It is significant that whereas in the West Mary is primarily the Virgin, a being almost totally different from us in her absolute and celestial purity and freedom from all carnal pollution, in the East she is always referred to and glorified as Theotokos, the Mother of God, and virtually all icons depict her with the Child in her arms… In her, says an Orthodox hymn, “all creation rejoices.” But what is this joy about? Why, in her own words, shall “all generations call me blessed”? Because in her love and obedience, in her faith and humility, she accepted to be what from all eternity all creation was meant and created to be: the temple of the Holy Spirit, the humanity of God.

She accepted to give her body and blood — that is, her whole life — to be the body and blood of the Son of God, to be mother in the fullest and deepest sense of this world, giving her life to the Other and fulfilling her life in Him. She accepted the only true nature of each creature and all creation: to place the meaning and, therefore, the fulfillment of her life in God. In accepting this nature she fulfilled the womanhood of creation.

This word will seem strange to many. In our time the Church, following the modern trend toward the “equality of the sexes,” uses only one-half of the Christian revelation about man and woman, the one which affirms that in Christ there is neither “male nor female” (Gal. 3 : 28). The other half is ascribed again to an antiquated world view. In fact, however, all our attempts to find the “place of woman” in society (or in the Church) instead of exalting her, belittle woman, for they imply too often a denial of her specific vocation as woman.

Yet is it not significant that the relation between God and the world, between God and Israel, His chosen people, and finally between God and the cosmos restored in the Church, is expressed in the Bible in terms of marital union and love? This is a double analogy. On the one hand we understand God’s love for the world and Christ’s love for the Church because we have the experience of marital love, but on the other hand marital love has its roots, its depth and real fulfillment in the great mystery of Christ and his Church: “But I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” The Church is the Bride of Christ ( “…for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” — 2 Cor. 11 : 2).

This means that the world — which finds its restoration and fulfillment in the Church — is the bride of God and that in sin this fundamental relationship has been broken, distorted. And it is in Mary — the Woman, the Virgin, the Mother — in her response to God, that the Church has its living and personal beginning. This response is total obedience in love; not obedience and love, but the wholeness of the one as the totality of the other. Obedience, taken in itself, is not a “virtue”; it is blind submission, and there is no light in blindness.

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