More honourable than the Cherubim

FOR he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

Luke 1:48


An icon of the Theotokos, "She who ripens the grain", commissioned by Elder Ambrose of Optina in 1890

An icon of the Theotokos, "She who ripens the grain", commissioned by Elder Ambrose of Optina in 1890


THE queen stood by on thy right hand, clothed in vesture wrought with gold, and arrayed in divers colours. […]

ALL her glory is that of the daughter of the king of Esebon, robed as she is in golden fringed garments, in embroidered clothing: virgins shall be brought to the king after her: her fellows shall be brought to thee.

They shall be brought with gladness and exultation: they shall be led into the king’s temple.

Instead of thy fathers children are born to thee: thou shalt make them princes over all the earth.

They shall make mention of thy name from generation to generation: therefore shall the nations give thanks to thee for ever, even for ever and ever.

Psalm 44(45):9, 14-17


Today is the Feast of St Gregory Palamas (1296–1359), Archbishop of Thessaloniki.

TO the degree that she is closer to God than all those who have drawn nigh unto Him, by so much has the Theotokos been deemed worthy of greater audience.

I do not speak of men alone, but also of the angelic hierarchies themselves.

Isaiah writes with regard to the supreme commanders of the heavenly hosts: “And the seraphim stood round about Him” (Is 6:2); but David says concerning her, “at Thy right hand stood the queen” (Ps 44[45]:8).

Do you see the difference in position? From this comprehend also the difference in the dignity of their station. The seraphim are round about God, but the only Queen of all is near beside Him.

She is both wondered at and praised by God Himself, proclaiming her, as it were, by the mighty deeds enacted with respect to Him, and saying, as it is recorded in the Song of Songs, “How fair is my companion” (cf. Song of Songs 6:4), she is more radiant than light, more arrayed with flowers than the divine gardens, more adorned than the whole world, visible and invisible.

She is not merely a companion but she also stands at God’s right hand, for where Christ sat in the heavens, that is, at the “right hand of majesty” (Heb. 1:3), there too she also takes her stand, having ascended now from earth into the heavens.

Not merely does she love and is loved in return more than every other, according to the very laws of nature, but she is truly His Throne, and wherever the King sits, there His Throne is set also.

And Isaiah beheld this throne amidst the choir of cherubim and called it “high” and “exalted” (Isaiah 6:1), wishing to make explicit how the station of the Mother of God far transcends that of the celestial hosts.

St Gregory Palamas, “A Homily on the Dormition of Our Supremely Pure Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary”. Source.


It is truly Right
Nikolai Golovanov (1891-1953)

IT is truly right to call thee blest, O Theotokos, the ever blessed, thou who art most pure and all immaculate, and the Mother of our God. More honourable than the Cherubim, and past compare more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word. The very Theotokos, thee do we magnify.

Metropolitan Hilarion spoke movingly about Nikolai Golovanov in an address on sacred music:

In the twentieth century, the art of music was wrenched from any religious association.

Of course, throughout that century spiritual works were written, even in atheist Soviet Russia. Recently, music manuscripts of Nikolai Golovanov, chief conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre and a major figure in Soviet music, were discovered hidden in a drawer.

We now know that throughout his entire life he composed sacred music which he knew he would never hear performed. Only today, half a century after his death, are we able to appreciate his works.

For information on the icon above, see this post at Byzantine, TX.


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