[[Image:Theotokos of Vladimir.jpg|right|frame|The Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary]]
The '''Virgin Mary''' is the '''Theotokos''', the mother of [[Jesus Christ]], the Son and [[Logos|Word]] of God. She conceived by the power of the [[Holy Spirit]]. She was cared for by her betrothed husband, [[Joseph the Betrothed|Joseph]], who took the child and his mother into his home as his own. One very strong tradition in the [[Orthodox Church]] holds that the birth of [[Jesus Christ|Jesus]] was also miraculous and left Mary's virginity intact as a sign; it is also the tradition of the Church that Joseph and Mary did not have relations after the birth of Jesus. She is also called '''Panagia''', the "All-Holy," indicating her closeness to God in her obedience.
The Orthodox Church remembers the life of the Theotokos with several [[feast day]]s. The [[Church Calendar|Liturgical year]] begins and ends with the feast days of the Theotokos. [[Icons of the Theotokos|wonder working Icons]] of the Theotokos also have their own feast days.
'''[[Nativity of the Theotokos]] ''' is celebrated on [[September 8]].:2. The '''[[Presentation of the Theotokos]] ''' into the Temple is celebrated on [[November 21]].:3. The '''[[Annunciation|Annunciation to the Theotokos]] ''' is celebrated on [[March 25]].:4. The '''[[Dormition|Dormition of the Theotokos]] ''' (Falling Asleep) of the Theotokos is celebrated on [[August 15]] .
==The title ''Theotokos''==
1. '''Adoption at the Third Ecumenical Council'''
As a title for the Virgin Mary, ''Theotokos'' was recognized by the [[Orthodox Church]] at [[Third Ecumenical Council]] held at Ephesus in 431. It had already been in use for some time in the devotional and liturgical life of the Church. The [[theology|theological]] significance of the title is to emphasize that Mary's son, Jesus, is fully God, as well as fully human, and that Jesus' two natures (divine and human) were united in a single [[Hypostasis|Person]] of the [[Trinity]]. The competing view at that council was that Mary should be called '''''Christotokos''''' instead, meaning "Birth-giver to Christ." This was the view advocated by [[Nestorius]], then [[Patriarch of Constantinople]]. The intent behind calling her ''Christotokos'' was to restrict her role to be only the mother of "Christ's humanity" and not his divine nature.
2. '''Translating the word ''Theotokos'''''
While some languages used by various Orthodox churches often have a single native word for ''Theotokos'', it gets translated into English in a number of ways. The most common is ''Mother of God'', though ''God-bearer'' and ''Birth-giver to God'' are also fairly common. There are difficulties with all these translations, however. The most literally correct one is ''Birth-giver to God'', though ''God-bearer'' comes close. ''Theophoros'' (Θεοφορος) is the Greek term usually and more correctly translated as ''God-bearer'', so using ''God-bearer'' for ''Theotokos'' in some sense "orphans" ''Theophoros'' when it comes time to translate that term (for St. [[Ignatius of Antioch]], for instance). The main difficulties with both these translations for ''Theotokos'' is that they are a bit awkward and difficult to sing.
::The Orthodox Church calls Mary "immaculate," "pure," or "spotless" (''achrantos'' in Greek). Some Orthodox state that she was free from actual sin, some say she never sinned, and others just say she died sinless.
::As for [[Original Sin|original sin]] and the [[Roman Catholic]] doctrine of the [[Immaculate Conception]], the Orthodox Church has never made any formal and definitive pronouncement on the subject. The majority of Orthodox have rejected the doctrine, for it seems to separate Mary from the rest of mankind, putting her in a completely different class from all the other righteous men and women of the [[Old Testament]]. It is important that Mary was the same as all mankind so that all Christians can follow her example and submit to God's will. Also, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception implies an understanding of original sin not held by the Orthodox Church.
:3. '''Most blessed and glorified Lady'''
The Church continued to call the Theotokos the "Virgin" even after the time when she supposedly would have had other children, as some say. It would be a rather odd thing to keep calling a woman "the Virgin" and even "Ever-Virgin" when one was standing next to her other offspring in Church.
Additionally, throughout the earliest liturgies of the Church, she is continually called "Ever-Virgin." One can also find references to her ever-virginity in the [[Church Fathers|Fathers]]' writings, such as in those of [[Peter of Alexandria]], [[Epiphanius]], Athanasius, [[Didymus the Blind]], Jerome, [[Cyril of Alexandria]], Leo, [[Sophronius of Jerusalem]], [[John of Damascus]], [[John Cassian]], [[Ephrem the Syrian|Ephrem of Syria]], and the capitula of the [[Fifth Ecumenical Council|II Council of Constantinople]] in 553 A.D. (In short, nearly everywhere.) One such example is in St. [[Ambrose of Milan]] (4th century): "The virgin did not seek the consolation of bearing another child" (See Letter 63; ''NPNF'' v. 10, p. 473). There are many other such quotations. Anyone familiar with the writings of the Church Fathers will see her being called "the Virgin" and "Ever-Virgin" frequently.
[[Hippolytus]] was a scholar, [[bishop]], and [[martyr]], who lived in or near Rome and wrote in Greek; he was martyred in A.D. 235. He is considered to be one of the most important witnesses as to how the early church worshipped.
==Hymns to the Theotokos==
From the [[Divine Liturgy]] of St. [[John Chrysostom]]:
:It is truly meet and right to bless you, O Theotokos,
*[[Icons of the Theotokos]]
*[[Magnificat]] - also called the ''Song of the Theotokos''
*Holy Apostles Convent. ''The Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos''. (ISBN 0944359035)
*[http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/veneration_mary.aspx Veneration of the Virgin Mary] by Protopresbyter Michael Polsky
*[http://www.protomartyr.org/mary.html Facing Up to Mary] by Fr. [[Peter Gillquist|Peter E. Gillquist]]
*[http://www.roca.org/OA/12/12f.htm Holy Fathers – The Most Holy Virgin Mary] (''Orthodox America'')
*[http://aggreen.net/theotokos/theotokos.html Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos]
*[http://www.comeandseeicons.com/bvm/theotokos.htm Icons of the Theotokos]
[Mis ]Conception] by Fr. Joseph Huneycutt*[http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/greek/theotokos_2002_index.html /Theological articles devoted to the Theotokos] by '''Myriobiblos''' the Online library of the [[Church of Greece]] (Greek)