Daily Reading for August 15 • St. Mary the Virgin
All of eastern piety, according to Vladimir Lossky, consists of the celebration of what is the goal of our salvation: overcoming the abyss between God and man. This is why there is added to the Christians’ devotion to an incarnate divine hypostasis, Jesus Christ, a deified human hypostasis, Mary, whom Gregory Palamas calls: ‘the boundary between the created and the uncreated’.
We hear about ‘the eschatologism of the eastern Church’. Is the mystery of Mary not one of the most effective expressions of this hope? ‘The last glory of the Mother of God’, Lossky continues, is ‘the eschaton realized in a created person before the end of the world. Tradition shows us the Mother of God in the midst of the disciples on the day of Pentecost. . . . The Mother of God received with the Church the last and only thing she lacked, so that she might grow to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’
In pre-revolutionary Russia, close to a thousand icons of Mary were venerated in the liturgical calendar under various names—for example, ‘Our Consolation’, ‘Provident’, ‘Softening of our evil hearts’, and so on. The icon called Pokrov (Protection) represents the Virgin covering the entire earth with her mantle. The icon Znamenye (Sign, Miracle) shows Mary in the orans posture, with the Word of God on her breast. This is symbolic of the deifying contemplation which makes God present in the soul. On the icon of the Ascension, the Virgin represents the Church imploring the descent of the Spirit and the second coming of the Saviour. The veneration of the Mother of God represents one of the typical traits of eastern Christians because devotion to the Theotokos (God-bearer) agrees well with the characteristics of eastern spirituality.
From Prayer: The Spirituality of the Christian East, Volume 2 by Tomaš Špidlík SJ (Cistercian Publications, 2005).