evdokimov, In the World, Of the Church, pp 234-235)

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