December 23, 2018

Luke 1:39-45

Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! “And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? “For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

Recently, I took the seminary students I am teaching to visit Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. We had attended a Shabbat service the month before, and I wanted to expose them to the beauty of the Greek Orthodox tradition in my continuing attempt to broaden their experience with other faith traditions. A friend who attends there gave us the tour and was sharing the beliefs specific to their tradition—one being their perspective of the Virgin Mary. He referred to this text and told us that they do not worship Mary, but “venerate” her. In other words, they show her great honor as the Theotokos, the bearer of Christ. They believe that the Virgin Mary is an image of the Christian goal of becoming Christ-like, of theosis. One Greek Orthodox site states, “Just as the Theotokos gave birth to Christ in a bodily way, so we must, St. Maximos the Confessor teaches, give birth to Christ in a spiritual way. In so doing, we imitate her practical spiritual life, including the purity and humility by which she formed her free will into perfect obedience to the Will of God.

This is a beautiful perspective of Mary. She was indeed a special person to be chosen by God for such a role. As we approach these final days before Christmas, may we approach the celebration of the physical birth of Christ with this role in mind. May we seek to give birth to Christ in a spiritual way, with purity and humility, as we seek to be his love in the lives of those we encounter. Our nation and our world are in dire need of this love.

Peace and Grace to you.

- Jackie L. Halstead