Orthodox Christian




The Mother of God and Mother of the Light

Hail Mary,

full of Grace,

the Lord is with You!

Blessed are You among women for You have born the Saviour of our souls!



In 431the Fathers of the Third Ecumenical Council met in the city of Ephesus to deal with the heresy of Nestorios, Archbishop of Constantinople, who rejected the title "Theotokos" for the All-holy Virgin. She was, he claimed, only the mother of the humanity of Christ. Led by Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria, the Council declared the orthodoxy of the title and the doctrine it implied. St Cyril preached a sermon, extolling the glory of the Mother of God in her church in Ephesus, the city which had been the centre of the cult of the pagan goddess Artemis and where she had lived with St John the Evangelist. St Cyril's sermon was used as the basis for a longer sermon in praise of the Mother of God by a later, anonymous, writer. What follows is an extract from this sermon. 

Hail, thrice-blessed John, 

Apostle and Evangelist,

boast of virginity, teacher of purity, 

exterminator of the error of the demons, 

destroyer of the temple of Artemis, 

harbour and champion of the city of the Ephesians, 

nourisher of the poor, refuge of the afflicted, 

rest and repose of those who are near and those who are far off. 

Hail, unsullied vessel, filled with sobriety. 

For it was to you as a virgin to whom our Lord Jesus Christ when hanging on the Cross entrusted the Mother of God and ever-Virgin. 


Hail, too, Mary Mother of God, 

Virgin Mother, Bearer of Light, unsullied Vessel.

The Annunciation  

Hail, Mary, mother and servant; 

Virgin through the One who, born from you, the Virgin, 

but mother through the One who was carried in your arms and nourished by your milk; 

servant through the One who took the form of a servant. 

For the King entered your city,

 or rather your womb,

and came out again as he himself wished,

 though your gate had been shut.

 For you conceived without seed, while you gave birth in a manner fitting God.

 Hail, Mary, the indestructible, or rather holy, temple,

 as the prophet David cried, saying, 

"Holy your temple, wonderful in justice". 


Hail, Mary, treasure of the inhabited world.

 Hail, Mary, the unsullied dove.

 Hail, Mary, the unquenchable lamp.

 For from you the Sun of justice has been born.

 Hail, Mary, the space of the Infinite, 

who enclosed the Only-begotten God the Word,

 who sprouted without plough or seed the unfading ear of corn.


 Hail, Mary Mother of God, 

because of whom the prophets sang, 

the shepherds gave glory 

they joined the Angels in that awesome hymn,

 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill among men".

 Hail, Mary Mother of God, 

because of whom Angels dance, 

Archangels leap for joy as they raise awe-inspiring hymns. 

Hail, Mary Mother of God,

 because of whom Magi, guided by a shining star, give adoration.


Hail, Mary Mother of God,

 because of whom John, 

while still in his mother's womb leapt for joy,

 and the lamp worshipped the Light that never sleeps.

 Hail, Mary Mother of God,


 because of whom ineffable grace came forth,

 of which the Apostle cried, "The saving grace of God has appeared to all men".

 Hail, Mary Mother of God,

 through whom came forth the true Light,

 our Lord Jesus Christ,

 who said in the Gospels,

 "I am the light of the world".

 Hail, Mary Mother of God,

 through whom light shone out

 for those who sat in darkness and shadow of death.

 As Scripture says, "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light".

 What light, if not our Lord Jesus Christ,

 the true light that enlightens everyone coming into the world. 

Hail, Mary Mother of God, because of whom the Gospels proclaim,


 "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord";

 because of whom churches of the Orthodox have been founded in cities, villages and islands.

Hail, Mary Mother of God, 

through whom came forth the conqueror of death and the destroyer of Hell. 


Hail, Mary Mother of God, 

through came forth the One who formed the first-formed,

 set right his transgression and was the guide to the kingdom in heaven. 

Hail, Mary. Mother of God, 

through whom the beauty of the resurrection flowered and shone out. 

Hail, Mary Mother of God, 

through whom flowed in Jordan the dread baptism of sanctification.

 Hail, Mary Mother of God,

 through whom John and Jordan were sanctified and the devil disgraced.

 Hail, Mary Mother of God,

 because of whom the twelve rayed beauty of the Apostles was chosen. 


 Hail, Mary Mother of God,

 through whom everything that has breath and believes is saved.

 Hail, Mary Mother of God,

 for through you the waves of the sea, 

calming. and pacifying,

 carried our fellow servants and fellow ministers with joy and gentleness.

 For the earth that was once trampled by robbers has been changed into peace

 by the arrival of the holy Fathers, 

"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of peace!" 

What peace? 

Our Lord Jesus Christ, 

the herald of peace who said in the holy Gospels, 

"My peace I give you".


Apolytikion. Tone 1.

In giving birth you retained your virginity;

in falling asleep,  Mother of God, you did not abandon the world.

You passed over into life, you, the Mother of life;

and by your prayers you deliver our souls from death.




Introduction and translation of text by permission of copyright of the Very Rev. Archimandrite of the Oecumenical Throne Ephrem Lash. Also appeared originally in Light of Christ, Newsletter of the Orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist and St. Anthony, London.

Icon of St. John The Theologian, polyptych, detail, end of 1700.

With thanks to Archimandrite Gregory for the icon of The Life-giving Spring.

The rest of the icons thanks to and by permission of Copyright The Art of Tatiana Romanova-Grant  www.spiritualpaintings.com/

Editorial presentation ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN COMMENT. 

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