“Withering under the shadow of pagan ignorance, like plants the Swedes strove toward the bright effulgence of knowledge divine; and to the Christian realm they dispatched emissaries, seeking a wise husbandman to graft them onto the Tree of Life. Wherefore, the fearless Ansgar set forth most eagerly to illumine them with the grace of God, and having braved perils and death during his journey, he revealed to them the path to immortality, baptizing them in the name of the All-holy Trinity, and making them steadfast in the one true Faith. And having attained unto the mansions of heavens, he watcheth over the peoples of Scandinavia with the eye of his lovingkindness, unceasingly entreating Christ God in their behalf.”

 – Doxasticon from Aposticha of Vespers, Tone III,  for St. Ansgar (Feb 3rd)


“The gifts that the magi brought to the Infant Christ were carefully preserved by the Mother of God. Before her blessed Dormition, she gave them to the Jerusalem Church. They were located there until the year 400. Later, the Byzantine Emperor Arcardius translated them to Constantinople and placed them in the Hagia Sophia church. In 1453, Constantinople fell. In 1470 the daughter of the Serbian ruler George Brankovich, Maria (Maro), who was the widow of the Turkish sultan Murat (Murada) II (1404–1451), gave the Gifts of the Magi to the Monastery of St. Paul, which was Serbian until 1744. Despite the fact that she was the wife of a sultan she did not accept Islam and remained a Christian until the end of her life. On the place were Maria knelt a cross was placed called the Queen’s. In the chapel that stands next to it is a depiction of the monks’s meeting of this great relic. There is a tradition that the pious Maria wanted to bring the Gifts of the Magi into the monastery herself but at the its walls she was stopped by a heavenly voice as once was the Empress Placidia at Vatopedi, reminding her that the Athonite rule forbids women from entering the monastery.

The Gifts of the Magi are reverently preserved in the monastery in small reliquaries: twenty-eight small rectangular gold wafers, a tetragon and a polygon, decorated with elegant filigree ornaments. This is the gold that the magi brought the God-Child as to the King. Besides this there are around seventy small olive-sized balls of incense and myrrh. These relics are very fragrant. Demoniacs have been healed by them.”

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Here is a great little introduction to the Orthodox view of the “Theotokos,” i.e. the Virgin Mary. Bp. MICHAEL is my old dean at seminary, and he is doing a great job answering seven of the most common questions non-Orthodox may have about our devotion to the Mother of God.


There is a story of the Divine Christ-child in the Egyptian Tradition:

An angel of God appeared to Joseph in a dream and commanded him to take the young Child and His Mother and flee to Egypt. Taking the Divine Child and His Most-holy Mother, Righteous Joseph traveled first to Nazareth (Luke 2:39), where he arranged his household matters, and then, taking his son James with them, went off to Egypt (Matthew 2:14). Thus the words of the prophet were fulfilled: Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt (Isaiah 19:1). In old Cairo today, the cave where the holy family lived can be seen. Likewise, in the village of Matarea near Cairo, the tree under which the Most-holy Theotokos rested with the Lord Jesus, as well as a miraculous spring of water under this tree, are visible.

At one time, as the holy family fled before Herod’s sword to Egypt, robbers leapt out on the road with the intention of stealing something. The righteous Joseph was leading the donkey, on which were some belongings and on which the Most-holy Theotokos was riding with her Son at her breast, and Joseph’s son James, who was to be called “the Just” followed behind. The robbers seized the donkey to lead it away. At that moment, one of the robbers approached the Mother of God to see what she was holding next to her breast.

The robber, seeing the Christ-child, was astonished at His unusual beauty and said in his astonishment: ‘If God were to take upon Himself the flesh of man, He would not be more beautiful than this Child!’ This robber then ordered his companions to take nothing from these travelers. Filled with gratitude toward this generous robber, the Most-holy Virgin said to him: ‘Know that this Child will repay you with a good reward because you protected Him today.’

Thirty-three years later, this same thief hung on the Cross for his crimes, crucified on the right side of Christ’s Cross. His name was Dismas, and the name of the thief on the left side was Gestas. Beholding Christ the Lord innocently crucified, Dismas repented for all the evil of his life. While Gestas reviled the Lord, Dismas defended Him, saying: ‘This man hath done nothing amiss.’ (Luke 23:41). Dismas, therefore, was the wise thief to whom our Lord said: ‘Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:43). Thus the Lord granted Paradise to him who spared Him in childhood.


“For though He appeared as man yet He was not in all things subject to the laws of humanity; that He was born of woman, savored of lowliness; the virginity however that attended His birth shows that He transcended mankind. His carrying in the womb was joyful. His birth immaculate, His coming forth without pain, His nativity free of blemish, neither taking rise from the will of the flesh, nor brought forth in sorrow; for since she who by her fault had brought death to our nature was condemned to bring forth in sorrow, it was fitting that the Mother of Life should bring forth in joy. And in that hour, in which the shadows begin to retire, and the immense gloom of night was forced back by the splendour of this Light, Christ, through this virginal incorruption, comes to share the life of mortal men. For death had reached the boundary of the domination of sin, and now it moves towards nothingness, because of the presence of the True Light, which by its evangelical rays has given light to the whole world.”

– St. Gregory of Nyssa

“There is another necessary reason as far as those on earth are concerned why the Word of God took flesh or became man. If He had not been born like us according to the flesh, if He had not partaken of the same elements as we do, He would not have delivered human nature from the fault we incurred in Adam, nor would He have warded off the decay from our bodies, nor would He have brought to an end the power of the curse which we say came upon the first woman. For it was said to her, ‘in pain you shall bring forth children”. But human nature, which fell sick through the disobedience of Adam, now became glorious in Christ through His utter obedience. For it is written that as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. In Adam it suffered the penalty: ‘You are earth and to earth you shall return’. In Christ it was enriched by being able to overcome the snares of death and, as it were, exult in triumph over decay, repeating the prophetic text, ‘O death, where is your victory? O Hades, where is your sting’? It came under a curse, as I have said, but this too was abolished in Christ. And indeed it has been said somewhere to the Holy Virgin, when Elizabeth prophesied in the Spirit, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb’. Sin has reigned over us and the inventor and father of sin has lorded it over all who dwell under the sky, provoking the transgression of the divine laws. But in Christ we see human nature, as if experiencing a new beginning of the human race, enjoying freedom of access to God. For He said clearly, ‘the ruler of this world is coming and he has no power over Me’.”

– St. Cyril of Alexandria

“If recompense is bestowed according to the measure of love for God, and if the man who loves the Son is loved of Him and of His Father and becomes the dwelling place of Both, and They mystically abide and walk in him, as it is recorded in the Master’s Gospel, who, then, will love Him more than His Mother? For, He was her only-begotten Son, and moreover she alone among women gave birth knowing no spouse, so that the love of Him that had partaken of her flesh might be shared with her twofold. And who will the only-begotten Son love more than His Mother, He that came forth from her ineffably without a father in this last age even as He came forth from the Father without a mother before the ages’? How indeed could He that descended to fulfill the Law not multiply that honor due to His Mother over and above the ordinances of the Law?”

“Who can tell of your mighty acts, O Virgin, or who can show forth all your praise, O holy Maid? You bear the title of Mother of God. You united your nous with God. You have joined God with flesh. You have made God the Son of Man, and man the Son of God. You have reconciled the world to its Creator.”

– St. Gregory Palamas

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