The Mother of God – Telling the Whole Story of Salvation


This Friday and Saturday the Orthodox Church focuses its liturgical attention on the ancient hymn known as the Akathist, the “the hymn we sing unseated, i.e., Akathismos” (what hymn would you sing while seated methinks?). St. Romanos the Melodist was the author of the first Akathist, written in honor of the Theotokos (“Birthgiver of God”). It has its own particular poetic form. Many of the Saints now have Akathists written in their honor and they may be sung as part of the Vigil of a Feast, or, often, used largely by themselves as popular devotions.

The Akathist, honoring the Mother of God, is a veritable feast of theology on the economy of our salvation and the role of the Virgin in that economy. And this gives rise to the thoughts I offer in this post.

Salvation, the whole story, cannot be reduced to four spiritual laws (else the Apostles would have saved themselves a lot of time). Salvation is everything, Mother of God included.

Salvation is the incarnate Christ, taking flesh of his Mother, by the Holy Spirit.

Salvation is the miraculous, virgin birth of Christ, who enters our world without violence, either to human will or our flesh.

Salvation is the Theotokos pondering in her heart the mysteries of Christ long before anyone else had any thoughts on the matter.

Salvation is the leaping of John the Baptist in the womb of his mother at the sound of the voice of the Theotokos.

Salvation is the birth of Christ in humble circumstances, with shepherds and angels and the visit of the Magi.

Salvation is the Baptism of Christ in the Jordon by John.

Salvation is the resisting and vanquishing of the tempter in the Wilderness.

Salvation is the calling of the twelve and preaching to the crowds.

Salvation is the healing of the sick, the blind, the cripple.

Salvation is the raising of the dead, the forgiveness of sins.

Salvation is the Body and Blood of Christ, shared and eaten by His friends.

Salvation is the suffering of Christ in the Garden and his yielding to His betrayers.

Salvation is the scorn and spitting, the mocking and beating.

Salvation is the crucifixion of the Lord of Glory.

Salvation is the words of forgiveness spoken from the Cross.

Salvation is the gift of the Mother of God to the Church and the Church to the Mother of God.

Salvation is the promise of paradise to the thief who repented.

Salvation is the death of Christ on the Cross and His triumphant entry into Hades.

Salvation is the proclamation to those in bondage of the freedom now declared in Christ.

Salvation is Christ’s resurrection from the dead, His ascension into heaven and His sitting at the right hand of Power.

Salvation is accepting Christ as Savior and following in the way of His Cross.

Salvation is the forgiving of our enemies.

Salvation is prayer for the world.

Salvation is repenting constantly of our sins.

Salvation is trusting in God and His goodness above all things and in all things.

Salvation is naming Christ as Savior ’til one’s dying breath.

Salvation is reigning with Christ in heaven and sharing in His resurrection.

I have left so much out. Salvation is the whole of our life in Christ, indeed, it is God’s will that the whole of our life be salvation.

But as we celebrate the Mother of God in these next two days, let us remember that without her there is no story of salvation. We must tell the whole story, much more than I have said here. But let us long for all of it, and never yield to less than its fullness.

Feel free to contribute observations on “Salvation is…

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





12 responses to “The Mother of God – Telling the Whole Story of Salvation”

  1. Steve Avatar

    Salvation is God rescuing me from myself.

  2. John K. Avatar

    Salvation is realizing that God is a myth, the perpetuation of which has caused some the worst evil in human history. May I respectfully suggest that you read Sam Harris’ book Letter to a Christian Nation. It should prove quite illucidating.


  3. david+ Avatar

    Salvation is praying for those who persecute, misrepresent, misunderstand and make fun of the God of the Universe. Salvation is the humility of loving those who turn their backs and walk away. Salvation is the eternal hope to which we cling even when we are tempted to give up on others.

  4. Erik Avatar

    Salvation is the grace that allows us to take responsibility for the evil of this world — because we are responsible, and humbly to bear one another’s burdens, and to cover one another’s sins.

    “There is only one salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. For indeed it is so, my friend, and the moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all.”
    — Father Zossima, The Brothers Karamazov

    Lord, that I may receive such grace!

  5. fatherstephen Avatar

    Thank you David. I would agree.

    John, the historical record seems to say that atheist governments, etc., killed more people of faith in the past century than all the religious murders in history.

    I agree with Dostoevsky that if there is no God, “Everything is permitted.” And I would point to atheist oriented states as excellent examples of the truth of the matter.

    Of course religious people have been guilty of their own crimes against others. But oddly, their religion frequently comes to the aid of the victims and changes things. The South would not have changed except for the Christian faith, for instance. I was there. I saw it. Christianity put an end to slavery in West, even though some Christians were involved in its institution.

    But people are crazy – we need a lot of help to be saved from ourselves. Religion can be true and saving, and it also can be a disease and an excuse for great cruelty.

    But you can’t blame water for all the drownings that have occurred in history.

  6. lexcartias Avatar

    Salvation is being grafted into the Body of Christ and being filled together with all the fullness of God, sharing the in the love and life of the Holy Trinity and being conformed to the image of Christ and entrused and empowered to do His works because He (and we in Him) are and will be with the Father.

    Charis and shalom,

  7. Lucas Avatar

    Salvation is unburdening ourselves from our need for our “rights.” In the words of Elder Paisios of Blessed Memory:

    “It is obligatory to be patient, to accept injustice, to accept evil words from others. A crooked stick (perverted person) who is distant from God has many rights: to strike and shout and act unrighteously. Our rights God keeps for the other life.”

    How freeing–what a light yoke–and salvific to have no demands, but to serve others selflessly. God send someday I will learn how.

  8. Fatherstephen Avatar

    The kindness of the statements here remind me of the joy I have in striving for salvation in the company of Orthodox believers. May God bless. Pray for me as I move towards Holy Week and a very busy and difficult time for priests.

  9. Mary Avatar

    Salvation is in being accepting of His loving patience for all (including one’s self).

  10. Eric Avatar

    Salvation is that . . .

    ” . . . now in Christ Jesus [we] who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

    14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both [Jews and Gentiles (all the other nations)] one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

    19 Now, therefore, [we] are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom [we] also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

    from Ephesians Ch. 2

    Dear Fr. Stephen, you are already singing the Akathist no doubt and are perhaps already finished . . . we will take up the song here in the West shortly! Thank you for your reflections these many past days!

    May the Holy Theotokos make intercessions for us!

  11. Alice C. Linsley Avatar
    Alice C. Linsley

    Salvation is not a concept. It is always embodied.

  12. Michael Avatar

    Salvation is always the ending of the minds fascinated identification with the dead and unchanging image of what it was. It is the complete reversal of the “natural” order of things a METANOIA – the Greek word for repentance, meaning precisely a turning around of the mind, so that it no longer faces into the past, the land of the shadow of death, but into the Eternal Present.
    So long as the mind is captivated by memory, and really feels itself to be that past image which is “I” it can do nothing to save itself; it’s sacrifices are of no avail, and it’s Law gives no life.
    After years of therapy, I had a metamorphosis – I asked Jesus to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. He delivered me from my inequities. Praise the Lord!!

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