Most Holy Theotokos, Save Us!
- "Most holy Theotokos, save us!" (Part 1)*from Pillar and Ground of the Truthby
**Fr. Gregory Hogg
On another blog, Pr. William Weedon cited a post-communion prayer to the
Theotokos, with the hint that it's idolatrous. He was nicely answered by
Reader Christopher Orr on his blog Orrologion. But the exchange did suggest
a theme to me, for some subsequent posts: to take some of the things said
to/about the Theotokos--typically jarring to Protestant ears--and examine
First on the list, because it can be very jarring for Protestants, is the
exclamation the priest makes at the end of each Vespers service: "Most holy
Theotokos, save us!" (These words are also sung sotto voce by the people
during the Litany's commemoration of Mary.)
How are we to understand them? Let's break them down into subject, verb, and
We call upon Mary as "Most holy Theotokos." Theotokos means, literally, "the
one who gave birth to God." Mary gave birth to Jesus; Jesus is God;
therefore, Mary gave birth to God. Our Lord's humanity--all of it--he gets
from her. Each Christmastide the Church sings,
"Today the Virgin cometh unto the cave, to give birth to the Word, who was
born before all ages; begotten in a manner that defies description. Rejoice,
therefore, O Universe, if thou shouldst hear, and glorify with the angels
and the shepherds, (glorify) Him who by His will shall become a new born
babe, and who is our God before all ages."
We call her "most holy." Holiness is a feature belonging to the Triune God.
The seraphim cry out, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts; the whole
earth is full of his glory." The wonder of the Christian faith is that
through the Incarnation, God shares that holiness, that glory, with
creatures. First and foremost among those creatures is Mary. God's free gift
of his Son was met by her free response: "Let it be to me according to your
She is most holy--higher than all the saints, "more honorable than the
cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim"--because in her
body she carried the One whom the heavens cannot contain, and in her soul
she trusted, loved and yielded her will to the will of the Triune God.
The Church teaches, and even early Protestants like Luther believed, that
she had no taint of sin. God made her a pure and holy vessel; that is why
Archangel Gabriel greeted her, "Hail, O highly favored one!" She was born
subject to death, as are all people; but the shadow of sin, the self-seeking
that marks our lives was not found in hers.
And so we address our words to the most holy Theotokos.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]