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Theotokos. Divine Motherhood Category: Theotokos Deification of Mary

Fr. Sergei Bulgakov. Parousia of the Theotokos.

… But in pursuing further our inquiry into the meaning of the parousia, we stop in reverent perplexity: The Lord comes in glory with all the holy angels and with saints, with all that is holy on earth and in heaven. But where is She, the Most Pure and Most Blessed One, raised into heaven in Her Dormition and sitting "at the right hand of the Son"?[1] Can it be that She, the Spirit-Bearer, is diminished and cannot enter into the glory of Her Son? Or can it be that She remains in heaven during the Second Coming of Her Son, whom She did "not leave even in the Dormition"? Or will She too cross the threshold of universal resurrection in order to ascend with the saints to the meeting of Christ?

However, was She not resurrected by Her son in Her holy Dormition? As soon as one asks these questions, one sees that the Mother of God cannot be separated frpm the glory, or be left in heaven, to await a new resurrection. She will come into the world; She will come into the world with Her Son in His glory, in the parousia. For the parousia of the Son is also necessarily the parousia of the Mother of God, for it is She, who is the creaturely glory of the world, the glory of Christ's humanity. She is His hypostatic humanity. She is the Spirit-Bearer, the living gates for the parousia of the Holy Spirit, through which the Holy Spirit comes onto the world.

But how do we dare to assert this? Where does Scripture or even Church tradition say this? It is true that Scripture says nothing about this. But does not scripture fail to mention much else about Her which the Church contains in its doctrine? Does Scripture say anything about Her birth, Her presentation in the temple, or Her dormition, resurrection, and ascention? And does not human blindness not condemn on this basis the whole of the Church's veneration of the Mother of God? And have we not already known for a long time and has it not even become habitual for us that holy silence crowns the humility of the Lord's Servant, who is more venerable than the cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the serafim, as the liturgical hymn says? And here, in the revelation of the parousia, we find the supreme attestation of this triumph of humility: She abides at the right hand of Her Son, where Her Assumption has placed Her. She is forgotten and set aside neither by the holy angels nor by the saints, for She is the highest and saintliest of all creatures. Will the archangel Gabriel come with Christ among the heavenly hosts, but the one to whom he was sent to say, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee" (Luk.1:28), be absent? Will St. Sergius and St. Seraphim be among those following Christ, whereas the one of "whose kind" they are will be absent?[2] In short, what we find here is a silent dogmatic self-evidence, which manifests itself as soon as we pose the question of the Mother of God. But Scripture is silent....

However, this time, the tradition which informs us about the life of the Most Holy Mother of God on earth and after death also appears to be silent. But this silence is not complete, for it is broken by an iconographic gesture: On icons of the Last Judgment, the Mother of God sits at the right hand of Her Son, without Herself being judged. She implores Him to extend His forgiveness (this idea of the Mother of God as interceding at the Last Judgement is confirmed by a number of liturgical texts). This testimony is sufficient. It contains the seed of a dogmatic doctrine which we must now elaborate.

First of all, what does this doctrine consist in wich regard to the parousia, the coming of Christ in glory, that is, in the Holy Spirit? The manifestation of Christ, the incarnate God, is visible and tangible, whereas the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is tangible but invisible as such, for the hypostasis of the spirit does not become incarnate, but reveals itself only as Christ's glory. However, this glory is not only Christ's proper glorification but also the already glorified Church, heavenly and earthly. Who can represent this Church, its heart, if not the Mother of God? Having givenHer son to humankind, the Most Pure Mother of God is, of course, both the hypostatic body of Christ par excellence and the temple of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit-Bearer. This place at the head of the Church belongs to her not only after universal resurrection, from the very beginning of the latter, but even, so to speak, before the universal resurrection. Here, She precedes the resurrected humankind, for She was resurrected in Her Dormition, and She is already expressly glorified by the Son in Her sitting in heaven at the right hand of Him who raised Her to heaven and glorified His humanity ("flesh") as the hypostatic humanity.

This express glorification of the Mother of God in heaven completes the series of gifts of grace She receives from the Holy Spirit, beginning with Her conception,[3] and including the entry into the Holy of Holiest, the Annunciation, and the Dormition. As the temple that the Holy Spirit came to inhabit at the Annunciation, She is the Spirit-Bearer, the transparent human image of the revelation of the Holy Spirit, who, according to His hypostatic property, does not became incarnate but makes incarnate and glorifies. Alone of God's creatures found worthy of being inhabited by the Holy Spirit, She is the human hypostatic image of the Holy Spirit. One can say that, in this sense, She is the Holy Spirit not incarnate but manifested in a human hypostasis. There is no, and can be no, greater and fuller manifistation of the Holy Spirit. Thus, after the ascension of Christ and assumption of the Mother of God, there exists in the heavens, with the "Heavenly Man" (1Cor.15:47-49), a human image of the Holy Spirit, not according to incarnation, which cannot be, but according to a perfect spiritual conformity with Him.

We thus conclude that, in the parousia, which presupposes the revelation of both hypostases, the Spirit-Bearer (that is the Mother of God), the image of the Third Hypostasis, returns into the world together with the God-man, the incarnate Logos. In this sense, the parousia should be understood as the return of Christ and and of the Mother of God into the world. Even in Her Dormition the Mother of God does not stop belonging to the world ("She has not left the world", as the liturgical hymn says) and returns into the world in the parousia.

Her abiding "in the heavens" is, of course, different from that of Christ. Even after the parousia the Lord sits supra-eternally at the right hand of the Father; He abides in heaven and on earth, just as the Holy Spirit does. The presence of the Mother of God in heaven corresponds to her perfect sanctification and deification, in which She will be followed by humankind in the glorified Church. "The kingdom of God"[4] "will come" into the world, and not the reverse; it will not be ravished from the world "to heaven". In other words, the world will become the place of the kingdom of God: "And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads...and they shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev.22:3-5). And this center of the kingdom of God on earth, the throne of the Lamb, will be the Most Holy Mother of God. Her "Dormition" includes, of course, the entire fullness of accomplishments, that is, not only Her blessed dormition but also Her resurrection and Her assumption. However, all this in its combination does not ontologically constitute a "leaving of the world". The Most Holy Mother of God in all Her glory does not stop being a creature connected with the entire world, which is glorified in Her and by Her (cf. Her cosmic icons, e.g., that of the Burning Bush). She is the glory of the world.


[1] On the doctrine of the glorification of the Mother of God see The Burning Bush, chap.4.

[2] It has been told that, when St. Seraphim of Sarov once saw in a dream the Mother of God surrounded by angels, She pointed to him and said: "he is of our kind." — Trans.

[3] It goes without saying that, even if we do not accept the Catholic dogma of the "immaculate" conception, we must confess that the Mother of God is entirely full of grace.

[4] The "kingdom of God" and the "kingdom of heaven" are terms indentical in meaning (Matthew's "of heaven" corresponds to the "of God" of the other Evangelists). But in no wise does this mean that the world is abolished in its own being and raised, so to speak, into heaven.

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