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neon_knights
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« on: May 24, 2011, 10:42:47 PM »

I was recently reading the Akathist to the Virgin hymn, and while it is beautiful poetry, IMO some of it borders upon worship. As a current protestant who was once vehemently against Marian veneration (I understand more of it now), this is a little hard to grasp. I totally understand why Orthodox Christians ask for Mary's intercession and honor her above all other saints, but I cannot understand why such a passionate hymn should be sung to anyone other than God.
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« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2011, 10:59:49 PM »

Passionate imagery is part of Orthodox prayer, and doesn't translate into ontological statements. In many hymns about the Harrowing of Hades, for example, Hades is personified as an actual being who trembles in fear of Christ.

Some Roman Catholics take the passionate imagery mentioned in prayers and legalistically translate it into doctrines of ontological reality, like their Mediatrix of All Graces doctrine. EO theology does not make such translations.

Here's a podcast you may find helpful:

http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/intercessory_prayer

It's important to remember that when you glorify a saint, you are glorifying God in that saint.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2011, 11:01:24 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2011, 11:10:25 PM »

I think many of us were in the same place at some point in our journeys. I know I was.

What's perhaps most important to remember is that everything we say about the Mother of God is precisely because of God and what He did through her. Most of it points directly to the Mystery of the Incarnation and our salvation. For example, this is Ikos 3:

Rejoice, branch of an Unfading Sprout:
— Both Jesus and Mary are members of the Tree of Jesse

Rejoice, acquisition of Immortal Fruit!
— Christ is the Immortal Fruit, and through Mary we have acquired Him in the flesh

Rejoice, laborer that laborest for the Lover of mankind:
— Mary called herself "the Lord's servant" at the Annunciation

Rejoice, Thou Who givest birth to the Planter of our life!
— She gave birth to God Incarnate, Who creates every human life.

Rejoice, cornland yielding a rich crop of mercies:
— If Christ is a crop of mercy, as His birthgiver, Mary is the field.

Rejoice, table bearing a wealth of forgiveness!
— If Christ is a feast of forgiveness, as His birthgiver, Mary is the table.

Rejoice, Thou Who makest to bloom the garden of delight:
— If Christ is a garden of delight, as His birthgiver, Mary caused Him to bloom.

Rejoice, Thou Who preparest a haven for souls!
— She is a haven of prayer for us, because as the King's Mother—the Queen—we know she has His ear, just as Queen Bathsheba had the ear of her son, Solomon.

Rejoice, acceptable incense of intercession:
— We believe Mary intercedes for us in prayer (often symbolized by incense), and she is acceptable because she is righteous.

Rejoice, propitiation of all the world!
— Christ is the world's propitiation, and Mary's "Yes" made the Incarnation possible—hence Christ's death, hence the propitiation.

Rejoice, good will of God to mortals:
— It was only by God's goodwill that the Incarnation even happened.

Rejoice, boldness of mortals before God!
— We now have boldness before God because we are no longer trapped by the devil.

Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!
— She was a Virgin, yet she bore a Child.

As you can see, this hymn actually says more about Jesus Christ than it does about Mary. This is because everything that Mary did was only possible through Christ. It rightly praises her, because her obedience made our salvation possible. God chose her specifically for the mission of the Incarnation because of her purity. As NicholasMyra said, we praise God in the saint, and not as if the saint accomplished anything in a vacuum.

Mary's great accomplishment was obeying God's will. The Akathist Hymn teaches us what God can do with a regular human being who obeys God perfectly. The Akathist should inspire us to obedience and striving toward holiness.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2011, 11:14:21 PM by bogdan » Logged
neon_knights
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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2011, 11:35:58 PM »

I understand the poetic terminology of the above verses, but what about these?

Rejoice, Uplifting of men. Rejoice, Downfall of demons.
Rejoice, you who trampled upon the delusion of error. Rejoice, you who censured the deceit of the idols.
Rejoice, Sea which drowned the symbolic Pharaoh. Rejoice, Rock which refreshed those thirsting for life.
Rejoice, Pillar of fire, guiding those in darkness. Rejoice, Protection of the world, more spacious than a cloud.
Rejoice, Nourishment, successor to manna. Rejoice, Minister of holy joy.
Rejoice, Land of promise. Rejoice, you from whom flows milk and honey.

Should not some of these titles be given to Christ alone? Especially the "successor to manna" one. Is not Christ the bread of life, successor to manna?

I just find it very hard to see why we should be going to Mary instead of God in certain situations.
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« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2011, 11:44:03 PM »

I understand the poetic terminology of the above verses, but what about these?

Rejoice, Uplifting of men. Rejoice, Downfall of demons.
Rejoice, you who trampled upon the delusion of error. Rejoice, you who censured the deceit of the idols.
Rejoice, Sea which drowned the symbolic Pharaoh. Rejoice, Rock which refreshed those thirsting for life.
Rejoice, Pillar of fire, guiding those in darkness. Rejoice, Protection of the world, more spacious than a cloud.
Rejoice, Nourishment, successor to manna. Rejoice, Minister of holy joy.
Rejoice, Land of promise. Rejoice, you from whom flows milk and honey.

Should not some of these titles be given to Christ alone? Especially the "successor to manna" one. Is not Christ the bread of life, successor to manna?
A lot of these are Mary-as-the-new-Zion. Who dwells in Zion is what is worshiped, not Zion itself.

You can see this concept clearly in this Paschal hymn:

The Angel Cried to the Lady full of grace: 
Rejoice, rejoice, O pure virgin!
Again I say, Rejoice!
They Son hath risen on the third day from the grave.
With Himself He hath raised all the dead,
Rejoice, rejoice, O ye people!

Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem,
The glory of the Lord hath shone on thee
Exalt and be glad, O Zion.
And thou, O pure Mother of God,
Rejoice in the rising of thy Child.


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« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2011, 11:58:46 PM »

Rejoice, Uplifting of men.
— Our humanity was raised to divinity in the Incarnation, which Mary's cooperation made possible.

Rejoice, Downfall of demons.
— The Incarnation made Christ's life and death possible, which was the downfall of demons—again, by Mary's cooperation.

Rejoice, you who trampled upon the delusion of error. Rejoice, you who censured the deceit of the idols.
— Idols are human attempts to create "incarnate gods". But Mary gave birth to the true Incarnate God.

Rejoice, Sea which drowned the symbolic Pharaoh.
— This is not the best translation of this verse. A better one would be "spiritual Pharoah", meaning the devil. The Theotokos is the "sea" he was drowned in.

Rejoice, Rock which refreshed those thirsting for life.
— If Christ is the Water of Life, then Mary is the rock it sprang from.

Rejoice, Pillar of fire, guiding those in darkness.
— If Christ is the Light, then Mary is the pillar the light comes from.

Rejoice, Protection of the world, more spacious than a cloud.
— These refer to the fact that Mary contained the Infinite God within her body, bore Him, and raised Him.

Rejoice, Nourishment, successor to manna.
— Manna is a prefigurement of the Eucharist, Christ's Body. Christ's divinity is from the Father, but His flesh is from his mother.

Rejoice, Minister of holy joy.
— "Minister" in the archaic sense: one who conveys something. Mary brought holy joy into the world: Jesus.

Rejoice, Land of promise. Rejoice, you from whom flows milk and honey.
— If Christ is the "milk and honey", Mary is the "promised land" which flows with milk and honey.

Quote
Should not some of these titles be given to Christ alone?

God only rarely acts in purely supernatural, Force-like ways. He usually works through our physical world. The praise of God in Mary is an affirmation of the Incarnation and reinforces the truth that God really did become a human person with a physical body.

If we only said all this about Christ, we would risk turning it all into a mental exercise and reduce the importance of the Incarnation. We focus on the logical implications of the Incarnation to ensure we keep it real. Smiley
« Last Edit: May 25, 2011, 12:01:52 AM by bogdan » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2011, 04:10:18 AM »

Rejoice, Sea which drowned the symbolic Pharaoh.
— This is not the best translation of this verse. A better one would be "spiritual Pharoah", meaning the devil. The Theotokos is the "sea" he was drowned in.

Rejoice, Rock which refreshed those thirsting for life.
— If Christ is the Water of Life, then Mary is the rock it sprang from.

Rejoice, Land of promise. Rejoice, you from whom flows milk and honey.
— If Christ is the "milk and honey", Mary is the "promised land" which flows with milk and honey.

And if she is the sea, the rock, and the land; then God is the one who through Moses parts the sea, strikes the rock, and leads to the land; they don't do these things themselves.
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« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2011, 09:27:07 AM »

Rejoice, Sea which drowned the symbolic Pharaoh.
— This is not the best translation of this verse. A better one would be "spiritual Pharoah", meaning the devil. The Theotokos is the "sea" he was drowned in.

Rejoice, Rock which refreshed those thirsting for life.
— If Christ is the Water of Life, then Mary is the rock it sprang from.

Rejoice, Land of promise. Rejoice, you from whom flows milk and honey.
— If Christ is the "milk and honey", Mary is the "promised land" which flows with milk and honey.

And if she is the sea, the rock, and the land; then God is the one who through Moses parts the sea, strikes the rock, and leads to the land; they don't do these things themselves.

Correct. In Orthodoxy we recognize that the means of God's actions are just as important as the cause and the result, because it is all a single divine act of bringing His will to fruition. And we work in synergy with God, so He carries out His will through people and physical things.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2011, 09:52:19 AM by bogdan » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2011, 08:03:42 PM »

And these lines, from the similar Canon to the Theotokos, are straight up worship in my eyes

our only hope

We have no other help, we have no other hope, but thee

I have no other help beside Thee, no other intercessor, nor good consoler, except thee, O Mother of God

For if thou didst not intercede in prayer, who would have delivered us from so many dangers? Who would have kept us free until now?

O cause of all blessings

O only praise of all

O only immaculate one

pour on all the riches of well-doing and good conduct; all is possible to thee

Thy divine protection, O Virgin

these honorable gifts, which can be offered only to thee, who art the one chosen out of all generations, and who hast become higher than all creation, heavenly and earthly

the inexhaustible, unfailing treasury of healings

O fountain of mercy

as our hope and support and unshakable wall of salvation, we are delivered from every difficulty

a wall of refuge and the perfect salvation of our souls and release from our afflictions

we are thy slaves

a treasury of salvation, fountain of incorruption, tower of safety, and door of repentence


Only immaculate one? Only hope? Only praise of all? We are thy slaves? IMO these are just phrases that should be attributed to Christ alone. I just dont understand why such strong words of praise should be directed at someone other than God.
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« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2011, 08:06:36 PM »

And these lines, from the similar Canon to the Theotokos, are straight up worship in my eyes

our only hope

We have no other help, we have no other hope, but thee

I have no other help beside Thee, no other intercessor, nor good consoler, except thee, O Mother of God

For if thou didst not intercede in prayer, who would have delivered us from so many dangers? Who would have kept us free until now?

O cause of all blessings

O only praise of all

O only immaculate one

pour on all the riches of well-doing and good conduct; all is possible to thee

Thy divine protection, O Virgin

these honorable gifts, which can be offered only to thee, who art the one chosen out of all generations, and who hast become higher than all creation, heavenly and earthly

the inexhaustible, unfailing treasury of healings

O fountain of mercy

as our hope and support and unshakable wall of salvation, we are delivered from every difficulty

a wall of refuge and the perfect salvation of our souls and release from our afflictions

we are thy slaves

a treasury of salvation, fountain of incorruption, tower of safety, and door of repentence


Only immaculate one? Only hope? Only praise of all? We are thy slaves? IMO these are just phrases that should be attributed to Christ alone. I just dont understand why such strong words of praise should be directed at someone other than God.
They are being directed to God, that's what's hard to understand at first.

The Theotokos's will is perfectly united to her Son's, and all her glory is really His.

BTW, "slave" is the same word in Greek as "servant/handmaiden" I think.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2011, 08:07:10 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2011, 08:16:40 PM »

^ This.

If you praise a beautiful work of art, is that not praise to the artist?

What could the Theotokos have accomplished apart from God's Grace--that is, Himself?

Yes, we could just praise God, but we believe God works through and in His creatures. To gloss over this for fear of encroaching on God's turf (which is no concern because He is supreme and thus cannot be encroached upon) is really tantamount to denial.
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« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2011, 08:23:25 PM »

And these lines, from the similar Canon to the Theotokos, are straight up worship in my eyes

our only hope

We have no other help, we have no other hope, but thee

I have no other help beside Thee, no other intercessor, nor good consoler, except thee, O Mother of God

For if thou didst not intercede in prayer, who would have delivered us from so many dangers? Who would have kept us free until now?

O cause of all blessings

O only praise of all

O only immaculate one

pour on all the riches of well-doing and good conduct; all is possible to thee

Thy divine protection, O Virgin

these honorable gifts, which can be offered only to thee, who art the one chosen out of all generations, and who hast become higher than all creation, heavenly and earthly

the inexhaustible, unfailing treasury of healings

O fountain of mercy

as our hope and support and unshakable wall of salvation, we are delivered from every difficulty

a wall of refuge and the perfect salvation of our souls and release from our afflictions

we are thy slaves

a treasury of salvation, fountain of incorruption, tower of safety, and door of repentence


Only immaculate one? Only hope? Only praise of all? We are thy slaves? IMO these are just phrases that should be attributed to Christ alone. I just dont understand why such strong words of praise should be directed at someone other than God.
They are being directed to God, that's what's hard to understand at first.

The Theotokos's will is perfectly united to her Son's, and all her glory is really His.

BTW, "slave" is the same word in Greek as "servant/handmaiden" I think.

So the poem is praising the power of God being revealed through Mary?
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« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2011, 08:25:37 PM »

Even though I struggle with this myself, maybe it is worth noting, as well, that Orthodoxy has an exalted view of the human being?

I mean, it's not only the Theotokos we praise with such superlatives -- we revere and adore the image of God in all his people.
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« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2011, 08:41:20 PM »

Only immaculate one? Only hope? Only praise of all? We are thy slaves? IMO these are just phrases that should be attributed to Christ alone. I just dont understand why such strong words of praise should be directed at someone other than God.
They are being directed to God, that's what's hard to understand at first.

The Theotokos's will is perfectly united to her Son's, and all her glory is really His.

They are?  I understand the explanation, but is this really the case?

Honestly, I'm not sure how you can answer that one, not because you're incapable, but because my question is pretty ridiculous to demand an answer from.  Perhaps if you can just develop it further; I always appreciate your insight.  

I also acknowledge that "Akathist Hymn to Jesus Christ, through the Theotokos" wouldn't be a particularly catchy title.  Nor would adding an * to the end of anything relating to the Theotokos saving us or being our only hope.  

Sincerely, Another fellow struggling a bit with this.

Edit: I should point out that I'm still having trouble discerning differences, in some cases, between worship and flowery, reverential language.  Sigh... I'll learn.
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« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2011, 08:56:47 PM »

Only immaculate one? Only hope? Only praise of all? We are thy slaves? IMO these are just phrases that should be attributed to Christ alone. I just dont understand why such strong words of praise should be directed at someone other than God.
They are being directed to God, that's what's hard to understand at first.

The Theotokos's will is perfectly united to her Son's, and all her glory is really His.

They are?  I understand the explanation, but is this really the case?

Let me copy a prayer out of a small compline packet I have:

"The Father is my Hope;
The Son is my Refuge;
The Holy Spirit is my Protection;
O Holy Trinity, Glory to thee.
In thee, O Theotokos, I place all my hope; keep me under thy protection."

Now, either the author of this prayer was schizophrenic, or "it is really the case."  Wink
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« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2011, 09:14:34 PM »

Now, either the author of this prayer was schizophrenic, or "it is really the case."  Wink

A background dossier and personality profile would be most appreciated.  Smiley

My small compline reads the same, and naturally I try to trust the content of our prayers.  Just trying to understand it a bit better, and fight off whispers that statements deflecting glory from God have been threaded into our prayers.
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« Reply #16 on: May 25, 2011, 09:26:41 PM »

This is one way to think about it, from my priest when I was converting:

If Theosis is the process of a person becoming holy, or Grace-filled; and if Grace is one of God's Energies; and if God's Energies are God Himself; then to praise a holy person is indeed to praise God Himself.
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« Reply #17 on: May 25, 2011, 09:37:43 PM »

This is one way to think about it, from my priest when I was converting:

If Theosis is the process of a person becoming holy, or Grace-filled; and if Grace is one of God's Energies; and if God's Energies are God Himself; then to praise a holy person is indeed to praise God Himself.

Right. And likewise, a false idol can be made out of anything. You can make an idol out of the icons, out of saints, out of living humans, you can even make an idol and name it the Lord Jesus Christ or the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the Pharisee and the Publican story, the Pharisee is praying to an idol he named YHWH.

But we wouldn't do away with the veneration and worship of God and His holy things just because people can make false idols of the same names.
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« Reply #18 on: May 25, 2011, 10:48:26 PM »

Excellent responses.  Thanks for these.

Neon, I hope they helped you as well.
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« Reply #19 on: May 25, 2011, 11:36:35 PM »

I do understand a little more, but I still am struggling on this. Maybe after I attend a few more services and immerse myself in Orthodoxy more, maybe talk to a priest, I will understand better.

Anyway, is it absolutely necessary for faithful Orthodox to pray these hymns?
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