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"The Virgin Mary is not the great exception, she is the great example."

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  • Christopher Orr
    *Adapted from The Purification of Mary on the Ex occidente ad orientem
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2012
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      *Adapted from "The Purification of
      on the Ex occidente ad orientem <http://myorthodoxjourney.blogspot.com/>blog


      Orthodox Christians celebrate the Feast of the Meeting (or Presentation) of
      the Lord in the Temple on February 2. The Western church celebrates the
      Purification of Mary on the same day; this feast is also referred to in the
      West as Candlemas as this was the day candles were blessed.

      While the East centers its liturgical focus on Christ meeting Simeon and
      Anna (and being seen by Simeon as the Messiah incarnate), the West centers
      its liturgical focus on Mary fulfilling the law by being purified from her
      childbirth after 40 days. That said, neither focus is held to be
      inherently more important than the other in either East or West. For
      Eastern Christians, though, the term 'purification' implies at least the
      possibility that the Virgin Mary did something wrong - something that
      required purification.

      We know of no sin committed by the Virgin Mary (though St. John Chrysostom
      mentions in his homilies that the Virgin was guilty of pride - especially
      at the Wedding at Cana, years after the event commemorated by this Great
      Feast, of course). But, we should not forget, as Fr. Alexander Schmemann is
      known to have said: the Virgin Mary is not the great exception, she is the
      great example. If Christ is the icon of salvation, the Theotokos is the
      icon of the saved.

      If this is true, from what then does the Theotokos come to be purified? Fr.
      Thomas Hopko explains:

      ...the scriptures teach that all human beings who are inevitably caught up
      in the falleness of the sinful world, are in need of "purification" when
      they come into direct contact with God, and especially when they are
      objects of direct divine action. God is always acting in our lives...These
      are also the times of worship, such as when the priests go into the Holy
      Place or when they touch the Holy Objects. thus, according to the Mosaic
      law, mere human beings who were in direct tough with God through His
      concrete divine actions were required to offer signs of ritual
      'purification' to express the fact that being mere mortals and victims of
      sin not to say sinners in their own right in virtually all cases) they had
      also the objects of the holy actions of the Most High and Holy God. (The
      Winter Pascha <http://www.svspress.com/product_info.php?products_id=281>,
      p. 176)

      Lest we forget at any time, the Virgin Mary inherited the same mortal
      corruption as the rest of mankind. She still had to obey the law, she still
      had to die, and she was in need of our Lord's crucifixion and death along
      with the rest of us. The Feast of the Meeting / Presentation / Purification
      reminds us Mary was in this way 'simply human' even though she had the most
      direct, immediate communion with God Himself - and while the priests of
      Israel (and we ourselves) can only commune with God in a mystical, less
      direct way than the Birthgiver and Mother of God.

      This is why the Theotokos, Mary, is deserving of all honor and all praise.
      And this motherhood of/to the Divine is why she is so a powerful an
      advocate for us with her Son: God.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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