Vladimir Lossky: Are You Devoted to the Mother of God?

Feast of the Holy Prophet Habakkuk

Lossky_Square.jpegTHE ORTHODOX Church has not made Mariology into an independent dogmatic theme: it remains integral to the whole of Christian teaching, as an anthropological Leitmotif. Based on Christology, the dogma of the Mother of God has a strong Pneumatological accent; and through the double economy of the Son and the Holy Spirit, it is inextricably bound up with ecclesiological reality.

In truth, if we were to limit ourselves to dogmatic data in the strict sense of the word and were dealing only with dogmas affirmed by the Councils, we should find nothing except the term Theotokos [Mother of God], whereby the Church has solemnly confirmed the divine maternity of the Holy Virgin. The dogmatic emphasis of the term Theotokos, as affirmed against the Nestorians, is above all Christological: what is defended against gainsayers of the divine maternity is the hypostatic unity of the Son of God become the Son of Man. It is Christology which is directly envisaged here; but at the same time, indirectly, there is a dogmatic confirmation of the Church’s devotion to her who bore God according to the flesh. It is said that all those who rise up against the appellation Theotokos – all who refuse to admit that Mary has this quality which piety ascribes to her – are not truly Christians, for they oppose the true doctrine of the Incarnation of the Word. This should demonstrate the close connection between dogma and devotion, which are inseparable in the consciousness of the Church.

However we know instances of Christians who, while recognizing for purely Christological reasons the divine maternity of the Virgin, abstain from all special devotion to the Mother of God for the same reasons, desiring to know no other mediator between God and man than the God-Man, Jesus Christ. This suffices to demonstrate that the Christological dogma of the Theotokos taken in abstracto, apart from the vital connection between it and the devotion paid by the Church to the Mother of God, would not be enough to justify the unique position, above all created beings, assigned to the Queen of Heaven, to whom the Orthodox liturgy ascribes “the glory which is appropriate to God.” It is therefore impossible to separate dogmatic data, in the strict sense, from the data of the Church’s cultus, in a theological exposition of the doctrine about the Mother of God. Here dogma should throw light on devotion, bringing it into contact with the fundamental truths of our faith; whereas devotion should enrich dogma with the Church’s living experience.

~Vladimir Lossky, “Panagia” in In the Image and Likeness of God

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