Virgin Mary the Theotokos as Mediatress
A mediator or mediatress in religion is one who acts as an intermediary between God and man. Christ is the perfect Mediator as the Son of God and true Man because he is of both natures. However Christ also works and rests in His saints giving them the role of mediator or mediatress. Many discount this important role that Mary and all the saints play for us based on misinterpretation of the Epistle of Paul to Timothy that says, “there is one God, and one (eis) Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus...” (1 Tim 2:5-6). The proper understanding of the use of the word “one” is to emphasize our Savior's transcendence as Mediator. The word “one” was translated from the Greek word eis which in this case means the numeral “one. Paul did not use monos meaning “only” or “alone” which eis never implies. We must also understand the context of the verse preceding it. Saint John Chrysostom remarks that Paul is referring here to the salvation of the heathen. Therefore Paul is referring to the unique value of Christ’s redemptive death not that he is the exclusive or only mediator. Therefore we should not have any concern about the the practice of addressing the Theotokos as a mediatress or the saints a intercessors because of any scriptural text. Throughout Church history, the word mediatress is used in relation to the virgin Mary the Theotokos. Thus we chant to the Virgin-Mother: We praise the, the Mediatress for the salvation of our race, O Virgin Theotokos: for thy Son and our God hath deigned to endure the Passion in the flesh taken from thee, and hath redeemed us from corruption, since He is the Friend of man.
This is not a recent interpretation but has been the case from the earliest days of the Church. Saint Irenaeus (d.193) referred to the Virgin Mary as the patroness or advocate of the virgin Eve. “For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, the Virgin Mary set free through faith.” Saint Ambrose wrote, Alone Mary has worked the salvation of the world and conceived the redemption of all.” Jerome (347-420) wrote “Death through Eve, life through Mary.” St. Cyril of Alexandria (+444) related the mediation of the virgin to her office as Mother of God. “It is through thee that the Holy Trinity is glorified and adored; through thee, the precious Cross is venerated and adored throughout the whole world; through thee that heaven is in gladness, that angels and archangels rejoice, and that demons are put to flight; through thee that the tempter, the devil, is cast down from heaven; through thee that the fallen creature is raised up to heaven; through thee that all creation, one imprisoned in idolatry, has reached knowledge of the truth, that the faithful obtain baptism and the oil of joy, churches have been founded in the whole world and that peoples are led to conversion.” Saint Proclos, Patriarch of Constantinople (+446) spoke of her as “the glory of virgins, the joy of mothers, the support of the faithful, the diadem of the Church, the model of the true faith, the seat of piety, the dwelling place of the Holy Trinity.” …”the only bridge between God and man.”
The Melodist Romanos (c.490-556) give Mary these words when speaking to Adam and Eve, “End your lamentations. I shall be your intercessor before my son. And restrain your tears, receive me as your mediatress with Him Who is born of me.” Some attribute the Akathist Hymn to Romanos which expresses the idea that Mary is one “through whom” certain spiritual benefactions were achieved. “Rejoice, thou through whom creation is renewed….Rejoice, thou through whom and in whom the Creator is adored….Rejoice, heavenly ladder, through whom God has descended….Rejoice, bridge leading those on earth to heaven….Rejoice, supplication before the Righteous Judge….O thou who didst bear the world’s Salvation, through thee are we raised from earth unto heaven’s heights….Rejoice, O fiery pillar that doth lead all mortal men to the life on high.”
In eighth century numerous Saints such as Saints Andrew of Crete, John of Damascus and Germanos of Constantinople taught the doctrine of Mary’s mediation. Saint Andrew (660-740) called her “Mediatress of the law and grace.” saying also “She is the mediation between the sublimity of God and the abjection of the flesh, and becomes the Mother of her Maker.” Saint John of Damascus (+c.750)wrote “by fulfilling the office of Mediatress, and being made the ladder of God descending to us, that He should assume our weak nature, and join and unite it to him...thou hast brought together what had been separated.” Saint Germanos (635-733) calls her “truly a good Mediatress for all sinners.” Saint Theodore of Studion (c.759-826) says, “For having left the body she is with us in spirit, and, entering heaven, she puts demons to flight, becoming our mediatress with the Lord.” Saint Tarasios (+806) says she as the “abyss of miracles, the fount of good things, the untarnished supply of riches.” He says she is “the cause of salvation of al mortals,” “the reconciler in the second regeneration with God,” “the restoration of the whole world,” “the expiation of Adam’s curse, price of Eve’s debt,” and “the one who frees us from the curse pronounced against our first parent Eve. She is the “Mediatress of all who are under heaven.”
Later Saint Photios (+897) writes, “The Lord is with thee, delivering through thee the whole race from its ancient sorrow and curse.” and “ ...for she, the descendent, was able to repair that ancestral defeat, who brought forth the savior of our race by husbandless birth, and molded His body.” Saint Gregory Palamas (+1359) saw her “standing alone between God and the whole of the human race.” He says “the Virgin Mother alone dwells on the frontier between created and uncreated natures, and those who know God recognize also in her the habitation of the infinite.” Saint Theophanes (+1381) sees the entire cosmos turning around the Theotokos. He writes, “It cannot happen that anyone,of the angels or of men, can come otherwise, in any way whatsoever to participation in the divine gifts flowing from what has been divinely assumed, from the Son of God, save through His Mother.” He also says, “Since then the Head of every principality, power of our Church is the only way which leads to the Father, so that the sacred neck is the only way leading to the Head of all.” The neck of course is the Theotokos. He says, that no one attains the fullness and the goal of life in Christ “without her cooperation or with the Spirit’s help.
In modern times, Saint John of Kronstads (+1908) writes, “It was through the incarnation of the Word that the all-holy Virgin has been given to us as an all-powerful intercessor, who protects us from sins, misfortunes and disasters. Praying for us day and night, our Queen, whose power no enemy visible or invisible can withstand, truly is our mother by grace in accordance with the words uttered by Christ on the cross to the beloved disciple, ‘Behold thy Mother! and to her, ‘Behold thy son!’” He also writes, “she has the all-merciful power of driving away from us, at her sign, the sub-celestial spirits of evil–those ever-vigilant and ardent sowers of enmity and malice among men….. She is the highest of all creatures, the Mediatrix for the whole race of mankind. Strive to train thyself in the spirit of humility, for she herself was more humble that any mortal, and only looks lovingly upon the humble. Recall what she said to her cousin Elizabeth, ‘He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden’”
No mediation is greater than that made in our behalf by the Theotokos, the Mother of all the saint, living and dead. Orthodox Christians also honor the saints as vessels of grace and examples for us. We seek their mediation because the fervent prayer for the righteous brings much before God.
Adapted from the Epilogue of The Life of the Virgin Mary, The Theotokos published by the Holy Apostles Convent and Dormition Skete