但是我們也需要了解，在聖經中的所有象徵物品亦預表了聖母，像是舊約中在祭壇上裝著十戒的約櫃。約櫃象徵著另一種盒子，也就是聖母的孕育著聖子的子宮，因此，如今裝在盒子中的不再只是寫在石版上的誡命和道理，而是活生生的神，活生生的「道」。所有的先知都曾提說這位聖母。在知名的晚禱第五調歌曲中，你可以從中了解到猶太人通過紅海的深層象徵意義。寫這首歌的大馬士革的約翰 (John of Damascus) 表示，它也蘊含了聖母的奧秘：當紅海分開，神的子民走了過來；用同樣的方式，她的子宮開啟，神的兒子以一種奧秘的方式，從她而出，卻不損其童貞。
如同我們在祝謝後聖禮儀所說的話，我們為全世界、全宇宙獻上聖禮儀，但所有的聖人都會感到喜樂，因為我們是為他們這麼做的。然後我們會特別尊榮聖母，頌讚聖母。接著我們會說：「比赫魯彬更榮光，無可比擬的比瑟拉芬更輝煌」。為何馬利亞比這麼親近神的天使們地位還要崇高？這是因為馬利亞愛神愛的如此之深，沒有人可以與她相比。如同St. Gregory Palamas說：「馬利亞在三歲時進到所羅門神殿，她就找到一種完全愛神的新方法，藉由她所有的心靈、她所有的身體和她所有的存在來愛神。」那麼她又為什麼比天使為大呢？這是因為她的子宮成了神兒子的殿，而她的血肉成了神兒子的身體。從這點來看，如同教會所讚美她的一樣，她比天堂還要寬廣，因為天堂還不夠大到可以容納神，但神卻在她的子宮裡。這也是為什麼她被稱之為比天堂更寬廣的原因。
初代教會的許多教父們，包括第三世紀的St. Cyril of Jerusalem，以及傳承的教會傳統給了我們許多有關她安息的講道。當她約五十歲時，她安息了，但三天後當他們打開墓室時卻沒有發現她的遺體。所以雖然這沒有列於教會的教義中，但我們相當堅信，就如同你們在莊嚴的禱文與為這日所舉辦的盛大慶典中所讀到和聽到的，我們相信基督絕不允許，也無法忍受生育祂的母親的身體在墓室裡腐壞。所以這也是為什麼我們會唱「妳被轉化為生命」（You were translated to life）的原因，因為妳就是生命之母，因為基督耶穌就是生命。這也是我們在15日慶祝的理由，而且我們還會持續慶祝一整個星期。(中、下集待續)
想了解更多，免費下載 Orthodox 東正教 App
2014.08.17 The Tenth Sunday of Matthew
The Holy Mother- How Do We Stand?
The Gospel of Matthew 17:14-23 At that time, a man came up to Him and kneeling before Him said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move hence to yonder place,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting.” As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.”
St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 4:9-16 BRETHREN, God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the off-scouring of all things. I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
Today I will talk about the Holy Mother, whom we celebrated this Friday, the fifteenth of August, when we celebrated the death and also the resurrection of the Holy Mother. There are not words to speak enough for the Holy Mother. Al the world was made to produce the most beautiful flower, and this is the Holy Mother.
Because God, as the Bible is very clear, created the world in order to finally incarnate and become present, not only as He is present everywhere, but present as a human being. But he could not become a human being by force; he needed to find a human being so good, so holy that would be proper for Him. What was impossible to find in Paradise: He found on this earth, the Holy Mother.
But we must understand also that the Holy Mother was prefigured by all of these symbols in the Bible, like the box on the altar in the New Testament, which contained the Ten Commandments. This box was the symbol was symbol of another box, which is the womb of the Holy Mother that would have the Logos, not just the written word, but the living word of God. All of the prophets speak about the Holy Mother. In the famous song of the vespers on Tone Five, you will see the deep symbolic meaning of the Jews passing through the Red Sea. And John of Damascus, who wrote this, said that it was a very deep mystery of the Holy Mother, as the sea opened and the people of God passed by the same way, her womb opened and so in a mysterious way, the Son of God passed from her without breaking her virginity.
The Holy Mother was a virgin, as you see from the symbol of the Cross [pointing to the crosses on her robe in the icon on the side of the altar], was a virgin before giving birth, during giving birth and after she had given birth. It is a very sad thing, a pity and a shame also, that there are Protestants who refuse to refer to the mother of God, the Theotokos. It is ignorance and heresy because if what came out Mary was not God, then how could Jesus be God and why would we worship him as God. It is heresy because it is condemned by the Third and the Fourth Ecumenical Council, so from this point of view, those people are heretics. And also because calling Mary the Mother of God, we explain why we worship the baby Jesus, and when he grew up, and forever.
As we say after the consecration in the liturgy, we do the liturgy for all the universe, for all the world, but all the saints are happy because we do it for them. And we say especially for the Holy Mother, and then we sing the song for the Holy Mother. And we say “more honorable than the cherubim and higher than the seraphim.” Why is Mary higher than the angels, who are so close to God? It is because Mary loved God in such a deep way that nobody else ever loved God so much. As Gregory Palamas says, when Mary entered the Temple of Solomon when she was three years old, she found a new way to love God totally, by all her mind, by all her body, by all her existence. And why is she more than the angels? It is because her womb became the place and her blood became the body of the Son of God. From this point of view, as the Church sings to her, she is wider than the heavens because the heavens are not enough to enclose God, but God was in her womb. This is why she is called wider than the heavens.
Nobody loved Jesus more than her. And Jesus loved her more than any other human creature. On the cross, He showed to us a new way by speaking in his pain to John to take care of his mother. This shows the ignorance of Protestants do not respect the Holy Mother and who say that there were other children since if there had been other children then there would be no need for Him to ask John to take care of her. It was not James, the so-called brother of Jesus Christ, because in the Jewish language there is no word for cousin, as in Chinese there are so many terms for relatives. If he had been Jesus’ brother than why would Jesus humiliated him by asking somebody else to take care of his mother? It is accepting saying to John, and He is saying to us also, that she is our mother. Remember this, that we have a mother, the Holy Mother.
When she was about fifty years old, the tradition of the Church has given us many sermons from the first Fathers of the Church, Cyril of Jerusalem and many others from the Third Century, about her death. So she died, but after three days when they opened the grave they did not find anything. So although this is not a dogma of the Church, but it is a very strong belief, and you see in the long prayers and the big celebration that we have for this day, we are sure that Jesus could not allow, could not stand for the body that had given birth to him to be destroyed in the grave. So this is why we sing that “You were translated to life,” because you are the mother of life, because Jesus Christ is life. And this is what we celebrated on the fifteenth and we will continue to celebrate for one week.
Recorder: Professor Timothy Baker