Saturday, April 20, 2013

Akathist to the Theotokos or "Stand up, Stand up, for Mary?"

Cadillac Walk
I've could have used something to lean on last night, with all that standing! :)
photo by flickr user zilberbat, used under the creative commons license.
check out more photos at:
We have all heard the expression, If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times! Well, that can be said for the phrase, O Most Holy Theotokos, Save us! which I may not have heard a thousand times last night at my 96th visit to my Orthodox parish but it certainly seemed like it. I guess it is appropriate since the Akathist to the Theotokos is a service of the Church that honors Mary in her role in Salvation.

When I first arrived five minutes before the service, I only saw two cars in the parking lot and I got nervous. Maybe I got it wrong and they are not having the service tonight. But people started showing up. I walked in the nave and thought, should I sit in the comfy chairs with the cushions or the steel chairs in the back row. Steel chairs seems more penitential but I realized that it didn't matter. Reader John told me last week that Akathist means literally to stand. So I really wouldn't have a lot of time to sit, anyway.

Yes, we said, O Most Holy Theotokos, Save us, a lot - and by save us we mean save us by her prayers - but in reality the whole service is about Christ. Almost every phrase about Mary was connected to her role in the incarnation. Of course, we venerate Mary. With no Mary, there is no Christ taking on human flesh! Her part in Salvation is crucial, she deserves the honor.  That being said, I wouldn't recommend the Akathist to the Theotokos be the first service an inquirer attends, especially a Protestant. They would be scandalized in what they perceive as Mary Worship.  It isn't and I believe the Orthodox have a more balanced view on Mary than our Roman Catholic brothers but for a Protestant, it wouldn't be something they understand. The veneration of Mary (and all the Saints, now that I think about it) is something you really don't get until you are part of the Church.  Now, I know I'm not (yet) but I've been hanging around the Orthodox for over two years with almost a hundred visits under my belt and I guess I am coming to understand the mindset of the Church. Yes, I'm not an insider yet but I'm working on it!

A beautiful line I heard during the Service went something like this: We see this strange birth; let us be strangers to the world. Pretty profound, eh? Since we witness the virgin birth and God's strange dealings with humanity, let us be strangers to this world and long for the heavenly kingdom.  The Akathist was chock full of nuggets like that.

I have not been getting to as many services during Great Lent as I wanted to but I am grateful for the ones I do attend.  It seems if people are doing spiritual battle with a lot of fasting and extra prayer,then the additional services are really needed for the Faithful. God bless Fr Gary as he leads them!

Now I wonder if some zealous new convert would ever re-write the old hymn "Stand up, Stand up for Jesus" and make it about Mary and try to get it added to the Akathist? I'm sure that wouldn't be a good idea but you know how people are :)

God grant you strength during Great Lent!



  1. Hi, Jim. Next week are some "must do" services for an understanding of Orthodoxy. If you can only get to one of them, may I suggest the service of the twelve Gospels sung on Thursday night. It's one of the longest services of the year, but incredibly rich in content.

    I wonder if any of your kids are feeling the same pull to the church you are?

    Still praying for you and yours, Bill

  2. Hey, Bill,
    I won't be able to do the service of the 12 Gospels. My son waits for me to pick him up at work. He gets out of work just as service starts....I don't think I can make him wait two hours.

    As far as any of my kids being drawn to Orthodoxy, I'd say, no. two of my four children are committed Christians, though, one is now attending an Anglican church and the other a baptist when he is not at our Nazarene parish.

    thanks for the prayers! back at ya!!