“Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: ‘I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth...’” (Gen 28: 10-13)
The narrative in Genesis 28 about “Jacob’s ladder” is one of our readings for this Akathist-Saturday, on which we take time out, or take pause, wholeheartedly to praise the Mother of God. Why this reading, specifically on this day? Because the Church traditionally “recognizes” the Theotokos in the “ladder” bridging earth and heaven, revealed to Jacob in a dream. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the same God Who chooses from their many, promised descendants, and reveals to all of us, not in a dream but in the flesh, a poor Jewish girl from Nazareth with no washing-machine, to be the Mother of His Son.
Today, as we praise the Blessed Among Women as the elevated, “heavenly ladder” and “gate of heaven,” I also note that the Most-Holy Virgin was a ladder “set up on the earth,” with feet planted firmly on the ground, walking the cross-carrying journey. Her many sorrows and trials on that journey, beginning in the temple in Jerusalem, where little Mary was left by Joachim and Anna at the age of three; and later during a strange, impossible-to-explain pregnancy in Nazareth at Joseph’s house; and then in Bethlehem, and Egypt, and Nazareth again…, and finally, at the foot of Her Son’s cross in the midst of a hostile crowd, – all this suffering endured by the Theotokos “explains” to me why, in Her gaze at me from one of Her icons, I always find a no-nonsense, truthful-and-yet-gentle kind of empathy, when I am having difficulties, in this complicated and sometimes-hostile world. It’s a gentle kind of honesty, which is humility, saying to me, Yeah, you screwed up, my child, but I understand. And I love you. So now move forward, and do the next right thing. I am with you.
I know this sounds a bit cheesy today, but I’m gonna say it anyway: Thank you, Mother of God, for mothering me, even at this point, in my grown-up years, when nobody else has the time or patience for that. “Let us magnify in song the Theotokos and Mother of Light! (Богородицу и матерь света в песнех возвеличим!)”