More honorable than the cherubim

A question from my In Box: Is the Theotokos seriously “more honorable than the cherubim and more glorious than the seraphim”? Doesn’t that praise a plain mortal woman excessively as if she were divine?

“It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos: Ever blessed and most pure, and the mother of our God. More honorable than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim; who without gavest birth to God the Word, the very Theotokos: Thee do we magnify.”

We shouldn’t be surprised at Mary’s being called more honorable than the cherubim and more glorious than the cherubim.

After all, scripture insists that God has made Mary a little lower than the angels, and has crowned her with glory and honour; He made her to have dominion over the works of His hands and has put all things under her feet.

Specifically, scripture says that in Psalm 8, where the Psalmist describes the glorified, deified state of mankind in Christ. Can this verse be describing all of humankind except the mother of our Lord?

Note also that verse 5 in Hebrew actually says “Thou hast made man a little lower than elohim” i.e. a little lower than God – which makes sense, since the angelic beings are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for [Mary] who shall be heir of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14)

In Revelation 12 we meet the woman whose Child is “to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her Child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.” She is “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”

Elizabeth, full of the Holy Spirit, named Mary “the mother of my Lord” and both she and an Archangel proclaimed to Mary, “Blessed art thou among women!” (Luke 1:28, 42-43). No wonder Mary prophesied, “Henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” (Luke 1:48)

Crowned, glorified, honored, blessed by all generations; named the Mother of the Lord; only a little lower than God and given dominion over all the works of His hands. Astonishing! “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8)

What artist feels slighted when we praise the excellence of his handiwork? And what parent is ever displeased when we honor the child they love? God is glorified in His saints (2 Thessalonians 1:10, Psalm 67 LXX)

The issue is not that some people attribute too much glory to the Mother of our Lord; the issue is that some people have a disappointingly low and uninspiring notion of what it means to be heirs of the Kingdom, seated on the throne of the Almighty, and (in union with God the Son) more honored and glorious than the seraphim and cherubim. This prayer does not merely praise Mary; in celebrating her glorification, we confess our faith in the salvation of mankind in union with Christ our God.

Annunciation

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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