When the Virgin intercedes for our aid, healing, or repentance, she draws us into the realm of her relationship with Christ. In Orthodoxy, intercession raises us to the level of the intercessor, bringing us into the presence of Christ, then the mediator disappears. This is to say that intercession is a communion with Christ by grace; the Virgin grants us all the powers granted to her so that so that we might come before Christ. We then stand before Him as the Virgin, that is, in the spirit and grace of purity and holiness granted to us in her. This is what Paul did with all his might: “I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband” (2 Co. 11:2).
This speaks, in the first place, for the correctness of the Orthodox concept of intercession because, in the last analysis, it cancels out the distinction between the intercessor, that is the Virgin, and us. We take from the Virgin the courage that derives from her purity and the audacity that derives from her motherhood and her unique love for Christ. All these things are considered to have been granted to her for our sake, and she, in her great confidence before God, is able to transfer them to us, just as a stronger member in the body grants its strength to a weaker one.
Second, this kind of intercession removes all the barriers between us and Christ. We approach Him unhindered and unimpeded by our weakness, to take from Him help or a particular request or healing or repentance. It is only this that can truly be called intercession. The interceding servant must be prepared to put himself in the place or situation of the servant for whom he intercedes, and must even be prepared to give all he has to make up for the deficiency of his fellow servant.
But intercession can only take place if one is able to step forward in the spirit of the intercessor and be prepared to take or borrow those qualities which make him able to intercede. Otherwise there can be no intercession. The Virgin demonstrates for us the first quality, the essential character required for us to meet with God. Those who deny the role of the Virigin in the incarnation or in intercession, or who deny the importance of purity, do so only in theory, for in practice it is impossible to deny or eliminate them. As far as the incarnation is concerned, God could only be incarnate in purity. As far as intercession is concerned, it is equally impossible for God to reveal Himself or act outside the realm of purity. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8).
The least impurity, even if it be only a passing thought, is enough to hide the face of God, for impurity is darkness and is the work of the devil. It is therefore impossible for one to enter into the presence of God in prayer or meditation if there exists the least inclination to impurity in one’s heart, mind, or body. This state of purity can only be attained by intention of the mind in fervent prayer, and by clinging to grace through the blood of Christ. This will immediately procure from God the gift of holiness and the grace of purity for the mind and body.
Intercession requires a personal presence; the Virgin presents himself in the purity before Christ, on our behalf and within the sphere of our experience. In so doing she opens up before us a door that can lead to the spirit of purity and the awakening of a sense of holiness. “The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32).
The Virgin Mary represents a human experience that succeeded in plumbing the depths of union with God through a supreme purity that became hers through the Word. She took purity from God and He took from her a body. The Virgin thus became a pattern of union with God, and it remains true that the only quality required for an intercessor is that he surrender what he has.
Blessed is the Virgin, and blessed are those who bless her.
Fr Matthew The Poor