Malankara World

St. Mary- Theotokos - Virgin Mary - Mother of God

Virgin Mary - In the Syrian Orthodox Faith

by Rev. Fr. Thomas Kora, San Francisco, Member, Malankara World Board

Throughout the Old Testament we can see the promise of a Messiah, Who is going to be born from a Virgin. It is so clear and vivid in Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Many of the Jewish princess and noble virgin girls had desired to receive this Messiah. But quite contrary to their wish, God chose a very poor and humble virgin in the house of David who was from the tribe of Judah. Her name was Mariyam in Aramaic which means Light and Miriam in Hebrew. Mariyam was born to Joachim and Ann at their old age after patiently praying and fasting a long period of time. So she was offered to serve in the temple of Jerusalem at the age of three, where she was taught Old Testament, Holy Jewish traditions and customs. Especially she was disciplined in meditation and seven times daily prayers. Orthodox tradition says that according to Jewish custom no girl was permitted to stay at the temple after the age of eleven; and so Mariyam was sent back to her parentís home. There she continued her virgin life.

One day, when Mariyam was praying, God sent His messenger Gabriel to her and said, "Do not be afraid, Mariyam, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:30-33). Virgin Mariyam submitted herself to the will of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit she conceived the son of God (the Word / the Logos).

Virgin Mary gave birth to her only Son, the Son of God in due time. After eight days, the infant was circumcised and named Jesus, in accordance with the instructions that the "angel of the Lord" had given to Joseph after the Annunciation to Mary. These customary ceremonies were followed by Jesus' presentation to the Lord at the Temple in Jerusalem in accordance with the law for firstborn males, then the visit of the Magi, the family's flight into Egypt, their return after the death of King Herod the Great about 2 BC and taking up residence in Nazareth. Mary apparently remained in Nazareth for some thirty years. She is involved in the only event in Jesus' adolescent life that is recorded in the New Testament: At the age of twelve, Jesus got separated from his parents on their return journey from the Passover celebration in Jerusalem; he was later found among the teachers in the temple.

After Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist and His temptations by the devil in the desert, Mary was present when Jesus worked his first public miracle at the marriage in Cana by turning water into wine at her intercession. Subsequently there are events when Mary is present along with Jesus' "brothers" (James, Joseph, Simon and Judas) and unnamed "sisters" . Mary is also depicted as being present during the crucifixion standing near "the disciple whom Jesus loved" along with her sister Mary of Clopas (possibly identical with the mother of James the younger and Joseph mentioned in Matthew 27:55, Mark 15:40), and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25-26), to which list Matthew 27:56 adds "the mother of the sons of Zebedee" , presumably the Salome mentioned in Mark 15:40, and other women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and ministered to him (mentioned in Matthew and Mark).

According to the Acts, Mary is the only one of about 120 people gathered, after the Ascension, in the Upper Room on the occasion of the election of Matthias to fill the vacancy of Judas, to be mentioned by name, other than the eleven Apostles and the candidates (Acts 1:12-26) especially v. 14; though it is said that "the women" and Jesus' "brothers" were there as well, their names are not given. From this time, she disappears from the Biblical accounts, although it is held by some Christian groups that she is again portrayed as the heavenly Woman of Revelation (Revelation 12:1). Her death is not recorded in scripture. Tradition says she has being assumed (taken bodily) into Heaven.

According to tradition, Mary died while surrounded by the apostles (in either Jerusalem or Ephesus) between three and fifteen years after Christ's ascension. When the apostles later opened her tomb they found it empty and concluded that she had been bodily assumed into Heaven.

The House of the Virgin Mary near Ephesus, Turkey is believed by some to be the place where Mary lived until her assumption into Heaven. The Gospel of John states that Mary went to live with the Disciple whom Jesus loved (John 19:27), who is traditionally identified as John the Apostle. Irenaus and Eusebius of Caesarea wrote in their histories that John went later to Ephesus, which may provide the basis for the early belief that Mary also lived in Ephesus with John. "Mary's Tomb" , an empty tomb in Jerusalem, is attributed to Mary, but it was unknown until the 6th Century.

The Apostleís creed and Nicene Creed both refer to Mariyam as Virgin Mary. Since Apostleís and the Church Fathers, upon whose faith the Church is built, the whole true Christendom believe virgin birth of Jesus Christ from His ever virgin mother Mary. A very complicated question arises now. How can a virgin conceive? Answer is simple: what ever is impossible to man is possible to Almighty God. Syrian Church fathers explain it as follows: Angel Gabriel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most high will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called Holy, the son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:34-38). Syrian Orthodox Fathers teach that at the moment when Virgin Mary submitted to Godís will and salvation plan, the Word of God, "the Logos" entered through her ears and thus she conceived the Son of God by the grace and power of Holy Spirit. Her conception was quiet unnatural and wonderful. Therefore she did not lose her virginity. Nothing is impossible to God. Since the conception of Jesus, Mariyam is the mother of God (Theotokos) for the Syrian Orthodox Church.

Some of the later protestant churches misinterpret the Bible. They argue that Mother Mary had other children besides Jesus Christ and so they do not accept the ever virgin status of Virgin Mary. They argue that Bible talk about the brothers of Jesus (Mathew 13: 55-56). If someone interpret the Bible on the basis of one or two words that will mislead them from the truth. If Mother Mary had other children why did Jesus asked the apostle John to take care of Saint Mary? Patristic fathers Saint Ignatius, Saint Clement and Saint Polycarp and other early church fathers like Saint Yousthinous (120-166), Tertullian (160-210), Saint Ireneous (140-202) and Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) did not have any doubts about her perpetual virginity. The brothers of Jesus mentioned in Mathew 13:55-56 where the children of Maryís sister who was the wife Clapoas. Saint Clement, Origen and Saint Ephiiphanus and Saint Ambrose say that Ďthe brothersí were the children of Joseph in his first marriage.

Few protestant churches argue that even Jesus addresses Mary as "woman"; He never calls her mother. In Orthodox view point it is not an indication of disrespect. We, Orthodox faithful, cannot even think of Jesus disrespecting His mother. We believe that Jesus repeatedly addresses His mother "woman" in various occasions, because He wants to prove that this woman (Mother Mary) is the woman mentioned in Genesis 3:15 and since He is the Son of this woman, He is the only savior of the mankind.

The church fathers that assembled for the Council of Nicea declared and documented that Mary is ever Virgin and Mother of God from whom the Word of God incarnated. But by the beginning of the fifth century Nestorius, the archbishop of Constantinople, began to teach against the belief which is universally established by the Council of Nicea. He said Mary is not Mother of God or Mother of Man. According to him she is the Mother of Christ. By Christ he referred the unified person of Christ. His theory was questioned by the Universal Church especially by Saint Cyril the Patriarch of Alexandria. He argued and undoubtedly proved from the scripture that Mary is ever Virgin and she is the Theotokos (Mother of God). Finally the emperor Theodosius convened the first Council of Ephesus in 431. The Council declined the theory of Nestorius and reiterated that Mariyam is Ever Virgin and Theotokos.

All the Oriental Orthodox Churches as well as the Eastern Orthodox Churches and Catholic Church believe in the intercession of Virgin Mary. Being the crown of all saints, the intercession of Saint Mary is certainly powerful and acceptable to God. But in any sense our reverence does not go beyond the line of respect; and we do not worship her or any other saints.

It is significant to know that the first church was dedicated in the name of Saint Mary. The learned comment of Athanasius on Saint Mary is a clear evidence of Saint Maryís prominence,

"O noble virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness.
For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word?
To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O dwelling place of God the Word?
To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O virgin?
You are greater than them all.

O Ark of the new Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold!
You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity we shall pray:

'O virgin, Mother of God may your memory be for a blessing to us. Grant petitions of those who are afar and those who are near. Grant health to whoever is sick. Ask comfort for whoever is distressed, and drive away the evil one from whomever he torments. By your prayer and intercession may mercy be upon us, Halleluiah. May your prayer assist us.'

In the plan and process of human salvation even God himself was utilizing the will and co-operation of this poor and humble Virgin. This Ever Virgin Mariyamís (Second Eveís) obedience and submission to Godís will, caused to wipe out and cleanse the sin and disgrace which entered in the world through the first Eve. That is why, the almighty God elevated her to the highest honor of Theotokos; and the true followers of her Son praise her obedience and humbleness forever.

Oh ... Morth Mariam Yoldath Aloho (Mother of God) Pray for us.

See Also:

St. Mary, Mother of God (B. C. 14? - A. D. 66?) by Rev. Fr. Dr. Mani Rajan Corepiscopo
All Christians accept St. Mary as a model to emulate. The early Church at Jerusalem had a close association with St. Mary. Protestant theologians content that Mary was a passive instrument in the salvific act of Jesus Christ. However, St. Mary was not timidly submissive for she had the free will to choose. This is evident from her response: 'Let it be to me according to your word'Ě (Luke 1:38).

Hail Mary! The Holy Virgin, Mother of God by Very Rev. Joseph Pukkunnel Corepiscopos
St. Mary is the Holy Virgin Mother of God. The name 'Virgin Mother' will seem to be paradoxical; but only one who has studied the mysterious way how St. Mary bore the infant Jesus in her womb can understand how she had conceived even yet a virgin.

The presence of the THEOTOKOS in the Economy of Salvation - an Orthodox Approach by Rev. Fr. Dr. K. M. George
In the Orthodox Church, theology is inseparable from liturgical adoration and devotion. Since the mystery that is being celebrated is too profound to be articulated, one resorts to flowery language teeming with fine figures of speech. In the Orthodox Syrian liturgy, Maryís person is clothed in a metaphorical language almost completely evolved out of the Biblical types, symbols and ideas.

The Holy Virgin Mary in the Syrian Orthodox Church by His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas

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