How does an Orthodox Christian understand phrases in the liturgy on the Theotokos such as "we have you as our only hope" or "our sole salvation and our sole hope"?
There are a number of ways in which those phrases (and others, like "Most Holy Theotokos, save us" apply -
- As the Mother of our Lord, she helped bring Salvation and true Hope into the world.
- As a good and faithful disciple, she was an excellent example to us of Christian living
- As a person in the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Lord's Mother to boot, she is able to intercede with her son on our behalf, with whom she showed much influence and willingness to pray while He was alive and living amongst humankind. If He respected her and hearkened to her in this life, how much more can we expect in the Life and Kingdom to come?
The sense of urgency comes from our perpetual state of sin and the sense that death can come at every time. Since we do not know how much time we have left on this Earth to repent and turn back to the Lord, we entreat the Theotokos with urgent language, calling her "our only hope," or calling out to her as if we were drowning in the Sea of our sins, "Most Holy Theotokos, save us!" Our Salvation only comes from God - but through birthgiving and raising our Lord, she was the chosen vessel for this Salvation to come into the world.