Sermon by Archimandrite Parthenius
said at the beginning of the vigil in honour of the icon of Most Holy Theotokos “It is Truly Meet”, June 23, 2013
I’ve been so much inspired, my beloved ones, to share with you something deeply hidden in my heart, something so powerful and intense, which practically springs out of me today. And I’m attempting to express it with a feeling of awe in my trembling soul, because I know how daring my intentions are, since this inner experience is way beyond my capacity to put it in words. But I will try it anyway, because of you, and because of The One Who deserves all kind of praise. I will try with words to somehow reach the mercy of The Most Holy Theotokos, to celebrate the abyss of her immense love for mankind. So now tell me: How can one have such unattainable thoughts, find such glorifying words which would at least to some extent describe the inexplicable mercy of the Mother of God? Truly, there is no such elevated mind, nor enough words of praise to express the magnificence and kindness of The One Who was born out of this sinful human kind and still became “more honorable than the Cherubs and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphs”.
Yet we, people, needed to find out from the Angels about all the greatness of Her heavenly glory and learn from them that it is meet to celebrate and honour Her in the same way here on Earth as well. Therefore “Archangel Gabriel was sent to the humble obedient novice on Mount Athos” to confirm to all those born on Earth that The Most Pure Virgin has rightfully been proclaimed “more honorable than the Cherubs and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphs”. “Axion Estin (It is Truly Meet)”, exclaims the Archangel, “to call You in such way, Theotokos, and name You the Blessed One, since You are the Mother of our Lord!” So, can you see, my dearest ones, that this wonderful verse, called “It is Truly Meet”, which was then proclaimed by the great Archangel, and which gathered us today into such prayerful choir, is truly a harmony of heaven and Earth! The earthly people by the means of their God-given language have praised the Heavenly Empress, and the heavenly Angels, through their representative, have confirmed that this praise is really worthy of Her.
The icon we celebrate today, which we all know as “It is Truly Meet”, carries also another name and in Church-Slavic language is called “the Almsgiving”, which means “The One that cherishes, the Merciful”. And it is justly named as such. Which other designation would describe better the noble nature of our Lady?
Imagine a little child who has just learned to walk! What great joy in his eyes! With careless passion and pleasure he ventures to run, thinking already that he can walk perfectly and that all the space there is created for him. Suddenly he falls. Wouldn’t his mother run up to him with care, gently lift him up, lovingly kiss him and try to comfort him with her kind words? She would most certainly do all that with the greatest warmth of her motherly heart. And imagine now just how much more, incredibly more intense and greater than this love is the love of our heavenly Mother! She constantly watches over us, Her naughty children, quietly and with greatest love lifts us up when we fall into the dark hole of our sins, covers our weaknesses with Her motherly omophorion; rejoices with immense joy for our success in obtaining virtues; carefully watches our every move and encourages us in our fits; intercedes for us with prayers before the Merciful God.
Some monk from Mount Athos, who was considering the thought of leaving the monastery where he lived, had a heavenly vision and saw that in the time of the Second Coming of our Lord, among the ones on the left side there were even monks. He noticed their dark faces. Then he heard Theotokos addressing Christ and saying to Him: “Let those monks on your left side join the ones on the right.” He replied: “But, Mother, they were not good monks, didn’t fulfill the wows they had given, they deserve to be on the left side“. Then the immense and for us, people, incomprehensible mercy of the Mother of God was shown. She said: “Yes, that’s true, but still they remained monks to the end of their life. Didn’t take off their monastic clothes, so let them come to the right side. Christ obeyed His Mother and placed all the monks to the right side, together with those who attained salvation.
This is just a small example among many others as to how great the mercy of our Most Kind Theotokos is. She knows not how to punish, but rather how to cherish; never rages and always forgives. If we just stay faithful to the end to this greatest and most elevated designation – Christian, if we but carry to the very end the robe of hope in the Divine Mother, the habit of love towards the One Who gave birth to the Incarnate Love – our dearest Christ, we would most certainly be saved, placed among the ones on the right side, together with the righteous. Let us never despair because of our sins and weaknesses, our failures and downfalls. We shouldn’t despair because it would be so ungrateful. Instead, when we are in temptation and suffer, all we have to do is think of our most beloved Most Holy Theotokos, the Mother of God, Who loves us ineffably. Let us remember the One Who suffered greatly because of us, the One we all got to love and Who unceasingly rushes from one soul to another in order to comfort, encourage and give mercy… She tirelessly inspires us to pray for ourselves and for our neighbors, giving everybody bold spirit, strength and hope. She makes us, people, be one with the Angels, turning us in to a community, a gathering, a Church; through Her the Curse is lifted, the Heaven is open, the life is directed, the Kingdom is promised. She makes shining Angels out of sinful people and has taught great number of men and women to fallow the salvation path of Christ’s love. She is undying source of spiritual delight, Mother of all faithful, comfort of those who suffer, joy of the sad ones, glory of people, praise of Angels… Should we continue with this? But where could we put an end to the glorifying of the One to Whom even the Angels cannot offer a worthy praise? „What worthy praise is truly meet for Thee?“ – Sings the Holly Church to The Graceful One. Who could fully describe the depth of Her mercy?
Therefore, my beloved ones, let us pray this night with all of our heart to the most merciful Divine Mother of ours, so that She could lead us, as a kindest and most loving Mother, on the narrow path of this temporary life and help us to always fulfil the will of Her Son, our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!
I wish you all a good vigil!