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Our Lady of the Sign

Everybody else was squirming. They were obviously having a hard time with the information and seemed to rather have been elsewhere. But I was at peace. It just made sense to me, I guess.

Some of you know the story of how I entered the Orthodox Church. I was a pastor of a growing Pentecostal church in the Metro Atlanta area, and my best friend and I were really interested in Church History. Well, one thing led to another and we discovered we weren’t alone. We found another group of (former) Protestants who had already travelled many miles toward the Orthodox Church. We heard about their community in Indianapolis, IN and they were called the Evangelical Orthodox Church. These precious people received me and my best friend Rod Loudermilk one weekend as we struggled with our growing interest in the Ancient Church.

Eventually the three leaders of the Indianapolis community began to catechize us toward Orthodoxy and we got to the sticky part of the historical theology of Christianity where we talked about Mary. Yep, that’s the third rail for most Protestants because it looks so “Roman Catholic” to talk about Mary, and our “romaphobia” was in high gear!

But I had had an “encounter” with an icon called “Our Lady of the Sign.” This icon depicted Mary pregnant with Christ and we could “see” into her womb. There was Christ as a child and He was surrounded by stars inside Mary’s womb! Yeah, stars! He Who could not be contained had made Himself small enough to fit inside the womb of a woman. He has exercised His mighty power to enter into His creation and take His flesh from one of us, a pious and dedicated woman named Mary, a “vessel” that had been preparing her whole life to fulfill this ministry for the salvation of the world.

Well, by the time we got to discussions about the normal understanding of the place of Mary in the Church, it just seemed to make sense to me. This was the way even the Reformers thought about Mary, even her “ever-virginity!” And this was the way I was going to think about Mary too.

But this is the way we always think about anyone who has become a “home” for Christ in their lives. What Mary did physically, we are now called to do in our spiritual lives: become a fitting home for Christ inside us. Mary did what we are called to do. She became a home for God to “birth” Him to our world just like we are to do today in our lives, our choices, and our discipline. No wonder the Epistle Lesson today says that these heroes of the faith through the centuries were people of “whom the world was not worthy!” (see Hebrews 11:33-40; 12:1-2)

Today’s devotional is a bit different because we embark today on a season of fasting in preparation for a great celebration. We begin the Dormition Fast today until the 15th of this month. And on the 15th we celebrate the Falling Asleep of our Mother Mary and her (and our) participation in the power of the Resurrection of her Son, our Lord Jesus. It’s time for we “modern” Christians to lay aside the shallow prejudice of misinformation about the consistent teachings of the Church concerning the wise, profoundly powerful, and absolutely consistent Christian shaping devotion to the Lord Jesus preserved in the theology concerning our precious Theotokos. Today, your Christian life will be more devoted to Christ, more disciplined to follow Christ, more focused on Christ, if you will embrace the wisdom of the Church concerning Christ’s mother, and the vision of who YOU are called to be because of what she was called to be!

“It is truly right to bless you, 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. In virginity you gave birth to God the Word. True Theotokos, we magnify you.”


  • G. Witham
    Posted August 1, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Thank you, Father Powell, for sharing this message and icon. I am a convert from Protestantism, and I, too, thought that veneration of the Panagia would be difficult for me to understand. But God reminded me of how I felt when I was pregnant with mortal flesh, and I realized that Mary’s willingness to carry Our Lord in her body, and the doing of it had to have changed her forever. Then I thought back to others in the Old Testament who were changed by personal encounters with God (Enoch and Moses, for example), and it all made sense.

  • Sharon Mavridoglou
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 4:14 am

    I love the picture of making a home for the Christ-Mary in her womb and us in our lives! She was a stumbling block for me for many years when the Lord spoke to my heart one day and showed me that she, the Panagia, carried GOD in her and birthed Him. What an amazing honor!

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