Consider this, a great number of monasteries are dedicated to Holy Theotokos. Our ancient Russian Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Kiev Monastery of the Caves) of the Dormition of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos, the Pochaev Lavra, and the whole Holy Mount Athos are under the protection of the Mother of God. Monks do not just live under the wing of Holy Theotokos, they imitate Her purity. In order to encompass the Deity and not to desecrate Him it is necessary to keep chastity both of body and soul. Church people might know that when a woman is pregnant, according to church rules, she has an admission for living in separate rooms with her husband. And it has a profound meaning. A child connected to mother by an umbilical cord perceives everything that she perceives. If the mother is sad, then the child gets sad too, so it is recommended to avoid upsetting pregnant mothers as it can influence their unborn babies. If the mother gets angry, her anger bears down upon the baby, as well as the rest of her feelings. That is why during those 9 months our Church advises pregnant women to keep purity both of soul and body.
And now, can you imagine what kind of responsibility was taken by Holy Theotokos Who carried God 9 months after the Annunciation? It was chastity, and not just purity of body, but a great purity of mind and heart that prevented the Fetus from desecration even by a subtle thought. Why is She considered to be a protectress of monks and nuns? Because the purpose of people leading a monastic life is not ascesis, retreat, self-forgetfulness and chastity of body. You can preserve your virginity being ascetic, but you need to understand what for. You keep your chastity for your Heavenly Bridegroom. I speak of the people of both sexes as monasticism is such a mystery where people imitate life in the Kingdom of Heaven. Remember what Our Lord said: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven” (Mt. 22:30). The purpose of monasticism is not just ascesis, it is achieving and preserving maximal purity of body and soul in order to encompass God and so that deification of a human took place. It is shameful, sinful and graceless to invite a Dear Guest to a messy house, isn’t it? Thus you show your attitude to Him. If we always pray: “Come and dwell in us”, we should clean up the room. But, in the end, there is not much difference between monasticism and the life of laity. The laity have the same commandments, we also seek the reunion with God and have the same purpose – to guard our soul pure so that the One Who will come and dwell won’t be dishonored. A great purity of God and, for example, blasphemous thoughts are incompatible. They desecrate the Precious Fetus. That is why we are all without exception given the commandments to keep our body and soul pure in order to avoid desecration and reunite with God. As Our Lord said: “[If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him,] and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (Jn. 14:23). Holy Theotokos was the first who did it. And She was higher than St. John the Baptist.
When we start our relationship with Holy Theotokos we ask Her of different things: “O Most Holy Theotokos, help, protect, give”. But when we get to know Her better our prayer to Her changes. At some moment that “give” stops and transforms into “forgive”. We start to feel shame for addressing Her our requests and we pray: “O Most Holy Theotokos, forgive me!” Then our prayer becomes deeper and deeper and we don’t feel like guilty servants, we start to perceive Her embracive holiness, Her decency and purity and we don’t even say “forgive” we pray with reverence: “Glory to You! O Most Holy Theotokos, glory to You!” We should leave that “forgive, forgive” and come further and higher.
Holy Fathers when they practiced Jesus prayer experienced that. And even now there are arguments about what kind of prayer to read: a long or a short variant, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner” or the traditional Athos prayer – “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. When Holy Fathers left the shape of word, the prayer became a part of their nature that merged with the nature of God and got shorter and shorter. They didn’t even say: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”, but: “Lord, Jesus, Jesus Christ”, and then: “Lord, Jesus, Jesus”. After that the prayer in the shape of a word ceased and they fell silent with veneration perceiving the presence of God, and couldn’t talk any more.
Elder Paisios used to say: “Our Sweetest Mother!” But in order to feel Her sweetness we need to work very-very hard. We need to purify ourselves so that we won’t besmear Her by our touch, by our nullity and filth. I don’t say we can fully cleanse ourselves, but this sigh of repentance, this urging on purity are already purification.
O Most Holy Theotokos, save us! I wish we could leave this way of addressing Holy Theotokos: give, help, protect, heal, and enlarge. I wish so badly that we could leave all those requests behind and just stand with veneration before Her. When the Holy Fathers came into this state they could only utter: “O Most Holy Theotokos…” and fell silent. Glory to You, O Most Holy Theotokos!