Mary in the Christian East and the Latin West
In the Christian East, the Mother of God is known as the Theotokos, the one who bore or carried God (literally, the God-bearer). Rarely, if ever, is she depicted without the Divine Child. In the Latin West, the Mother of God is often shown alone and is more commonly known as the Blessed Virgin Mary or simply the Blessed Virgin. In the Christian East, the focus is on her divine motherhood, whereas in the Latin West, her virginity. In a classic paradox, Mary is the virgin-mother.
The Many Faces of Mary
The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. boasts of one beautiful Lady chapel after another where Mary is depicted according to the culture of different countries and nationalities. Each invites the visitor to contemplate the Mother of the Church, strong and exceedingly beautiful.
The Church’s teaching about Mary ranges from the biblical, theological, and liturgical, always vigilant about pious devotions and apparitions of Mary in various countries. These include the international devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes, national devotion such as that of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the regional and international devotion to Our Lady of Montserrat, located in the Abbey of Montserrat, a few miles west of Barcelona. In the Christian East, the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir ranks among the most beloved of all.
The Akathist Hymn to Mary opens with a theological statement of fact: “You were a Mother, and yet a Virgin; you went up to heaven, and yet did not forsake the world, O Mother of God. You have passed to life, being the Mother of Life. Through your intercession, save our souls from death.”
According to an early Syriac text, "with the Dormition, we see the exquisite meeting of heaven and earth. For Mary, it was a special end for a special woman, marked by fine fragrances that rose from her body and from heaven 'a fragrance and sweet odor went forth from the highest heaven of the Lord’s glory to all places of creation.'"