Monday, August 1, 2016

The face of the earth renew

Τή υπερμάχω στρατηγώ τα νικητήρια
Ως λυτρωθείσα των δεινών ευχαριστήρια
Αναγράφω σοι η πόλις σου Θεοτόκε.
Αλλ' ως έχουσα το κράτος απροσμάχητον
Εκ παντίων μέ κινδύνων ελευθέρωσον
Ίνα κράζω σοι•
Χαίρε Νύμφη ανύμφευτε.

An almost untranslatable hymn. If you read Greek, you probably have this text memorized and can sing the hymn, and for the others, it will do no good for me to transliterate it into English letters. As for the translation, yes, this is problematical, at least for me. I’ve never found an English translation that conveys its many attitudes: the unassailable might, the irresistible victory, and the mystical and mysterious irony of the Woman whom God has made permanent wonder of the world and its protectress. That, along with the pitiful, personal cry of the woman who is also a city as well as the individual singer and supplicant. It’s hard for a man to fit inside the soul of a woman, for masculine to subsume into feminine, but that is what all must do, male and female, all who are, in the end, called to be the Bride, and the brides, of Christ. Next to that Man, all are women, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. She wasn’t, she who was unwedded bride most fertile as well as most blessed among women, she who bore the Son of God by an act of the Holy Spirit, and the rest of humanity by a word of her Divine Son, ‘Behold your Mother.’

Today is the first day of the fortnight before the Repose of the Theotokos. Like the first apostles who fasted and prayed as they awaited the fulfillment of Mary of Nazareth’s earthly life, we too are to fast and pray. What else is there to do? The Mother of all living, the New Eve, both mother and bride of the New Adam, waits with us as she waited with them, for the fulfillment of the word of the angel who once cried, ‘Rejoice, You most favored among women!’ and finally returned to intimate, ‘The God who loves you is coming.’ What will the world look like after she departs? We have seen the ikon of her falling asleep, her repose, the invisible Christ bearing her homeward cradled in His arms, upborne by the angelic hosts, antitype of what our eyes and hearts expect, the Son nestled in her lap, tiny hand raised in blessing. Everything changes. Nothing remains the same. Not then, not now. He who cries out, ‘Behold! I make all things new!’ never abandons us, but follows us, each and all, personally and corporately, from one age to another. The apostles, gathered for her repose, fasted, prayed, and sorrowed to lay her to rest, asking themselves, ‘What do we do now?’

The same question awaits us, awaits our answer, our response, for this too has been sent us, an age of days in which to fulfill the commandments, time in which to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Even the late among us, or within us, like Thomas, is not to be disappointed. For every missed opportunity too can be redeemed, and with even greater glory shared with those who ringed the couch of her repose, inhaling sweet fragrance as Paradise Himself opened eternity to receive her. An empty burial chamber vexed the grief of the apostles, vindicating even the eleventh hour laborer, seeking to view her face who mothered the Word. Even beginnings do not last but must begin anew, as if nothing went before, and we with the apostles finding no holy relic except the absence of decay to show where the Mother of God once lay, we too with them, wonderfully perturbed, must ask ourselves, ‘What do we do now?’ Yes, for fourteen days we will fast and pray, give alms, meditate, peruse the scriptures, and then rejoice with the saints as the Woman who once clothed the Son of God in her own flesh is once and forever clothed by Him in His own eternity.

Then, we as they, are sent. ‘What will the world look like?’ is exactly what we are sent to answer. Even our missed opportunities, our former failures, are slated to be taken up in the glorification of the human race and our ancient home, the earth. We are entering with her who is with us because she is with her Divine Son into a new day, a day of kairós, of acceptable time, a time that escapes obliteration, a time to be eternally remembered. Our invincible Champion, the Theotokos, who like her Son has not abandoned the world, is ready now as at all times, to defend us from our enemies, and to grant victory, because she is victorious. All the promises revealed to John in the Apocalypse are vouchsafed to her, and through her mighty intercession are likewise vouchsafed to us, to us who believe and who know that Jesus Christ is the Winner, and the Victor over every merciless force that rages against us. Though this age is very dark, the darkness is about to end. It is, in fact, ending now, because where we walk, we walk in the light of Christ and the Theotokos. Rejoice with me, brethren, and pursue the course of salvation during these fateful days, for we are sent, and the face of the earth renew.

No comments: