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The Virgin Mary’s parents

September 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Apolytikion in the Second Tone

As we celebrate the memory of Thy righteous ancestors, O Lord, through them we beseech Thee to save our souls.

St. Anna, the mother of the Theotokos, was the wife of St. Joachim and the daughter of Mattham, a Levi priest. Anna and Joachim were married and childless for about 50 years. This saddened them, and they vowed that should the Lord bless them with a child they would dedicate it to Him. Hoping their prayers would be answered, they brought gifts to the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem on the yearly Feast of the Dedication (Hanukkah) and Feast of Lights (c.f. Macc 4:52-59; 2 Macc 10:5).

The priests, however, did not wish to accept them, since they were from a childless man, and Joachim was scorned (c.f. St. Romanos the Melodist, c.490-556). Publicly humiliated he soon remembered that Abraham whom God gave a son in his old age. He then retired to the wilderness to pray, were the Archangel Gabriel told him that his prayers have been heard, and that Anna will give birth to a daughter who shall be called Mary.

The Archangel also reminded Joachim that, “according to your vow, she (Mary) shall be devoted to the Lord from her infancy, and she shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from her mother’s womb. Mary shall not eat or drink anything unclean, nor shall her conversation or life be among the crowds of the people, but in the temple of the Lord, that it may not be possible to say, or so much as to suspect, any evil concerning her”.

Again, St. Romanos chants, “Joachim on the mountain prayed to receive fruit from the womb of Anna; and the prayer of the holy man was received”.

Anna, meanwhile, went home to her garden weeping bitterly. She sat under a laurel tree and prayed,O God of our fathers, bless me and hear my prayer, as You opened the womb of Sarah and gave her a son Isaac”. She wept asking, “Alas, who begot me? And what womb did bear me, that I should be thus accursed before the children of Israel, and that they should reproach and deride me in the temple of my God? Woe is me, to what can I be compared? I am not like the fowls of the heaven, because even the fowls of the heaven are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! to what can I be compared? I am not like the beasts of the earth, because even the beasts of the earth are fruitful before You, O Lord Woe is me, to what can I be compared? I am not comparable to the waves of the sea; for these, whether they are calm, or in motion, with the fishes which are in them, praise You, O Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like this earth because even the earth brings forth its fruit in season and blessed You, O Lord”.

The same Archangel appeared to Anna and told her, “I am the angel who has presented your prayers and alms before God; and now I have been sent to you to announce that you shall bring forth a daughter, who shall be called Mary, and who shall be blessed above all women. She shall be full of the favour of the Lord, even from her birth. She shall remain in her father’s house until she is weaned and, thereafter, she shall be delivered to the service of the Lord. She shall serve God, day and night, in fasting and prayers. She shall abstain from every unclean thing and shall not depart from the temple until she shall reach the years of discretion. She shall never know man, but alone and without precedent, as an immaculate and undefiled virgin, without intercourse with man, she shall bring forth a Son. She, His handmaiden, shall bring forth the Lord, both in grace, and in name, and in work, the Saviour of the world”.

Gabriel then said, “arise, therefore, and go up to Jerusalem; and when you arrive at the gate that, because it is plated with gold, is called ‘Golden’, there, for a sign, you shall meet your husband, for whose safety you have been anxious. When, therefore, you find these things accomplished, believe that all the rest which I have told you shall also undoubtedly be accomplished”.

On this occasion St. Romanos chants, “the prayer and groaning of Joachim and Anna at their barrenness and childlessness have proved acceptable, and have come unto the ears of the Lord; and they have put forth fruit that brings life to the world. The one offered his prayer in the mountain, the other bore her reproach in the garden. But with joy the barren bears the Theotokos who sustains our life”.

On the following day, Joachim brought his offerings into the temple, worshipped the Lord, and then returned home. There was great joy and celebration when it was heard that Anna conceived.

When Mary was three years old, her parents, after offering up their sacrifice, left her to be brought up with the other maidens in the apartments of the temple. For the next seven years, Anna and Joachim visited Mary often until they reposed, leaving her an orphan.

The Orthodox Church commemorates the Virgin Mary’s parents  on the 9th of September.

Elder Paisios on Sts. Joachim and Anna

“-Elder, tell us about St. Joachim and St. Anna, the Ancestors of God. At one point you started to tell us something.

-From a young age I had great reverence towards the Ancestors of God. Indeed, I had said to someone that, when they make me a monk, I would want them to give me the name Joachim. How much I am indebted to them! Sts. Joachim and Anna are the most dispassionate (in other words without corrupting passions) couple which ever existed. They did not have any carnal attitude.

This is how God made man and this is how he wanted men to be born, dispassionately. But after the fall passion entered the relationship between man and woman. As soon as a dispassionate couple was found, as God created man and as he wished men to be born, the Panagia was born, this pure creation, and then Christ became incarnate. My thoughts tell me that Christ would have descended earlier to earth, if there were a pure pair, such as were Sts. Joachim and Anna.

The Roman Catholics fall into error and believe, supposedly from piety, that Panagia was born without original sin. While Panagia was not free from original sin, she gave birth however as God wished to be born to men after creation. She was all-pure(1), because Her conception occurred without pleasure. The Holy Ancestors of God, after fervent prayer to God to grant them a child, conceived not by sexual lust, but by obedience to God. This fact I had experienced on Sinai. (2)

(1) The Theotokos was born according to a natural manner and not virginally. “She was all-pure”, because as St. John of Damascus writes in his homily “On the Birth of our Most-Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary”, she was conceived “chastely” but increased with her struggle the holiness given to her from her parents, warding off all unnecessary and soul-endangering thoughts before experiencing them.”

(2) The Elder lived in asceticism on Sinai, at Sts. Episteme and Galaction, from 1962 to 1964. This occurance he did not reveal to us.”

(Source: Elder Paisios the Athonite, Book IV: Family Life, Holy Hesychasterion of “St. John the Evangelist the Theologian”, Souroti, Thessaloniki 2007;)


Categories: Lives of Saints

The Salvation of the Heterodox and those of Other Faiths

August 16, 2009 1 comment

There are many people who ask themselves: “OK, we Christians have our faith -the true faith; we have our Church, we have our Lord’s Revelation, we are already inside the channel leading to salvation, towards the Kingdom of Heaven – PROVIDED of course that we are appropriately careful during our lifetime.

But what about all those people who belong to other faiths? What happens to Buddhists? What happens to Muslims? (Not to mention the other, Christian Confessions). But, let’s tackle the other religions for now: don’t those people go to Heaven?  What kind of judgment does God have in store for them? Are we the only ones that will be judged and accordingly be either “promoted” –so to speak- or ……”left out”? What happens to the others? Is there no salvation for them?

The answer is:  of course salvation can exist for them.  The status of this matter is as follows:  Someone who has become acquainted with Christianity and has been baptized will be judged on the law of the Gospel, the Law of Grace.  But someone living –for example- in Madagascar, Sumatra or Borneo, South America, the North Pole, wherever the Gospel has not been preached, will be judged according to the clarification cited by the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to Romans; that is, he will be judged on the basis of the law of his conscience:  “..when the gentiles (=all those who do not have a written, moral code) instinctively uphold the stipulations of the law, to them –albeit having no written law- the law shall be their own self. They prove that they have the enforcement of the law written in their hearts”. (Romans 2: 14-15)

God has placed inside every single person, without exception, wherever they may be found on this earth, that unbiased tribunal – the inherent ethical law – based on which they will be judged. If they lived faithful to that innate moral code, they shall enter Paradise; if they don’t, they will not qualify to enter.

Of course there will be – according to the words in Corinthians I, 15:41 “a star differs to another star, in its glory” – a gradation in Paradise, just as there will be in Hell.  People of other faiths will, because of their good deeds during their lifetime, enter Paradise, but they will not enjoy the same pleasures that, say, Apostle Paul or Saint Makarios will enjoy there.

Some may think: “Isn’t that being “unfair” to those people?  No, it isn’t, because they will also be judged more leniently. Christianity is very strict, with the rules that it contains. To briefly deviate from the subject, we could underline that evidence of Christianity’s truth is also the multitude of its faithful. When seeking to attract followers, one doesn’t project negative aspects. On the contrary, the prospective followers are promised all sorts of benefits and conveniences; they are flattered and they are pampered. In the case of Christianity, however, Christ had stresses to His disciples that “You shall suffer tribulations in the world” (John 16: 33) and “If they persecuted me, they shall also persecute you” (John 15: 20); and many more such ‘promises’, which are totally deterrent if used to attract followers. But, when Christianity ‘promises’ such harsh conditions, and yet it attracts people to it, it only proves that Christianity is the truth.

Getting back to our subject, on the matter of other, non-Christian believers.  A Christian is not as ‘lucky’ a follower, given that Christ demands much more from Christians!  They will go to an even more INFERIOR place than the non-Christians, if they do not enforce those things that Christ requires of them.  The non-Christians will NOT be judged in accordance with the Gospel, but more leniently.

See the difference here:  A man who will be judged according to the innate moral law, will be held accountable to God, only for –let’s say-the actual act of adultery that he had committed. But a Christian will be judged much more severely: even for his one, single, lustful glance, for example. He will be judged “in his words, in his acts and in his thoughts”. The benefits may be more for a Christian, but the criteria will be more austere and his path will be far more difficult to walk.  Everything is fair.  God is meticulously just.  As father Paisios of the Holy Mountain had said, “God doesn’t have even two identical scales; He weighs every single person on separate, personal scales”. Depending on where the person is born, what kind of environment he was brought up in, the kinds of parents, the school, the country, the religion, the peculiarities of every single person. God makes no mistakes.

The late Christos Androutsos, professor of Dogmatics, used to say that Orthodoxy is the only sure path for salvation. It is not the only path for salvation, but it is the only safe road.

Fr.Joel Yannakopoulos gives us a visual example, in order to comprehend the words of Androutsos.  He says:  During the war, there was a safe path that joined the town of Kalamata to Athens: it was the one used by the armored convoy.  Of course there were other paths, which were used by people moving between the two cities, but they weren’t safe paths. This is exactly how things are with the Orthodox Church and the heterodox and other non-Christians.

We have to stress however, that if someone is baptized an Orthodox and then becomes a heretic, or, even worse, an infidel, that person will never be saved by remaining in that new faith, no matter how many good deeds he may perform.  There is a distinct difference between being a Buddhist or a Muslim and not knowing Christ, and a totally different thing to deny Christ for the sake of Buddha or Shiva or Allah.

So much for the salvation of others.  What is of chief concern is OUR OWN salvation.  The question “What about him?” that Peter asked, regarding John the Evangelist (John 21:21) – in other words, “What will become of him?” – was a “show of compassion”; it was an external display of his caring for John.  We, however, take This expression and use it simply informatively i.e.: “What will become with the heterodox or the non-Christians?”, without concerning ourselves with our own salvation!  Therefore, the proper thing to do is to attend to the salvation of our own soul, and at the same time show an interest in the salvation of other people who have entered the Orthodox Church (of their own free will), and not merely wonder in our minds what will become of them.


Source:  Fr. John Kostov: “Faith and Logic”, A publication by Manolis Melinos, Athens 2002, pg. 19-23

Categories: Spirituality