Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

Lex Orandi, Lex CredendiThe Latin phrase “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi” is generally translated as the law of prayer is the law of belief.  The reverse is also true; the law of belief is the law of prayer. But what does it mean?

The “Law of Prayer” is a reference to the prayers the worshipping church. So one way of looking at it is that the way we worship reflects the way we believe, and the way we believe is reflected in our worship. This seems reasonable and straightforward. But how does this work in practice?

A great many Protestant communities create their own hymnals. Other Protestant bodies share hymnals across denominational lines. The reason for the variety of Protestant hymnals is they reflect differences in doctrine. Hymnals from a Presbyterian tradition will have a different collection of hymns than a hymnal from the Reformed, which would be different from the Wesleyan or Lutheran hymnal.

Within the Lutheran community in America, there are quite a few different denominations, each with different hymnals reflecting their differing approach to Scripture and differing understanding of the Lutheran Confessions. The hymnals contain different selections of hymns and different liturgies — both of which reflect differences in belief. Even when different hymnals contain the same hymns, there may be differences in translation, or the hymns may be rewritten to reflect changes in both doctrine or societal norms, such as gender-neutral language.

We still have not exhausted the complexity of our discussion. Whereas the older hymnals tended to have just a few different musical settings of the same liturgies, the newer hymnals not only contain different musical settings, but actual variations between the liturgies.  And within liturgical variation are different propers (the changeable parts of the liturgy), and occasionally there may even be differences in the ordinaries (the parts of the service that are supposed to stay the same from week to week). The liturgical variations within the service are presented in multiple columns. Thus, even within the same Protestant denomination there can be wide variation in the conduct of the service from one church to another — and between churches that use the same liturgical settings.

I contend that the beliefs of a church body are reflected in their choice of hymnal. If this is true, then the change of hymnals that tend to take place each generation, in that it changes the worship of the church, reflects an actual change in doctrine.[1]  And when a hymnal contains not merely different liturgical settings, but actual liturgical variations, this reflects the doctrinal disagreements that exist within that church body.

Another way to view this change is to look at the differences between the older and the newer catechetical (or religious instructional) material. Whereas hymnals tend to change each generation, catechetical material seems to change less often. Within the Lutheran Church, catechesis is generally represented by Luther’s Small Catechism, which doesn’t change. However, the explanation of the Small Catechism is usually appended in the same volume. These explanations are quite different between the different Lutheran bodies, and even between versions published by the same Lutheran body.

The most recent Small Catechism with Explanation for the LCMS was published in 2005. The previous version was first published in 1943. There are distinct differences in the Explanations between the two versions (explanations which are presented in question and answer form). In some cases, the differences reflect societal changes. In the 2005 edition the first question asked is “What is a Christian?” This question was not included in the 1943 version, which indicates a considerable societal change in the intervening 60 years.  There are also differences in the questions asked and the answers given. These are subtle, yet significant differences, differences that are debated by pastors of the LCMS.[2]

Lest you think this is a tirade against Protestants, the Roman Catholics have their own issues. It is clear that there is a distinct difference in Roman Catholic worship before and after Vatican II. This is not only because the Vatican allowed the mass to be celebrated in languages other than Latin, but because the actual liturgy changed. There are changes in the prayers of the church in the Latin rite versus the post-Vatican II vernacular rite. This can be demonstrated by the furor that developed when Pope Benedict XVI relaxed the rules governing when and where the Latin rite can be held, primarily because the old Latin rite contained a prayer calling for the conversion of the Jews, a prayer than had not been carried forward into the post-Vatican II rite.

While the Roman Catholics will never formally admit the church has changed (and why would we expect them to), it is clear that it has changed over time  — if for no other reason than the change in the attitude towards the Eastern Orthodox. Meanwhile, the Eastern Orthodox Orthodox Church will often say that it hasn’t changed since the days of the apostles. Yet this isn’t precisely true, either.

It is clear that the Eastern Orthodox liturgy has changed over the years. This can be demonstrated by perusing Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII, containing The Liturgy of St. James; The Liturgy of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark; and The Liturgy of the Blessed Apostles. Not only are these clearly different from The Liturgy of St. Basil and The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom used today, but they show evidence of interpolations over time. So the question is why did the Liturgy change; and can it be said that these changes reflect actual doctrinal changes?

The simple answer is yes, the liturgies changed because the doctrine of the church changed. Or rather, as the doctrine of the church was set forth by the ecumenical councils, these definitions were incorporated into the liturgy of the Church. So whereas the early church allowed for a greater variety of expressions of Christianity, the later church found it necessary, in response to heresy, to define the faith more precisely. Thus, while the church in Asia Minor had a certain millenialist quality, this doctrinal option was closed off when the Second Ecumenical Council added the following phrase to the Creed: “whose kingdom shall have no end.”[3]

It is clear that different areas of the Roman Empire developed different liturgies, which appear to be based on common prototypes. This is evidenced in part by the similarities between the different church orders passed down to us as the Didache (~50 A.D.), the Didascalia Apostolorum (~230 A.D.), the Apostolic Traditions (of Hippolytus, ~215 A.D.), and the Apostolic Constitutions (~375 A.D.).  In addition, the different liturgical families contain much the same basic structure and content.[4] The similarity within the liturgical families is even more pronounced. The Liturgy of St. James is roughly comparable to the Liturgy of St. Basil and the Liturgy of St. James;[5] the differences primarily being that some of the more flowery language of the Liturgy of St. James has been condensed and simplified in the later liturgies.

As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I can follow the Liturgy of St. James, and recognize nearly all of it. But I can also say that when I first read it, I noticed some commonality between it and what Lutheran’s sometimes call the “Common Service”, or what may be more generally known as the Western Rite. This demonstrates that the Eastern and Western Rites are derived from a common source. One difference I note is the absence of the Epiclesis in the Western Rite, which is the Eucharistic prayer which calls for the Holy Spirit to change the bread and the wine into the body and blood of Christ.[6]

It is not always clear why the epiclesis is missing from the Protestant version of the Western Rite.  However, we may infer this from the movement of the epiclesis in the Roman Catholic rite to a place prior to the so-called words of institution, which in the western sacramental Churches, is the point at which the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. In the Eastern Church, the definition of when this occurs is left open, but is definitely said to have occurred once the epiclesis has uttered.

What does this all matter, anyway? To the average churchgoer, not much. But in the early church, and among today’s flea-picking theologians, it matters a great deal. The simply movement of the epiclesis within the liturgy represents a profound theological change. In the East there is an appreciation of mystery, and a sense that not everything requires or is even subject to intellectual analysis. In the West, the question of when exactly the bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Christ is not only a matter for intellectual analysis, but the answer to that question actually changes the liturgy.

Lex Orandi, Les Credendi. The way we worship reflects the way we believe. Thus the difference between the so-called contemporary service, what the U.S. Military would call a general Protestant service, and a liturgical service represent fundamental differences in doctrine. Likewise the differences between the Western Rite and the Eastern Rite are reflective of differences in doctrine.

I said all this as preparatory to asking this question: Does the use of the Western Rite in Eastern Orthodox Churches reflect an actual difference in theology?

[1] For example, the latest hymnal of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) contains remarkably few hymns written by Luther himself. What this means I leave to others to determine.

[2] A Lutheran pastor once mentioned that an analysis of the theological differences between the various versions of the Small Catechism’s explanations would make a good subject for a Ph.D. dissertation, which is why I choose not to delve into the subject here.

[3] The editor’s comments in ANF-7 describe this phrase being added to the creed to combat the errors of one Marcellus of Ancyra. Among other things, the Marcellians appeared to hold to the impermanence of the Kingdom of the Son, something they shared in common with the chiliasts, those who held to an earthly temporal Kingdom prior to the permanence of the heavenly Kingdom.

[4] See ANF-7, pp. 793-794

[5] See ANF-7, p. 791

[6] The Epiclesis, from the Liturgy of St. James:

Then, bowing his neck, [the priest] says:—

The sovereign and quickening Spirit, that sits upon the throne with Thee, our God and Father, and with Thy only-begotten Son, reigning with Thee; the consubstantial and co-eternal; that spoke in the law and in the prophets, and in Thy New Testament; that descended in the form of a dove on our Lord Jesus Christ at the river Jordan, and abode on Him; that descended on Thy apostles in the form of tongues of fire in the upper room of the holy and glorious Zion on the day of Pentecost: this Thine all-holy Spirit, send down, O Lord, upon us, and upon these offered holy gifts;

And rising up, he says aloud:—

That coming, by His holy and good and glorious appearing, He may sanctify this bread, and make it the holy body of Thy Christ.

The People.


The Priest.

And this cup the precious blood of Thy Christ.

The People.


The Church is Paradise on Earth

Icon of the Holy Liturgy, Michael Damaskenos, from the 16th century Cretan school

Icon of the Holy Liturgy, Michael Damaskenos, from the 16th century Cretan school

With the worship of God you live in Paradise. If you know and love Christ, you live in Paradise. Christ is Paradise. Paradise begins here. The Church is Paradise on earth, exactly the same as Paradise in heaven. The same Paradise as is in heaven is here on earth. There all souls are one, just as the Holy Trinity is three persons, but they are united and constitute one.

Our chief concern is to devote ourselves to Christ, to unite ourselves to the Church. If we enter into the love of God, we enter into the Church. If we don’t enter into the Church, if we do not become with the earthly Church here and now, we are in danger of losing the heavenly Church here and now, we are in danger of losing the heavenly Church too. And when we say ‘heavenly’ don’t imagine that in the other life we will find gardens with flowers, mountains, streams and birds. The earthly beauties do not exist there; there is something else, something very exalted. But in order for us to go on to this something else we must pass through these earthly images and beauties.

Whoever experiences Christ becomes one with Him, with His Church. He experiences a mad delight. This life is different from the life of other people. It is joy, it is light, it is exultation, it is exaltation. This is the life of the Church, the life of the Gospel, the Kingdom of God. ‘The Kingdom of God is within us.’ Christ comes within us and we are within Him. This occurs just in the way a piece of iron placed int he fire becomes fire and light; once it is removed from the fire it becomes iron again, black and dark.

In the Church a divine intercourse occurs, we become infused with God. When we are with Christ we are in the light; and when we live in the light there is no darkness. The light, however, is not constant; it depends on us. It is just like the iron which becomes dark when removed from the fire. Darkness and light are incompatible. We can never have darkness and light at the same time. Either light or darkness. When you switch on the light, darkness vanishes.

Elder Porphyrious, Wounded by Love, pp. 90-91

On the Office of the Deaconess

St. Apollonia, an elderly virgin, deaconess, and martyr of Alexandria

St. Apollonia, an elderly virgin, deaconess, and martyr of Alexandria

On the Office of the Deaconess

The question of deaconesses is one that continues to haunt the church, long after the institution itself was abolished. What were the functions of deaconesses? Were they ordained? Did they have an liturgical function? And should the ancient order of deaconesses be revived?

None of these questions have easy answers, in part because the ancient fathers of the church wrote so little about the institution. There are those who assume that deaconesses were ordained, and had the same liturgical role as deacons. There are others who claim that the office of the deaconess did not exist. Between these two extremes, we have a range of opinions.

In this all too short description of the subject, I will demonstrate that deaconesses were an order in the early church, and were blessed to perform certain functions for women on behalf of the bishop and the presbyters. This order was not sacerdotal in nature; moreover, entrance into the order was not accomplished through ordination, as symbolized by the laying on of hands.

The Order of the Deaconess

One of the most interesting bits of historical detail is found in Canon XIX of the First Council of Nicaea.

Canon XIX

Concerning the Paulianists who have flown for refuge to the Catholic Church, it has been decreed that they must by all means be rebaptized; and if any of them who in past time have been numbered among their clergy should be found blameless and without reproach, let them be rebaptized and ordained by the Bishop of the Catholic Church; but if the examination should discover them to be unfit, they ought to be deposed. Likewise in the case of their deaconesses, and generally in the case of those who have been enrolled among the clergy, let the same form be observed. And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity.

The Paulianists were followers of Paul of Samosata, an anti-Trinitarian. Since their baptisms would not have been in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (in accordance with an Orthodox understanding of the Trinity), they were required to be rebaptized. For our purposes we will focus on the council’s description of deaconesses. It is clear on the one hand that they were “enrolled among the clergy”, but since they were not ordained (lacking the “imposition of hands”), they were to be numbered among the laity. The Dictionary of Christian Antiquities assumes that women were ordained as deaconesses, and ascribes the description of deaconesses in Canon XIX to peculiarities among the Paulianists, where women “assumed the habit or office of deaconess without imposition of hands, and who therefore could not be reordained but simply reckoned among the laity.”

Henry R. Percival (in his book “The Seven Ecumenical Councils”) quotes St. Epiphanius of Salamis (from his book “Against Heresies”), as follows:

This whole matter is treated clearly by St. Epiphanius who, while indeed speaking of deaconesses as an order (τάγμα), asserts that “they were only women-elders, not priestesses in any sense, that their mission was not to interfere in any way with Sacerdotal functions, but simply to perform certain offices in the care of women” (Hær. lxxix., cap. iij). From all this it is evident that they are entirely in error who suppose that “the laying on of hands” which the deaconesses received corresponded to that by which persons were ordained to the diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopate at that period of the church’s history. It was merely a solemn dedication and blessing and was not looked upon as “an outward sign of an inward grace given.”

The plain reading of Canon XIX indicates that deaconesses occupied some sort of middle ground. They were not part of the ordained clergy, yet they clearly had entered into a formal office and received a blessing to perform certain functions within and on behalf of the church. As members of the order of deaconesses, they were identified by a particular style of dress (the meaning of the phrase “assumed the habit”). As the wearing of the habit suggests, there was a monastic element to office of deaconess. This is clear from the requirement that deaconesses be chaste and unmarried. Henry R. Percival, in his book “The Seven Ecumenical Councils”, writes:

The one great characteristic of the deaconess was that she was vowed to perpetual chastity. The Apostolical Constitutions (vi. 17) say that she must be a chaste virgin (parthenos hagne) or else a widow. The writer of the article “Deaconess” in the Dictionary of Christian Antiquities says: It is evident that the ordination of deaconesses included a vow of celibacy.”

Chastity was required of all those taking holy orders. A priest could be the husband of only one wife and, should his wife die, was forbidden to marry again. The deaconess was likewise chaste, living a pure and unmarried life of service to women on behalf of the church.

The Role of the Deaconess

The Dictionary of Christian Antiquities describes the general role of the Deaconess as performing for women the same functions deacons performed for men. This was necessary due to the cultural requirement for women to be kept in seclusion.

An order of women in the Primitive Church who appear to have undertaken duties in reference to their own sex analogous to those performed by the deacons among men. Their office was probably rendered more necessary by the strict seclusion which was observed by the female sex in Greece, and in many Oriental countries.

So what comprised the responsibilities of the deaconess? Again, we turn to the Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, which describes a set of duties, but which implied no sacerdotal (priestly) function.

The duties of the deaconesses were various. The most important related to the administration of baptism to women. Thus the 4th council of Carthage (c. 12) speaks of them as widows or virgins selected for the purpose of assisting in the baptism of women, and who therefore must be qualified to assist the unlearned candidates how to answer the interrogatories in the baptismal office, and how to live after baptism. … No woman was to have any inter course with the bishop or deacon except through the deaconess (Ibid. ii. c. 26). … In the Apostolic Constitutions (iii. 15, 16) it is said that the deaconess (τήν διάκονον) was to be chosen tor ministering to women, because it was impossible to send a deacon into many houses on account of the unbelievers. … They were to attend to the women who were sick or in affliction as the deacon did to the men (Constitut. Apost. iii. 19), and in time of persecution to minister to the confessors in prison (Cotel. Aunot. in Const it. Apost. iii. 15, quoting from Lucian and Libanius). They were to exercise some supervision over the general body of widows, who were to be obedient to the bishops, priests, and deacons, and further to the deaconesses (Constitut. Apost. iii. c. 7).

The Need for the Female Diaconate

Due to the social strictures of the time — where women were secluded and were not to be in the company of men unrelated to them — there was a real need for women who could perform certain functions on behalf of the church. In the apostolic era, and perhaps into the 2nd century, things were not so formal, and both charismatic and hierarchical ministries appear to have existed side by side. But in the New Testament epistles we see excesses in those with charismatic ministries, excesses which necessitated a more formal approach. Take the example of Diotrephes, who had to be brought to heel by the Apostle John.

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. (3 Jo 9-11)

The Didache gives specific instructions on the management of itinerant Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets:

Chapter 11. Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets. Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not. But if he teaches so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord. But concerning the apostles and prophets, act according to the decree of the Gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain more than one day; or two days, if there’s a need. But if he remains three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet. And every prophet who speaks in the Spirit you shall neither try nor judge; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. But not every one who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he holds the ways of the Lord. Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And every prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit does not eat it, unless he is indeed a false prophet. And every prophet who teaches the truth, but does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet. And every prophet, proved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself does, shall not be judged among you, for with God he has his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets. But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him. But if he tells you to give for others’ sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

Because the charismatic ministries sometimes came in conflict with the formal ministries of the church, various means were devised to deal with them,[1] and various orders were established — including the formal office of deaconess (which perhaps incorporated the more charismatic office of the widows) (1 Tim 5:3-12). In time, the ecumenical councils established canons which regulated the office of the deaconess. And, as the social structure changed, the need for the office diminished. It was done away with first in the Christian West, and gradually withered away in the East, where its functions seem to have been taken up in part by the women’s monasteries, and in part by a reversion to charismatic ministries within the church. So, for example, in our church the women tend to minister to each other’s needs, with guidance from the priest as necessary. The deaconess is no longer necessary for the instruction and catechesis of women, as most societies no longer frown upon a male priest teaching women he is not related to.

However, in some societies there could well be a need for women to perform the function of the female diaconate. In these situations, one could well imagine the bishop giving a special blessing to a woman to perform certain functions on behalf of the church, functions which would include those formerly performed by deaconesses. And if a female monastery were nearby, perhaps these functions could be performed by their members.

Modernity and the Diaconate

In the ancient world, it was quite rare for women to receive an education. Thus, while we have a great many writings of the church fathers, we have very little writings done by or on behalf of women. We do have examples of female saints and martyrs, and the sayings of the desert mothers are as instructive as the desert fathers. In the modern era, women have just as many educational opportunities as men, and it is not uncommon for women to receive theological training. So how does the church put these educated women to good use?

In most Christian communions, there is some pressure to ordain women. Some have succumbed to modernity, ordaining women as priests and even bishops. Some resist with great vigor, to the point of seeming hostility towards and subjugation of women. And some have devised ways of dealing with the legitimate aspirations of women. The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LC-MS) formally restored the office of the Deaconess, complete with theological undergraduate and post-graduate education. This, despite not having a formal male diaconate. (On the other hand, the LC-MS would not allow theologically educated women to teach theology in their universities or seminaries.) In the Roman Catholic Church, women are allowed to teach theology in the universities. Among the Eastern Orthodox (at least in some jurisdictions) women with the appropriate level of education are allowed to teach in the seminaries (I know of one woman who was a professor at Hellenic College Holy Cross in Brookline, MA).

So granted the increasing number of educated women and their legitimate desire to use their skills and talents within the church, the question is whether the female diaconate is the correct vehicle. One thing that should be noted is that to be a member of the female diaconate, the canons are quite clear: one must be at least forty years old, one must be either a virgin or a widow, and one must remain unmarried or risk excommunication. And the office of the female diaconate is not sacerdotal, meaning the deaconess has no function in the priestly and liturgical life of the church. The question, then, is whether the female deaconess would have anything to do, given that the functions of the deaconess are performed within the church now, absent the formal office. Moreover, given that many churches have a hard enough time paying their priest, let alone a deacon, how many churches could afford to hire a deaconess?

Practically speaking, there would be too few openings for female deaconesses, especially as their functions are currently performed by unpaid volunteers. And since the canons do not permit women to fill the office of deaconess until the age of forty, what would educated young women do in the meantime? Clearly, the office of the deaconess would not be an avenue for the legitimate aspirations of educated young women.


[1] The canons of the church were established to resolve problems. So when we see a canon requiring one thing and prescribing another, we can be sure that this was an issue that was either widespread or serious enough to have been raised to the level of an ecumenical council.

Continuity of Worship

Jewish Temple Liturgy

Jewish Temple Liturgy

Jewish worship was liturgical. There was a specific order of service to be followed, and deviation from that order of service was a serious matter (as Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu quickly discovered) (Le 10:1-2). The twice daily sacrifices were accompanied by choirs singing psalms, and accompanied by instruments (2 Chron 5:12-14).

A remarkable continuity of worship practice exists between the Old Testament and the New, between Jewish worship and that of Christians. It is clear from the book of Acts that the earliest Christians were “continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house” (Acts 2:46). Moreover, the lame man was healed as “Peter and John about to go into the temple” (Acts 3:3). And again, Luke says of the early church, that “were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch” (Acts 5:12). After the apostles were miraculously released from prison, the report was made to the “captain of the temple and the chief priests”: “Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people” (Acts 5:25). After they had been beaten and released, it is said of the apostles: “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42).

Following the Babylonian captivity (and perhaps even before then), the Jews had two centers of worship. The most important center of worship was Jerusalem, which was were the temple was, and were the twice daily sacrifices were held. But those who could not be present at the temple gathered at the synagogue, which had its own liturgical style. This was the center of worship for the diaspora, and was where Paul went first on his missionary journeys (Acts 13:14-15; 14:1; 17:1-3; 18:4-6). Even in the book of Acts, it is clear that there was a particular order of worship, with an exhortation following the reading of the law and the prophets. W. O. E. Oesterley, in his book “The Jewish Background of the Christian Liturgy”, writes that basic form of Jewish Liturgy was 1) the reading of Scripture, and 2) prayer. The reading of Scripture included some sort of homily or exhortation; the prayers were varied in form, but followed an over all structure. The prayers tended to focus more on praise, thanksgiving, and confession of sins; intercessory prayers and supplications were secondary. The singing of psalms was interspersed throughout the services, binding the individual elements of the service together.

Christian Community House

Christian Community House

The apostles, those with them in the upper room, and the converts following the feast of Pentecost were all Jews, and all familiar with liturgical worship. They continued in that worship in the temple, but also went from house to house celebrating the eucharist. It would be quite unexpected for Jews, used to liturgical worship, to conduct their services in any other way.

Gabe Martini, in his “On Behalf of All” blog, notes how church architecture has followed, and continues to follow, the architectural model bequeathed to us from the Jews. There is a remarkable continuity of worship between the Old and New Testaments.

You can read more here: Remaking the Temple of the Lord 

On the Death of a Christian

A fellow parishioner is being taken off life support soon, and we are beginning preparations for his funeral. I have begun looking at the funeral for an Orthodox Christian, and I am struck by how theologically rich the service is. Here is an excerpt of the Funeral Service (after the Greek Orthodox tradition).

Detail of the Dormition [falling asleep] of the Theotokos

Detail of the Dormition [falling asleep] of the Theotokos

Look upon me and have mercy on me, in accordance with the judgement of those who love your name. Alleluia.

I am young and despised; I have not forgotten your statutes. Alleluia.

Hear my voice, O Lord, in accordance with your mercy; in accordance with your judgement give me life. Alleluia.

Rulers have persecuted me for no reason; and my heart has been in awe of your words. Alleluia.

My soul will live and praise you; and your judgements will help me. Alleluia.


I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek out your servant, because I have not forgotten your commandments.

Evlogitaria for the dead in Tone 5

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.

The choir of Saints has found the source of life and the door of Paradise; may I too find the way through repentance; I am the lost sheep, call me back, O Saviour, and save me.

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.

You Holy Martyrs, who proclaimed the Lamb of God, and like lambs were slain, and have been taken over to the unending life which knows no ageing, plead with him to grant us abolition of our debts.

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.

All you who trod in life the hard and narrow way; all you who took the Cross as a yoke, and followed me in faith, come, enjoy you in faith, come, enjoy that heavenly rewards and crowns which I have prepared for you.

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.

I am an image of your ineffable glory, though I bear the marks of offences; take pity on your creature, Master, and with compassion cleanse me; and give me the longed-for fatherland, making me once again a citizen of Paradise.

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.

Of old you formed me from nothing and honoured me with your divine image, but because I transgressed your commandment, you returned me to the earth from which I was taken; bring me back to your likeness, my ancient beauty.

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.

Give rest, O God, to your servant (s) , and settle them (him/her) in Paradise, where the choirs of the Saints and all the Just shine out like beacons; give rest to your servant (s) who has/have fallen asleep, overlooking all their (his/her) offences.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Triadikon.


Let us devoutly hymn the threefold light of the one Godhead as we cry: Holy are you, the Father without beginning, the Son likewise without beginning and the divine Spirit; enlighten us who worship  and snatch us from the everlasting fire.

Both now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.


Hail, honoured one, who bore God in the flesh for the salvation of all; through you the human race has found salvation; through you may we find Paradise, O pure and blessed Mother of God.

Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Glory to you, O God (x3) .

Tone 8.

With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of your servant, where there is no toil, nor grief, nor sighing, but everlasting life.

And after the Ekphonesis, we begin the Idiomels.

By Monk John, the Damascene.

Tone 1.

What pleasure in life remains without its share of sorrow? What glory stands on earth unchanged? All things are feebler than a shadow, all things are more deceptive than dreams; one instant, and death supplants them all. But, O Christ, give rest to him You have chosen in the light of your countenance and the sweetness of your beauty, as You love mankind.

Tone 2.

Alas, what an ordeal the soul endures once separated from the body! Alas, what tears then, and there is none to pity her! She turns towards the Angels, her entreaty is without effect; she stretches out her hands to men, she has none to help. Therefore my dear brethren, thinking on the shortness of our life, let us ask of Christ rest for him who has passed over, and for ourselves his great mercy.

Tone 3.

Everything human which does not survive death is vanity; wealth does not last, glory does not travel with us; for at death’s approach all of them disappear; and so let cry out to Christ the Immortal one: Give rest to him who has passed from us, in the dwelling of all those who rejoice.

Tone 4.

Truly most fearful is the mystery of death, how the soul is forcibly parted from the body, from its frame, and how that most natural bond of union is cut off by the will of God. Therefore we entreat you: Give rest in the tents of your just ones, him/her who has passed over, O Giver of life, Lover of mankind.

Another, outside the Typikon.

Tone 4.

Where is the attraction of the world? Where the delusion of the temporary? Where is gold, where silver? Where the throng and hubbub of servants? All dust, all ashes, all shadow. But come, let us cry out to the immortal King: O Lord, grant your eternal good things to him who has passed from us, giving him rest in the happiness which does not age.

Tone 5.

I remembered how the Prophet cried out: I am earth and ashes; and I looked again into the tombs and saw the naked bones, and I said: Who then is a king or a soldier, a rich man or a beggar, a just man or a sinner? But give rest, O Lord, with the just to your servant.

Tone 6.

Your command which fashioned me was my beginning and my substance; for wishing to compose me as a living creature from visible and invisible nature, you moulded my body from the earth, but gave me a soul by your divine and life-giving breath. Therefore, O Christ, give rest to your servant in the land of the living, in the tents of the just.

Tone 7.

Give rest, our Saviour, to our brother/sister , whom you have taken over from transient things, as he/she cries, ‘Glory to you!’

Another, outside the Typikon.

Tone 7.

Having fashioned man in the beginning in your image and likeness, you placed him in Paradise to govern your creatures; but led astray by the envy of the devil he tasted the food and became a transgressor of your commandments; and so you condemned him, O Lord, to return again to the earth from which he had been taken, and to beg for rest.

Tone 8.

I grieve and lament when I contemplate death, and see the beauty fashioned for us in God’s image lying in the graves, without form, without glory, without shape. O the wonder! What is this mystery which has happened to us? How have we been handed over to corruption, and yoked with death? Truly it is at God’s command, as it is written, God who grants rest to him who has passed over.

Priest: O God of spirits and all flesh, who trampled down death and crushed the devil, giving life to your world; do you, Lord, give rest to the soul of your servant N. , who has fallen asleep, in a place of light, a place of green pasture, a place of refreshment, whence pain, grief and sighing have fled away. Pardon, O God, as you are good and love of mankind, every sin committed by him/her in word or deed or thought, because there is no one who will live and not sin, for you alone are without sin; your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your word is truth. For you are the resurrection, the life and the repose of your servant N. , who has fallen asleep, Christ our God, and to you we give glory, together with your Father who is without beginning and your all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages.

People: Amen.

Theotokion for October 27th

Coptic Icon of the Virgin Mary

Coptic Icon of the Virgin Mary

Tone 1           (Theotokion – Dogmatikon)

Let us praise the Virgin Mary!

The gate of heaven, the glory of the world!

The song of the angels, the beauty of the faithful!

She was born of man, yet gave birth to God!

She was revealed as the heaven,

as the temple of the godhead!

She destroyed the wall of enmity!

She commenced the peace; she opened the Kingdom!

Since she is our foundation of faith,

our defender is the Lord Whom she bore!

Courage! Courage! O People of God!

For Christ will destroy our enemies//

since He is all powerful.

Salvation and the Veneration [honoring] of Saints

The Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles

The Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles

Book cover for "The Orthodox Church" by John Anthony McGuckin

“It is a great mistake to think that the soul finds Christ nakedly and alone. The Lord always comes to us in the family, and through the medium of the love of other members of the communion. He came to his world through the Holy Virgin. He comes to us in faith, even to this day, through the ministry of those who have loved us and nurtured us, and formed our minds and characters in a thousand ways. He comes to us in the Scriptures, directly, yes, but also through the countless hundreds of thousands who have transcribed, collected the texts, and preached them to society over centuries. There is no direct and solipsistically solitary path to the Christ. If we find Christ we find the heart of love and communion. Those who wish to find the Lord alone, and possess him alone, have not found the true Lord. In some places in the world superstition may indeed have perverted the cult of the saints, so that it has degenerated into a disturbingly non-Christian phenomenon. Orthodoxy does not generally manifest that social condition. If it does appear, the clergy correct it energetically. The Orthodox veneration of the saints is widely understood by all levels of the faithful, educated or not. And the celebration of the saints is deeply integrated with the sense of the church as a communion of word and sacrament. This has been a pattern of Eastern Christian life since the earliest centuries, when the tombs of the martyrs grew into being the local parish churches.
“Orthodoxy, in its heard, does not understand a personalist attitude that issues in the form of a latent (or not so latent!) hostility to the saints, and finds it to be defective in its comprehension of the communion of salvation. It is difficult to express the significance of family to those whose experience of earthly families has been insignificant, or worse, damaging. But the action of the saints, still philanthropic and still assisting the lives of Christians on earth, is a fact of authentic Christian family life, and for the Orthodox is part of their very faith-confession that Christ has saved hot a host of solitary righteous people, but rather an elect communion of beings: humanity and angels, who are brought together in him and through him in a bond of love that constitutes the New Being of the Kingdom.” (McGuckin 2011)
McGuckin, John Anthony. The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.



a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing

The Paraklesis Service

Panagia Vlahernon Greek Orthodox Monastery

Panagia Vlahernon Greek Orthodox Monastery

The Paraklesis service is a service of supplication for the living. This service is in contrast to the Panikhída service, which is the service of supplication for the living. The Paraklesis is usually addressed to the Theotokos, but may be addressed to any saint. The Paraklesis service is similar to the Molobien, which is primarily a Slavic service.

The Paraklesis service is appointed to be served every evening of the Dormition fast (1-14 August), with the exception of Saturday evening, the eve of the feasts of Transfiguration (5 August) and of Dormition (15 August). During the Dormition fast, use, on alternate days, the Small Supplicatory Canon to the Most Holy Theotokos (composed by Theosterictus the Monk in the 9th Century) and the Great Supplicatory Canon to the Most Holy Theotokos (composed by Emperor Theodore I Ducas Lascaris in the 13th century).

The cycle of the Dormition parakleses is determined by two rules of thumb: (a) the cycle begins with the Small Supplicatory Canon whenever August 1 falls on a Monday through Friday; and (b) on Sunday evenings, the Great Supplicatory Canon is always appointed.

Outside the Dormition Fast, a paraklesis directed to the Theotokos is always chanted with the Small Supplicatory Canon.

The Odes of the Great Supplicatory Canon are as follows. (Note that there is no Ode 2. Historically this was a penitential canon, which was omitted during feasts. Eventually composers just stopped writing Ode 2, but kept to the traditional numbering.)


The charioteer of Pharaoh was sunk in olden times by Moses’ rod, which worked a mighty wonder when, in the Cross’s form, it struck the sea, dividing it in two; and it led into safety sojourning Israel that fled by foot, chanting to the Lord God a song of praise.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

My humble soul is troubled by the rising storms of afflictions and woes; and clouds of misfortunes overcome me, bringing darkness to my heart, O Bride of God. But since you are the Mother of the Divine and Eternal Light, shine your gladsome light and illumine me.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

From countless trials and afflictions, grievous woes, and from misfortunes of life have I been delivered by your mighty strength, O spotless and pure Maid. I extol and I magnify your immeasurable sympathy, and the loving care that you have for me.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Having my hope now in your mighty help, O Maid, I flee for refuge to you. Unto your shelter have I run wholeheartedly, O Lady, and I bow my knee; and I mourn and cry weeping: Do not disdain me, the wretched one, for you are the refuge of Christian folk.

Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

I shall not cease from making known most manifestly your great deeds, Maid of God; for if you were not present to intercede in my behalf and importune your Son and God, who would free and deliver me from such storms and turbulence, and surmount the perils that trouble me?

Preserve and save, O Theotokos, your servants from every danger; after God do all of us for refuge flee unto you; a firm rampart you are and you are our protection.

With good will, look on me, O all-hymned Theotokos; behold my body’s grievous infirmity, and heal the cause of my soul’s sorrow.


The vault of the heavens is You, O Lord, Fashioner; and the Holy Church’s great founder; likewise establish me in unfeigned love for You, for You are the height of things sought for, the staff of the faithful and the only Friend of all.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

At a loss and despairing, I cry with pain to you: Hasten, O fervent protection; grant your help to me, your lowly slave and wretched servant, O Maiden; for with heartfelt fervour I come seeking for your aid.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

You, O Lady, have truly been shown to be wondrous now in your benefactions and mercies granted to me, O Maid; hence do I glorify and acclaim you, whilst praising your great loving care and your boundless solicitude.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Mighty storms of misfortunes, O Lady, pass over me; and the swelling waves of afflictions plunge me into the depths. But be quick to come; lend me your helping hand, Maiden, for you are my fervent protectress and sure support.

Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

I profess you, O Lady, as the true Mother of God: you, who has both banished and triumphed over the might of death; for as the source of Life, you have freed me from Hades’ bonds, raising me to life, though to earth was I fallen down.

Preserve and save, O Theotokos, your servants from every danger; after God do all of us for refuge flee unto you; you are a firm rampart and our protection.

With good will, look on me, O all-hymned Theotokos; behold my body’s grievous infirmity, and heal the cause of my soul’s sorrow.


You are my strength; You are my power and might, O Lord; You are my God; You Who is not absent from Thy Father’s arms, You, Lord, are my joy. You have deigned to visit our lowliness and our poverty. To You, therefore, I cry out with Habbakoum the Prophet: Glory be to Your power, O Friend of man.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

Where else shall I find me another to be my help? To what refuge shall I hasten to be saved? Whose fervent aid shall I have in need? Alas, life’s affliction and turbulence shake me. In you alone, O Maiden, do I hope, trust, and glory; and I run to your shelter; save me.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

I magnify and I proclaim, you all-pure one, the sweet river of your tender mercy and loving care; for with many gifts has it greatly refreshed my tormented and truly lowly soul, afire in a furnace of misfortunes and sorrows; and I run to you shelter; save me.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

You, O pure Maid, all-holy Virgin and spotless one, are my only steadfast shelter and retreat, and mighty wall that cannot be breached, my weapon of salvation. Do not disdain me, the prodigal, O hope of the despairing and ally of the ailing, you are the gladness and help of afflicted ones.

Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

How shall I praise you, how shall I worthily sing the praise of your boundless mercies and compassions which have ever cooled and refreshed my soul, aflame and tormented, O Lady, and wounded grievously? Indeed your benefactions and providence, Maiden, are bestowed upon me most abundantly.

Preserve and save, O Theotokos, your servants from every danger; after God do all of us for refuge flee to you; you are a firm rampart and our protection.

With good will, look on me, O all-hymned Theotokos; behold my body’s grievous infirmity, and heal the cause of my soul’s sorrow.


You have deprived me, and cast me, the unfortunate one, far from Your countenance; and the outer darkness has enshrouded and casts its gloom over me. Yet, now I beseech You: convert and direct me to the light of Your precepts, O Lord my God.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

As one grateful I cry out: Rejoice, O Virgin Mother; rejoice, O Bride of God; rejoice, O holy shelter; rejoice, O weapon and rampart invincible; rejoice, you are the protection and the assistance and salvation of all them that run to you, O Maid of God.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

They that hate me without cause have made ready a dart and a sword and pit for me. My unfortunate body do they seek to destroy and to tear apart; and they seek to bring me into the depths of earth, O pure one; but be quick and come save me from them, O Maid.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

You deliver me from all need, affliction and from all disease and harm; and by your power, you preserve me unwounded in your shelter, Maid; and from every peril and foes that hate and war against me hasten to save me, O all-hymned one.

Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

What gift of thanksgiving shall I offer in gratefulness to you, O Maid, for your boundless goodness and the favours and gifts that I have from you? Hence, indeed I praise you, and glorify and magnify your inexpressible sympathy shown to me.

Preserve and save, O Theotokos, your servants from every danger; after God do all of us for refuge flee to you; you are a firm rampart and our protection.

With good will, look on me, O all-hymned Theotokos; behold my body’s grievous infirmity, and heal the cause of my soul’s sorrow.


My petition, I pour out to the Lord, and to Him do I proclaim all my sorrows, for many woes fill my heart to its limits, and unto Hades my whole life has now approached; like Jonas I pray to You: Raise me up from corruption, O Lord my God.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

The storm clouds of grievous sorrows and distress shroud my unfortunate heart and soul in affliction, and with their gloom have they filled me, O Virgin. Yet, since you brought forth the Light Unapproachable, be quick to drive them far from me with the breeze of your holy entreaties, Maid.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

A comfort you are to me in my distress, and I have you as a healer of all illness; you are the most perfect destruction of death; you are an unfailing fountain flowing with life, and speedy help and quick support of all them that are found in misfortunes, Maid.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I shall not conceal the ever-flowing spring of the sympathy that you have for me, O Lady, nor the abyss of your infinite mercy, nor yet the fountain of your boundless miracles; but ceaselessly do I cry out and confess and declare and proclaim them, Maid.

Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

The turmoils of this life encircle me like unto bees about a honeycomb, O Virgin, and they have seized and now hold my heart captive, and I am pierced with the stings of afflictions, Maid; yet be, O all-holy one, my defender and helper and rescuer.

Preserve and save, O Theotokos, your servants from every danger; after God do all of us for refuge flee to you; you are a firm rampart and our protection.

With good will, look on me, O all-hymned Theotokos; behold my body’s grievous infirmity, and heal the cause of my soul’s sorrow.


The three Hebrew Children in the furnace trampled on the flames with courage and great boldness; they turned fire to dew, and cried out with a great voice: Blessed are You, O Lord our God, unto ages of ages.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

Illumine my way, for I am darkened by the night of many sins, O Theotokos; for you brought forth the Light, and are in truth the blameless and undefiled vessel of light; hence with love do I praise you.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

Be my shelter and protection and my help and boast, O Virgin Theotokos; of all manner of help have I now been stripped naked, O strength of those bereft of help, and you are the hope of those without hope.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I praise you with my whole soul and understanding and with all my heart and with my lips, having truly enjoyed your many benefactions; yet boundless are your miracles, and your goodness is unending.

Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Look upon me with graciousness, and dispel the evil plight that besets me; and from grievous distress, harm, temptations, and perils do rescue me by your infinite mercy.

Preserve and save, O Theotokos, your servants from every danger; after God do all of us flee to you for refuge; you are a firm rampart and our protection.

With good will, look on me, O all-hymned Theotokos; behold my body’s grievous infirmity, and heal the cause of my soul’s sorrow.


Let us ever applaud and praise the Lord God Who was seen of old on the holy mount in glory, Who by the fiery bush revealed the great mystery of the Ever-virgin and undefiled Maiden unto the Prophet Moses.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

Be moved to compassion, O Virgin, and disdain me not, for life’s storms overwhelm me. But be quick, O modest one, and lend me your helping hand, O Maiden, for I perish drowning engulfed by life’s misfortunes.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

Times of sorrows, necessity, and trouble, and misfortunes in life have found me, O pure Maiden; and from all sides temptations have encircled me; but be my ally, and protect me in your almighty shelter.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In distress I have you, Maid, as my haven, and in sorrows and grief you are my joy and gladness; and in all illness, you have been my quick help, and rescuer in perils, and in all temptations my guardian and protectress.

Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Rejoice, fiery throne of the Lord God; rejoice, the sacred vessel that is filled with manna; rejoice, the golden lampstand and unquenchable lamp; rejoice, O glory of virgins and the boast and adornment of mothers.

Preserve and save, O Theotokos, your servants from every danger; after God do all of us flee to you for refuge; you are a firm rampart and our protection.

With good will, look on me, O all-hymned Theotokos; behold my body’s grievous infirmity, and heal the cause of my soul’s sorrow.


The heavens were astonished and stood in awe, and the ends of the earth, Maid, were sore amazed, for God appeared bodily to mankind as very man. And behold, your womb has proved to be vaster and more spacious than heaven’s heights. For this, O Theotokos, the choirs and assemblies of men and angels magnify your name.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

To whom else shall I flee, O Maid most pure, and to whom shall I run for help and be saved? Where shall I go, and where shall I find a safe retreat? Whose warm protection shall I have? Who shall be a helper in my distress? In you alone I hope, Maid; in you alone I glory; and trusting in you, I have fled to you.

Most Holy Theotokos save us.

To number your great deeds and your mighty acts is not possible for man, O Bride of God, nor yet can one tell of the unfathomable abyss of your unending miracles that surpass all knowledge, and which are granted to those that venerate and honour you, with longing, as the true Mother of our Lord and God.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

With anthems of thanksgiving I glorify and chant praise to your infinite mercy, and your boundless might I confess unceasingly unto all. With my soul and heart and mind and my lips I magnify and proclaim the many benefactions that you have poured upon me in your compassion, O Bride of God.

Now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Accept my appeal and my poor prayer, and disdain not my weeping and sighs, O Maid, nor my lament, but be quick to help me since you are good. Fulfil my every plea; you can do since you brought forth our mighty God and Master, if you but look upon me and bow down to mine utter lowliness.

Preserve and save, O Theotokos, your servants from every danger; after God, we flee to you for refuge; you are a firm rampart and our protection.

With good will, look on me, O all-hymned Theotokos; behold my body’s grievous infirmity, and heal the cause of my soul’s sorrow.

It is truly fitting to call you blessed, the Theotokos, the ever-blessed and all-pure Theotokos. More honourable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, you who without corruption gave birth to God the Word, the very Theotokos, you do we magnify.

This entry used information from Fr. John Cox, from orthodoxwiki.org, and from www.orthodoxchristian.info

Ave Maria

Ave Maria, Benedictine Chant, musical notation

Ave Maria, Benedictine Chant

The Ave Maria, or Hail Mary, is a prayer used (primarily) in the Roman Catholic tradition, although some Anglicans, Lutherans, and other Protestant groups use the prayer as well. The Eastern churches use a different form of this prayer.

Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen

The first half of the prayer uses texts straight from scripture. The second half becomes more problematic for Protestants, as the concept of asking the saints for their intercessory prayers is foreign to them. But, so they may not lose access to the beautiful Ave Maria music, some Protestants have come up with an alternate version of the text befitting their theology.

Hail Redeemer


Ave redemptor, Domine Jesus:
Cuius ob opus
Superatur mors, enim salvatio
Nunc inundavit super universam terram.

Sancte redemptor, reputata
Fides est nobis peccatoribus,
Nunc et in morte, ad iustitiam.

English Translation

Hail the Redeemer, Lord Jesus,
By whose work
Death is defeated, for salvation
Has now overflowed upon all of the world.

Holy redeemer, our faith
Is reckoned to us sinners,
Now and in death, as righteousness.

Of the numberless settings of the Ave Maria, I prefer the Schubert version. It is perhaps the most well known, and instantly recognizable.

Ave Maria, Schubert, Latin text

Ave Maria Gratia plena
Maria Gratia plena
Maria Gratia plena
Ave, ave dominus
Dominus tecum
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus
Et benedictus fructus ventris
Ventris tui Jesus
Ave Maria
Ave Maria Mater dei
Ora pro nobis pecatoribus
Ora, ora pro nobis
Ora ora pro nobis pecatoribus
Nunc et in hora mortis
In hora mortis nostrae
In hora mortis, mortis nostrae
In hora mortis nostrae
Ave Maria

Worship, Veneration, and the Axion Estin (It is Truly Meet)

The following is slightly modified from my book “Why Mary Matters”.


Icon of the Theotokos, "All of Creation Rejoices in Thee."

Icon of the Theotokos, “All of Creation Rejoices in Thee.”

The theotokian (or hymn to Mary) known as Axion Estin (or It is Truly Meet), is sung in the Orthodox liturgy, and is part of the daily prayers in most Orthodox prayer books. It reads as follows:

It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos,
Ever blessed and most pure and the Mother of our God!
More honorable than the cherubim,
and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim.
Without corruption you gave birth to God the Word.
True Theotokos, we magnify you!

Protestants would likely be uncomfortable with this hymn; I know I was. Yet as Robert Arakaki demonstrates, the expressions of this hymn are entirely biblical.


Blessed — “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” (Luke 1:42)

Theotokos (God-bearer) — “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43; see also Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:21-25, Luke 2:6-7, Revelation 12:5)

Ever-blessed — “From now on all generations will call me blessed….” (Luke 1:48)

All-holy — “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (I Peter 1:15-16)

Utterly pure — “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8).  “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (I John 3:3)

Mother of God — “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel– which means, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23, cf. Isaiah 7:14)

More honorable than — “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings the Cherubim  and crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:5)  “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ.” (Ephesians 2:6) (Arakaki, Why Evangelicals Need Mary 2012)

If we can accept that the various phrases of the Axion estin hymn are biblical, what then is the problem? Why would a Protestant find this hymn so troubling? Robert Arakaki provides us with an  answer.

Many Protestants are afraid that venerating Mary will eventually lead to worshiping her. Protestants’ confusion when Orthodoxy claims that it venerates Mary but does not worship her arises from differences in their understanding of worship. Where the sermon is central to Protestant worship, the center of Orthodox worship is the Eucharist. (Arakaki, Why Evangelicals Need Mary 2012)

The evangelical converts to Catholicism, Scott and Kimberly Hahn, describe their difficulties with these different definitions of worship.

I could not figure out why it was that it seemed to be that Catholics worshiped Mary, even though I knew worship of Mary was clearly condemned by the Church.  Then I got an insight: Protestants defined worship as songs, prayers and a sermon.  So when Catholics sang songs to Mary, petitioned Mary in prayer and preached about her, Protestants concluded she was being worshiped.  But Catholics defined worship as the sacrifice of the body and Blood of Jesus, and Catholics would never have offered a sacrifice of Mary nor to Mary on the altar. (Hahn and Hahn, Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism. 1993, 145)

We can all agree that worship is due to God alone. Yet we honor the hero and the celebrity; why then would we not honor the heroes of the faith? Why not show the Blessed Virgin greater honor than that which we offer a singer, a soldier, or a sports hero?