This post on Our Lady shows that, whatever differences that exist between the Catholic Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, we share the same relationship with Our Lady. - Fr David
The Virgin Mary – The Mother of God (Theotokos)
After creating men and everything for them, God set a discipline, and hence a Law to testify that He is their Creator, that Adam and Eve should not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil [Gen 2:15]. The first men, Adam and Eve, lived the life of holiness under the grace of the Lord, in the garden of Eden for seven years [Jubilees 4:14]. But this very spiritual life, aroused anger and spite, against mankind, in another evil territory, the fallen angels. Embodied in the flesh of a serpent, the devil defiled our foreparents’ holiness – the first men were cheated to seek godhood by eating that tree, yet they broke the ’first law’ and disconnected from light of the Lord.
After leaving the Garden of Eden, Adam sought repentance and was given a hope that the Lord will save him, and his children, His way. But to expound that God created this universe, the first men established worshiping God through burning offerings and sacrificial rites[Gen 4:3,Gen 8:20]. Even when the children of men went astray and no one, but Noah, was keeping the oath God made with Adam, the Lord rescued the righteous family of Noah to carry on filling the earth with men[Gen 6].
God promised Abraham that in his seed shall all the children of men be blessed [Gen 22:18]. When a virgin by the name of Mary was born from the saintly parents Joachim and Anna, the hope of Abraham, Noah, Adam and the hope of mankind was fulfilled.
For She is the virgin, whom God of Abraham (Jesus Christ) loved to be Son of Man– Son of God, Son of Mary [Matthew 16:13-18].
When God’s time reached, He sent the archangel named Gabriel to this blessed Virgin. Upon meeting Her, the archangel praised Her with strange salutation – ”Hail you that are highly favored”[Luke 1:28]. This same angel made Zacharias dumb for questioning him[Luke 1:20], but for St. Mary, the angel even praised Her and answered all Her questions with respect [Luke 1:26-38]. Elisabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit saluted the Virgin,” Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And what is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? ” [Luke 1:42]. And this reverence for the mother of God shall be done for angels and generations of men[Luke 1:48].
St. Virgin Mary in Old Testament
God’s revelation in Christ was prefigured in most of the Old Testament. For instance Christ is prefigured with the ram Abraham sacrificed in place of his son, Isaac[Gen 22:9]. The event prefigured God’s plan to have His own Son, die on the cross as a ransom for all humans, much like the ram God provided for Abraham substituted Isaac. In a like manner, St. Virgin Mary is prefigured in so many accounts.
Noah’s Ark: St. Virgin Mary is likened to Noah’s Ark, for both were bold reasons to save the children of Adam from vanishing in death, the Virgin was found pure and alluring for God’s Incarnation in Christ that we be saved from eternal damnation in hell, while the latter saved Noah’s family that now filled the whole world [Gen 8].
The Bush in Horeb: The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses while he was keeping the flocks of Jethro, his father in law in Midian [Exodus 3:2]. While the angel of God appeared in fire in the middle of the bush, the bush was neither consumed nor lost its greenness. Even more than this, when the Creator of the universe is incarnated in Virgin Mary’s womb, Mary was neither burnt nor feared to carry God on Her back in the deserts of Egypt [Matthew 2:13]. Another prophet, Ezekiel, saw the same God on the back of Seraphim, but these angles are known to cover their faces, eyes and bodies with their wings, fearing the intensity of light from God[Ezekiel 1].
The Second Eve: We lost paradise by the mistakes of the first men Adam and Eve [Gen 3]. Due to God’s ineffable mercy, we are rose to childhood in Christ. We are given to become sons of God [John 1:12]. The first Eve, ate the fruit of death and brought eternal death to us. However, the second Eve, the Virgin Mary, conceived the fruit of life and resurrection, and we are given to eat the eternal bread of life, Jesus Christ.
The Tabernacle of Moses: God used to appear to the Israelites in the tabernacle in clouds [Deuteronomy 31:15]. The same God appeared and talked to us in the flesh of Mary [John 8:58].
St. Virgin Mary in New Testament
When God saw the faith of Abraham, He swore by His Holy name to Abraham that the whole nations of earth shall be blessed by Abraham’s seed [Gen 22]. Through time God let the children of Jacob to establish a nation, ancient Israel, in which no foreign and hand-made gods were worshipped but God Himself. The apparent significance of this pre-Christ nation was to protect the lineage of St. Virgin Mary, and hence Christ, from defiling into foreign gods. The people of Israel were ordered not to mix with any of their neighbors, in any matter, even with eating habits. Apart from keeping the Ten Commandments of Moses, they were required to circumcise, to keep Sabbath, to be selective at eating. But when the very goal of the Old Testament is fulfilled, i.e. St. Virgin Mary is born, and hence Christ, most of these Jewish cultures lost significance. After Christ was born, Paul taught, ” there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.”[Romans10:12]. In another epistle, [Galatians 3:24], ”Why the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” All these showed us that the Old Testament era is culminated by (and for) the Virgin Mary, and She gave birth to a new age of hope in God, the Christ.
The Virgin Mary was given as a mother of all Christians, while the Lord was on the cross. His beloved disciple, John received Her, on behalf of us all. This story is narrated in John 19:26”When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he said to his mother, Woman, behold your son! Then said he to the disciple, Behold your mother! And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.”
In the Holy Bible the Virgin Mary is called”the gate”. Its written in the Book of Ezekiel that she is a gate that faces towards the East, and the Lord God entered by it and went out the same way (Ez. 44:2).
Concerning the involvement of St. Mary in our salvation, it’s worthwhile to refer to the early fathers teachings specially Ephrem the Syrian -
”He took a rib from the side of ADAM, and fashioned from it a woman, and the whole creation of the children of men was given to God, the Word of the Father, Who was incarnate of the Holy Virgin, and is called EMMANUEL. And because of this we beseech her at all times to strive on our behalf with her beloved Son for the forgiveness of our sins. She was beneficent towards all the saints and the high priests, for she brought to them that for which they waited, and she brought to the Prophets Him concerning Whom they had prophesied, and she brought forth to the Apostles Him in Whose Name they were to preach in all the ends of the world, and from her went forth for the martyrs and believers Him for Whom they were to fight, JESUS CHRIST.” – Hymn of Mary,5th day of the Week (Thursday)
The Church entreats the Virgin Mary to intercede the people to the Lord in all prayers and liturgy services. The priest prays, on behalf of the people, ”O Virgin, remind Him/the Lord/ of His flight with you when you fled from one country to another during the time of King Herod….remind Him of mercy and compassion…remind Him of the sinners and not of the righteous. ” - Anaphora of St. Mary
The Dormition (Assumption) of Mary, reckons on the 22th of August(16th in Ethiopian Calendar) is the climax of the two weeks fasting time. In that day is remembered, the Lord gave the flesh of the Virgin Mary to His apostles to bury it. The disciples of Christ, buried her pure and holy body – but for only a while – she was resurrected like unto Her Son. For God of Elijah and Enoch Who took them up to heaven for their obedience [2 Kings 2, Genesis 5:24], was zealous also for His Mother whom He chose to be embodied as Christ in Jesus. The Virgin Mary /called as the Holiest Living Ark/, in whose flesh we saw God as Jesus, was not left to decay and wait for the final day of Judgment like us, but risen to stand on the right side of Her Son. Her resurrection was not accidental but foretold by prophets of God.
King David wrote about the resurrection of the Lord and His mother, in [Psalms 132:8] –”Arise, O LORD, into your rest; you, and the ark of your strength.”
The King also sang ” on your right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir” [Psalm 45:9] for the Virgin Mary. Indeed the Virgin Mary stands on the right side of God to turn His anger into mercy, to help us, the weak, to stand steadfast in embracing Christ until our last breath. Above all, the Virgin Mary is witnessed by the faithful to address most of their day to day problems. Orthodox Christians follow the examples set by St. Elizabeth, Gabriel the archangel and St. John the apostle of Christ and always praise her, “O Virgin Mary, you are blessed among all women”.
May the Lord, God of Abraham, keep us in perfect understanding. And may the blessings of the Virgin Mary be with us. Amen.Originally prepared by Saint Teklehaymanot Ethiopian
Orthodox Tewahido Church, Finland.