In the Akathist, we address the Mother of God:
“O all-merciful Sovereign Lady Virgin Theotokos!”
There is much contained in these few words, much worthy of reflection, especially considering that her Dormition has just passed. This feast reminds us of her holiness, of the fact that, again as the Akathist has us sing, “[w]e behold the holy Virgin, a shining lamp appearing to those in darkness; for, kindling the Immaterial Light, She guides all to divine knowledge, She illumines minds with radiance.” Her life offers us light and consolation; her acceptance of God’s ineffable will is the mysterious gateway of our salvation. A kontakion for this feast makes this abundantly clear:
“Neither the grave nor death could contain the Theotokos, the unshakable hope, ever vigilant in intercession and protection. As Mother of life, He who dwelt in the ever-virginal womb transposed her to life.”
Mary gives us hope—both in her life and in the constant intercession that accompanies her death, her place in the Kingdom. She is all-merciful, because she loves her Son, understands that the Lord loves all people, and as last Sunday’s reading—the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen—reminds us: the Lord demands forgiveness as He forgives. She is sovereign because her “yes,” her acceptance of the Incarnate God within her own flesh, established the reign of God on the earth. In these short words from the Akathist, we embrace hope, hope in an all-loving deity who works through human beings.
Keeping up hope is central to our faith. It does not mean that we must be blandly positive. Sometimes, as with Mary’s confusion and fear upon hearing the angel’s cry, hope is difficult, confounding, even painful. Sometimes it can only be, as Marilynne Robinson writes in her novel Gilead, “hope deferred.”
To hope is to remind ourselves that God loves us, that, at bottom, His divine power will not leave us, that it guides us, even as we feel abandoned to darkness. In times of difficulty, Mary (and her Son) remain our “unshakeable hope,” allowing us to remain “ever vigilant,” even when beset by wickedness within ourselves, wickedness abounding in the world.
May we ask of the Immaculate Theotokos her “intercession and protection” to carry us through dark times; may we ask for the humility and courage to say “yes” to God’s ineffable will in a world that often seems to make it impossible to do so. May we, pray, as our ancient brothers and sisters did:
“We fly to Thy protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.”
May we hope.
By Chase J. Padusniak