After the ascension of Jesus Christ, the Theotokos was the one consolation for His disciples, their joy in sorrow and their firm teacher in the Faith. All the words and wondrous events which she had laid up in her heart, from the beginning, she then disclosed to them. She related to them the Archangel Gabriel’s joyful tidings regarding the seedless conception and the incorruptible birth of Christ from her virgin womb. She strengthened her Son’s disciples when she spoke to them about His earlier years prior to the Baptism by the Forerunner John.
She was present at the ascension of the Lord and the day of Pentecost. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were also poured out upon the most blessed Virgin Mary, and in greater abundance than upon the apostles – just as a larger vessel can contain more water. The Theotokos was a vessel most rich in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, for she had been a worthy temple of Him before this, in which He constantly dwelt. The Theotokos was possessed of all the virtues in her blessed soul. She is higher than the apostles, prophets, and all the saints.
According to Saint Gregory Palamas (d. 1359), Mary’s ultimate purpose, through divine maternity, has a vastness which inclines all creatures in its influence and calls for the highest gifts in her person. “Mary is the cause of what had gone before, the pioneer of what has come after her; she distributes eternal goods. She is the thought of the prophets, the head of the apostles, the support of the martyrs, the certainty of the holy fathers. She is the glory of the earth, the joy of heaven, the ornament of creation. She is the source and the root of ineffable good things. She is the summit and the fulfillment of all that is holy.”
The idea of mediation on the part of the Theotokos is not open to doubt or question for Saint Gregory Palamas, who is quite explicit when he says, “No divine gifts can reach either angels or men, save through her mediation. As one cannot enjoy the lamb … save through the medium of this lamp, so every moment toward God, every impulse toward good coming from Him is not realizable, save through the mediation of the Virgin. She does not cease to spread benefits on all creatures not only on us men but also on the celestial incorporeal ranks.” Saint Gregory Palamas also says that Mary received gifts of knowledge precociously. The mutual love between her and Jesus was perfect.
Hence, the Church chants with Saint George of Nikomedia (d. after 880): O pure Virgin, thou art truly highly exalted above all! Saint John of Damascus (ca. 676-ca. 750) writes: Rejoice, O Bride of God, thou who art more sacred than the noetic hosts and higher than all created nature!
After the Pentecost, at Jerusalem, she blessed Mary Magdalene to go to Rome and speak with Tiberius Caesar. The Virgin Theotokos dwelt in the house of Saint John the Theologian at Mount Sion. She influenced many and strengthened the desire for virginity in not a few. On account of her companionship, the Evangelist John spoke more than others of divine mysteries. She remained constant in her ascetic labor of fasting and prayer. She ever harbored a fervent desire to behold her Son.
Epiphanios the Monk (ca. 1015), in his writings, left us the legacy that the Virgin Theotokos “healed many sick people and freed those overcome by impure spirits; she gave alms and sympathy to the poor and to the widows.” Indeed, all who beheld the Mother of God considered themselves fortunate. Truly blessed were the eyes that beheld her and the ears that were granted to hear her most precious words, which renew us to the spiritual life; verily, what joy and grace they received! Elsewhere, Saint Ignatios (ca. 35-ca. 107) commented that “he who is devout to the Virgin Mother will certainly never be lost.” The Evangelist Luke, chief of the iconographers, depicted her image. She approved the making of sacred images, saying, “May the grace of Him Who was born of me, through me, be imparted to the icons.”
Some ten years after the crucifixion, the Theotokos traveled abroad. Saint John the Theologian, believing it prudent to escape persecution, thought to flee with her. They departed Jerusalem for Ephesus, which was the lot that had fallen to the apostle. The Theotokos and the Apostle John spent some time in that city. She continued in prayer and meditation. Together, they did not confine their stay to Ephesus. They traveled to other cities, illuminating many with the light of Christian teaching. The Theotokos visited Antioch, where she visited with Saint Ignatios. The Theotokos did return to Jerusalem, to the house of Saint John the Evangelist. The all-powerful hand of God preserved His Mother from the plots of the synagogue of the Jews. After this period in Jerusalem, she journeyed to Cyprus. A storm blew her vessel off course to a divinely appointed destination: Athos. She went ashore with Saint John the Theologian. She also preached to the inhabitants of that peninsula. After praying for the new flock, she entered a ship and set sail for Cyprus and Bishop Lazarus, presenting him with vestments that she had sewn with her own hands. Following Cyprus, she returned to Jerusalem.