In light of the Reformation, one of the central questions of Christianity is predestination - do we have any say in our salvation? Where does our own will factor in? In a similar vein, what will did Mary have? Did she have a choice in becoming the Theotokos? Yes: "The mystery [of Mary and the Incarnation] could not have existed as a divine plan without her free disposition and consent...Mary was 'full of grace,' the grace of the Holy Spirit, a condition that began even from her mother's womb. But this is not to say that she was born without free will, or that an enormous tide of grace overwhelmed her and made her powerless to resist this unique calling by God." In this, Mary typifies Orthodoxy's rejection of Calvinistic predestination. Gabriel quotes Theodoret of Cyrus' Commentary on Romans: "Let no one say that God's foreknowledge is the cause of men's acceptance of the calling to salvation. His foreknowing them does not cause them to become what they sall be. From afar [outside of time], He has seen beforehand the things that are to be."
Thus Mary's freely-chosen Incarnational "yes" becomes the prototype of our own freely-chosen salvific yes. As Mary responded to God in accepting his desire for her, so we too can respond to God in accepting his desire for us. Those desires, while driven by the same love, obviously mean different things in each of our lives - God has something different in store for each of us and though our role will never match that of the Virgin's, we can rest assured that we all have our part. In his discussion on this, I think Gabriel is starting to point to the prototypical role that Mary plays in Orthodox Christian thought. Much of the Church's thinking about humanity is reflected in its consideration of Mary - her responses, her qualities, her characteristics, her faith - all show us what our ideal responses, qualities, etc, should be. She is the ideal human, though not because of her own merit or her own work. She is the ideal because she has completely submitted to God as Adam & Eve should have, as all of humanity was designed to do, and through that submission she was transformed by God. God's activity in her is the only reason for her veneration.
Some of that last paragraph is not any argument presented by Gabriel, at least not in what I've read so far, but is the amalgamation of my other reading and consideration of Mary in light of the Liturgy & Orthopraxis. If I have come to any incorrect conclusions, I would ask that any Orthodox reading this offer their correction as I want to be as clear in my thinking as I can be. Which, as an aside, is why Gabriel's book is somewhat disappointing - overall the writing is not very clear. The sentences are lengthy and frequently contain too many clauses. Its almost as if the work is a translation.
From this point, Gabriel begins to present things that, to put it lightly, I find highly troubling, so I'm hoping for some help or clarification from my readers. Gabriel says:
"From her earliest years, she gave herself to God as no other man or woman was able to do. And she was chosen as no other was chosen by God's omniscience. She left her parent's house at the age of three to dwell in the temple's holy of holies in order to be nurtured by the angels and made into the living temple of God."
The only source Gabriel provides for this rather astonishing claim are 2 hymns; one from the Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos and another from Great Vespers. I realize the High Priest only entered the Holy of Holies once a year, but I would have to think he would have spotted a young girl camped out in there when he did. I realize that this may not be a doctrine, perhaps just a pious belief, but I still find it very unsettling, particularly the lack of attributable source. I can work with the lack of discussion about Mary in the early church for the reasons presented in my previous post, but this seems to be going far beyond that.