We addressed some of the common misconceptions regarding Mary and why she is paid such great honor and respect in the Orthodox Church. We call to remembrance her example—as well as all the saints--so that we might use them as a model. This is in no way meant to replace the perfect model, our Lord, and God and Savior Jesus Christ. We were then reminded of what is meant by, “Taking up your cross” and suffering for the Gospel. This is not a physical suffering, but a willingness to suffer shame for the sake of following God and doing His will. Mary provides us with a beautiful example of this. Unwed and facing the possibility of being abandoned by her betrothed, she faced not only great physical danger, but severe judgement and humiliation. But by her willingness to accept God’s will, she points the way to Christ by her actions so that He might come into the world to save us.
Today’s episode provided an important clarification of how God can be both our fear and dread, and yet also become a sanctuary. Father Aaron stressed that we must first recognize God as Father in a biblical context, as the fearful Judge. He alone decides our fate, and we must respect and fear that judgement. And yet, God loves mankind and desires all men to be saved. With this understanding, we know that in God we have a fair judge. If we live our life by extending to others the mercy that God gave to us, he will be our sanctuary because we know that God is just. If, however, we reject God’s law and His commandments—as a fair judge—He has no choice but to condemn us. Thus, the same God, for the same reason, can either be a sanctuary or a stumbling block. The choice is with us.