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Thank you so much for this, Antiochia! I had been a Protestant Christian all of my life before converting to Orthodoxy in 1996, and I have always had a "problem" with the Holy Virgin. The way you explained how She is our "Only Hope" made perfect sense to me. And now, as I chant the Salutation service and all of the beautiful prayers and hymns we sing to the Theotokos, I can add my heart-felt love and admiration for this beautiful and holy Woman. This had been explained to me before, but my feeble brain has a memory problem and I need constant reminding of these things. It's hard to undo 43 years of Protestantism!
Today, March 25, New Calendar Orthodox Christians celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, when Gabriel asked Mary if she would bear the Christ child. Our Old Calendar brothers and sisters will celebrate this feast on April 7. We are allowed wine, oil, and fish for this celebration, and for today the colors at church on the altar cloths and vestments are changed from the Lenten purple to either gold or, if the priest has them, blue for the Theotokos.
It is because of this feast that we can say to the Virgin Mary that she is our *only hope* and that *we place all our hope in her.* Even after I became Orthodox, I struggled with these ideas. "How can we place all our hope in Mary?" I would wonder, "Don’t we place all our hope in Jesus instead? And why do we call Mary *our only hope.* How can that be?" I thought, "Jesus is our only hope." I finally decided that since I had joined the Orthodox Church, I would accept these two ideas in faith, because that is what the Church has taught down through the centuries. My priest explained, “When you pray the prayers of the Church, don’t worry about placing all your hope in Mary. She never keeps any for herself. She gives everything to her Son. So when you are giving your hope to Mary, it is so that she can give it to Jesus. Also, when you call her your only hope, think of it as when you say that your husband is your only love. Does that mean you don’t love other people? Of course not! But your love for your husband is special. In the same way, your love for – and hope in – Mary is special. She is your spiritual mother.”
That explanation helped, but the conundrum still bothered me. Then one day, when we were singing a special church service to Mary, it dawned on me. There really WAS a moment in time when Mary was our only hope, and when the whole fallen world had placed all of its hope in Her! That was the moment just after Gabriel had come to Mary, a young unmarried girl of about 14, and asked if She would be willing to bear the Son of God. In the moment before She responded, all of heaven and earth waited with bated breath for Her answer. Our salvation depended entirely on whether She would say yes or no. Thanks be to God – the Blessed Virgin said yes! Mary truly was/is “Our Only Hope.” Whether or not the statement is in the past tense doesn’t matter. God is outside of time. He created time. All times are present to Him.
Blessed Feast of the Annunciation!
This is the day that the Lord had made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever and unto the ages of ages, Amen.
Link to one of my cookbooks which should also lead you to the rest of them: