Saint Mary in the Orthodox Concept
Saint Mary is regarded as the highest saint in the Orthodox Church. She is higher than all the heavenly saints and any man or woman saint who ever lived. She is called the Theotokos, which is a Greek word meaning “Mother of God.” Saint Mary is the Mother of God. The Coptic church focuses on the life of Saint Mary in the month of August. The fast of Saint Mary is from August 7 – August 21. The feast of the assumption of Saint Mary is August 22.
The Theotokos in the Feasts of the Coptic Orthodox Church
The Annunciation of the Birth of Saint Mary
This is the day celebrating the annunciation of the birth of Saint Mary to Joachim, the father of Saint Mary. Joachim and Anna were the parents of Saint Mary. This day is celebrated on 7 Misra (August 13th). On this day, God sent His honorable angel Gabriel to announce to Saint Joachim of the birth of the Virgin, the mother of the incarnated God. This righteous man and his wife Saint Anna (Hannah) were stricken in years and had no children for Anna was barren. The children of Israel used to insult him because he had not begotten a son. Because of this, these two saints were sad, and prayed continually, and entreated God by day and by night. They vowed that the child they would beget would be made a steward for the temple. While Saint Joachim was praying over the mountain, he fell into a deep sleep and Gabriel, the angel of the Lord, appeared to him and announced to him that his wife Anna would conceive and bear a child, that would delight his eyes and please his heart; and likewise all the world would rejoice and be glad. When he woke from his sleep, he came to his house, and told his wife about the vision, which she believed. Anna conceived forthwith, and brought forth our Lady, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Anna became more honorable than all the women of the world.
The Birth of Saint Mary
The birth of Saint Mary is celebrated on 1 Bashans (May 9th). On this day the church celebrates the birth of the pure Virgin Saint Mary, the Mother of God (Theotokos), through whom Salvation came to mankind. She was born in the city of Nazareth, where her parents lived. Her father was grieved in his heart for he could not offer an offering to God for he did not have any children. In the fullness of time according to the Divine Will, the angel of the Lord was sent to announce Joachim, her father, while he was on the mountain praying, and said to him: “The Lord will give you offspring through whom salvation comes to the world.” Immediately he went down the mountain believing what the angel told him, and he told his wife Anna of what he saw and heard. She rejoiced, gave thanks to the Lord, and vowed that the child who was to be born to her would become a servant in the house of the Lord all the days of her/his life. She conceived, and gave birth to this Saint and called her Mary who had become the Queen of all women of the world, and through her we have received the grace.
The Entrance of Saint Mary into the Temple at Jerusalem
The Entrance of Saint Mary into the Temple at Jerusalem is celebrated on 3 Kiahk (December 13). On this day we commemorate the entrance of our holy Lady, the Virgin, Saint Mary, the Theotokos, into the Temple when she was three years old, for she was dedicated to God. Her mother, Anna (Hannah), was childless. The women who were in the Temple stayed away from her. She was exceedingly sad and so was her husband Joachim who was a blessed old man. She prayed to God fervently and with a contrite heart saying, “If You give me a fruit, I will devote the child to Your Holy Temple.” God answered her prayers and she brought forth this pure saint and called her Mary. She reared her for three years, after which she took her to live with the virgins in the Temple. Saint Mary dwelt in the sanctuary for 12 years. She received her food from the hands of the angels, until the time when our Lord Christ came into the world, and was incarnated through her, the elect of all women. When she had completed 12 years of age in the sanctuary, the priests took counsel together concerning her, so that they might entrust her to someone who would protect her, for she was consecrated to God and they were not allowed to keep her in the temple after this age. They decided that she be engaged to a man who could take care of her and who would look after her. They gathered 12 righteous men from the house of David of the Tribe of Judah so they might place her with one of them. They took their staffs inside the Sanctuary, and a dove flew up and stood on the staff belonging to Joseph the carpenter who was a righteous man. They knew that this was God’s will. Joseph took the holy Virgin Saint Mary, and she dwelt with him until Gabriel, the Angel of the Lord, came to her and announced to her that the Son of God was to be incarnated from her, for the salvation of Adam and his posterity.
The Annunciation of the Birth of Christ
This is one of the 7 minor Lord’s feasts, celebrated on 29 Baramhat (April 7th). On this day the church commemorates the Annunciation of our Lady, the Theotokos, the Virgin Saint Mary. When the appointed time by God since eternity for the salvation of the human race had come, God sent Gabriel the Archangel to the Virgin Saint Mary, who is from the tribe of Judah the house of king David, to announce her with the Divine conception and the Glorious Birth as the Holy Scriptures testifies: “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” Then the angel gave her the proof of the validity of his message: “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:26-36). When she had accepted this Divine Annunciation, the Only Begotten Son, the Word of God, who is One of the Three eternal Persons, came and dwelt in her womb, a dwelling, the human race cannot comprehend. And straightway He united with perfect humanity a complete unity inseparable and unchangeable after the unity. This day then is the first-born of all feasts, for in it was the beginning of the salvation of the world which was fulfilled by the Holy Resurrection of our Lord, saving Adam and his offspring from the hands of Satan.
The Entry of the Lord Christ into Egypt
This is one of the 7 minor Lord’s feasts. This feast is celebrated on 24 Bashans (June 1). This is the day when Joseph, Saint Mary, and the baby Jesus fled to Egypt to escape from Herod, who wanted to kill Jesus. On this day, our Lord Jesus Christ came to the land of Egypt when He was a two year old child, as the Bible says in (Matthew 2:13) that the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying: “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” This was for two reasons: A. If He fell in the hand of Herod, and Herod could not kill Him, he would have thought that His flesh was a phantom. B. The second reason was to bless the people of Egypt by being among them, so that the prophecy of Hosea (11:1) could be fulfilled which says: “out of Egypt I called My Son.” And also the prophecy of Isaiah (19:1) be fulfilled: “Behold, the Lord rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt, the idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst.” The Lord Jesus came to Egypt with Joseph, and His Virgin mother, and Salome. They passed in an estate called “Basta” where the Holy Family drank from a well, and the water of the well became a curing water for all sicknesses. Then they went to “Meniet Samannoud” and crossed the Nile to the western side. In this place, the Lord Jesus put His foot on a stone, and the trace of His foot appeared, and the stone was called “Picha Isos” in Coptic (or The heal of Jesus). From there, they went westward to Wadi El-Natroun, and Saint Mary blessed the place, for her knowledge that many monasteries would be built there. Then they went to “Al-Ashmoneen” where they settled for several days, after which they went to Mount “Qosqam”, where the monastery of Saint Mary was later built, which has been known with the name “El-Moharrak monastery”. When Herod died, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream saying: “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” (Matthew 2:20-21). They came back to Cairo, and on their return they stayed in a cave which is today located in the church of Abu-Serga in Old Cairo. Then they passed by El-Mataryia, and they washed there from a well, and the well has been blessed since, and a tree of Balsam grew beside it, from its oil the Chrism (El-Myroun) is made which is used to consecrate new churches. From there, the Holy Family walked to El-Mahama (Mustorod), and from there to Israel. We ought to celebrate this feast spiritually with joy, for Our Lord Jesus honored our land.
The Wedding at Cana
This is one of the 7 minor Lord’s feasts. It is 13 Tubah (January 22). On this day, the church celebrates the commemoration of the miracle that our Lord Jesus Christ performed at Cana of Galilee. It was the first miracle that our Lord Jesus performed after His baptism. He was invited to the wedding with His virgin mother, Saint Mary, and also some of His disciples. When they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” There were set there six water pots of stone. Jesus said to them. “Fill the water pots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the master of the feast.” When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, he said to the bridegroom, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine and when the guests have well drunk, then that which is inferior; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This was the beginning of the signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee and manifested His glory and His disciples believed in Him (John 2:1-11).
The Dormition of Saint Mary, the Theotokos
Saint Mary departed to the Lord on 21 Tubah (January 29th). As she was always praying in the holy sepulcher, the Holy Spirit informed her that she was about to depart from this temporal world. When the time of her departure arrived, the virgins of the Mount of Olives came to her, with the apostles, who were still alive, and they surrounded her bed. The Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is the glory, with a host of thousands and thousands of angels came to her and comforted her and told her about the eternal joy that was prepared for her, and she rejoiced. The apostles and the virgins asked her to bless them. She stretched her hand and blessed them all, and she gave up her pure spirit in the hand of her Son and God, and He took her spirit to the heavenly mansions. The apostles prepared the body in a fitting manner and carried it to Gethsemane. Some of the Jews blocked their way to prevent them from burying the body. One of the Jews seized the coffin with his hands, which were separated instantly from his body and they remained attached to the coffin. He regretted his evil deed and wept bitterly. Through the supplications of the saintly apostles, his hands were reattached to his body, and he believed in the Lord Christ. When they placed the body in the tomb, the Lord hid it from them. Saint Thomas the Apostle was not present at the time of Saint Mary’s departure. He wanted to go to Jerusalem and a cloud carried him there. On his way, he saw the pure body of Saint Mary carried by the angels and ascended to heaven with it. One of the angels told him, “Make haste and kiss the pure body of Saint Mary,” and he did. When Saint Thomas arrived where the disciples were, they told him about Saint Mary’s departure and he said to them, “You know how I conducted myself at the resurrection of the Lord Christ, and I will not believe unless I see her body.” They went with him to the tomb, and uncovered the place of the body but they did not find it, and everyone was perplexed and surprised. Saint Thomas told them how he saw the holy body and the angels that were ascending with it. They heard the Holy Spirit saying to them, “The Lord did not will to leave her body on earth.” The Lord had promised his pure apostles to let them see her in the flesh once again. They were waiting for this promise to be fulfilled, until the 16th day of the month of Misra, when the promise was fulfilled and they saw her. The years of her life on earth were 60 years. She was 12 years old when she left the temple. She spent 34 years in Joseph’s house, until the Ascension of the Lord, and 14 years with Saint John the Evangelist, according to the commandment of the Lord which he told her at the cross, “Behold, this is your son,” and to Saint John, “Behold, this is your mother.”
The Assumption of the Body of Saint Mary
On this day, 16 Misra (August 22), was the assumption of the body of our pure Lady Saint Mary, the Mother of God. August 22 also marks the end of the fast of Saint Mary, and is a big feast day. Two other people in the Bible were also assumed. These are Enoch and Elijah. Regarding Enoch, we read “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). Regarding Elijah, we read, “And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11).
While Saint Mary was keeping vigil, praying in the Holy Sepulcher, and waiting for the happy minute of her liberation from the bonds of the flesh, the Holy Spirit informed her of her forthcoming departure from this vain world. When the time drew near, the disciples and the virgins of the Mount of Olives (Zeitoun) came and the Lady was lying on her bed. Our Lord, surrounded by thousands and thousands of angels, came to Her. He consoled her, and announced her with the everlasting joy which was prepared for Her. She was happy, and she stretched out her hands, blessed the Disciples, and the Virgins. Then, she delivered up her pure soul in the hand of her Son and God, Jesus Christ, Who ascended her to the higher habitations. As of the pure body, they shrouded it and carried it to Gethsemane. On their way, some of the Jews blocked the way in the face of the disciples to prevent the burial. One of them seized the coffin. His hands were separated from his body, and remained hanging until he believed and repented for his mischievous deed. With the prayers of the holy disciples, his hands were reattached to his body as they had been before. Saint Thomas was absent at the time of SaintMary’s departure, but he came after the burial. On his way back to Jerusalem, Saint Thomas saw angels carrying Saint Mary’s pure body and ascending with it to heaven, and one of the angels said to him, “Hurry and kiss the pure body of Saint Mary.” When he arrived to the disciples, they informed him about Saint Mary’s departure. He told them, “I will not believe, unless I see her body, as you all know how I did doubt the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ before.” They took him to the tomb, to uncover the body but they did not find it, and they were perplexed and amazed. Saint Thomas told them how he saw the pure body ascending to heaven, carried by angels. The Holy Spirit then told them, “The Lord did not Will to leave Her Holy body on earth.” The Lord had promised his pure apostles that they would see her in flesh another time. They were waiting for the fulfillment of this truthful promise, until the sixteenth day of the month of Misra, when the promise of seeing her was fulfilled. They saw her sitting on the right hand of her Son and her Lord, surrounded by the angelic Host, as David prophesied and said, “At your right hand stands the queen” (Psalm 45:9). Saint Mary’s life on earth was sixty years. She was 12 years old when she left the temple (she stayed in the Temple 9 years), then spent 34 years in the house of the righteous Saint Joseph, and spent 14 years in the care of Saint John the Evangelist, as the Lord commanded her saying, “Woman behold your Son,” and to Saint John, “Behold your Mother.”
The Commemoration of the First Church for the Virgin Mary in the City of Philippi
On this day, 21 Baounah (June 28th), the church celebrates the commemoration of the first church to be built in the name of the Virgin Lady, the All pure Saint Mary, the Theotokos (Mother of God), through whom the salvation of Adam and his posterity was fulfilled. When the two apostles Paul and Silas preached among the gentiles, many believed of them in the city of Philippi. They built a church there in the name of the Virgin, the Mother of God, and its consecration was on that day. It is appropriate for us to celebrate for her a spiritual festival, for she has borne the Savior of the world.
Consecration of the Virgin’s Church in the Mouharaque Monastery in Kuesquam Mountain
On this day, 6 Hatour (November 15th), was the consecration of the church of the Holy Virgin, in the Mouharaque Monastery, in Kuesquam Mount. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ blessed this church with His presence along with His disciples, during the time of its consecration, as was testified to by the Saints Philotheos and Kyrillos, Popes of Alexandria.
The Apparition of Saint Mary in the Church of Zeitoun (Cairo)
This day is celebrated on 24 Baramhat (April 2). On the eve of this day of the year 1684 A.M. which coincides with Tuesday the second of April 1968 A.D., during the papacy of Pope Kyrillos VI, the hundred sixteenth Pope of Alexandria, our Lady and the pride of our faith started to transfigure in luminous spiritual forms in and around the domes of the church dedicated to her immaculate name in Zeitoun, a suburb of Cairo.
This transfiguration continued in following nights in a manner that was never known in the East or the West. This transfiguration in some nights was as long as many hours, without stop, in front of tens of thousands of people from every race and religion, with every one seeing her, pointing at her and interceding to her with songs, hymns, tears, prayers and hails and She was looking to them in a compassionate way raising her hand at times to bless them in all directions. The first one to notice this transfiguration was the workmen at the garage of the Public Transit System which was across the street from the church. The watchman Abdel-Aziz Aly, who was in charge of guarding the garage at that night, saw a luminous body over the dome of the church. He started shouting: “light over the dome” and he called the other workers in the garage. They all came and saw the bright light over the large dome of the church. When they looked closely, they saw a young lady in white, kneeling by the cross at the top of the dome. Because the dome had a round, smooth, and very sloping surface, it held the men as though they were nailed in their places watching the fate of the lady. Few seconds passed then they saw the kneeling lady as she stood over the dome. They gave out a cry of fear that she might fall down. They thought she was a girl in despair trying to commit suicide and they cried warning that person not to jump down and some of them called the police. The pedestrians, men and women started to gather around. The view of the lady was getting more clear and she appeared as a beautiful girl in a bright gown of light and had branches of olive tree in her hand, and around her flew white doves. Then they realized that they were seeing a heavenly spiritual view. They directed flood light to the luminous picture to remove all doubt from their minds, but instead it became more clear and bright. They cut the electricity off all the area but the lady remained in her heavenly illumination and her bright gown of light became more clear. She started moving around in a circle of light radiating from her body to all the directions around her. All the people then realized that this lady in front of them, without no doubt is the Virgin Mary. They started to shout and cry saying: “She is the Virgin … She is the Mother of Light … ” They prayed with songs, hymns and hails all the night until the next morning. Since that night the pure Virgin had transfigured in different spiritual views in front of thousands and ten of thousands of masses, Egyptian and foreigners, Christians and non-christians, men, women and children. Spiritual beings formed like doves would appear before, during and after the transfiguration zooming through the sky in a way raising the human from a materialistic to a heavenly atmosphere. This transfiguration was in different forms. One of the most significant ways this apparition took place was that; the head of Saint Mary under the veil looking down as in the picture of the sad Virgin and she was looking toward the Cross and that view would stay like this at times or slowly bow before the Cross at other times. The Cross itself will shine and illuminate although it was made of concrete. And some times an angel would appear standing behind her spreading his wings. That view might stay as long as many hours.
Another view was the view of the Mother of Light standing as a great Queen in a beautiful spiritual portrait radiating dignity, elegance and beauty. On her head was a crown of a queen as if it were made of diamonds and some times there appeared on the top of the crown a small luminous cross. And some times she appeared in the same way but carrying Christ, to Him is the Glory, in the form of a child on her hand and on His head a crown. And on other times she raised her both hands as She was blessing the world moving to the right, to the front, and to the left in a dignified way. Many spiritual signs appeared before, during, and after the apparition of the Virgin the mother of the Lord’s transfiguration. The appearance of tongues of yellowish flame would flash over the church and then subside and that repeated several times. Another form of the signs were the spiritual beings formed like doves, larger than the doves that we know, appear about midnight or after, flying in the middle of darkness illuminating in a fast speed, appeared suddenly from no where, and also disappeared suddenly. These spiritual beings appeared in different formations and in varying numbers. A fact we should be aware of that pigeons do not fly during the night. Another sign was the shooting stars which were constantly falling and were seen very close to the apparition on many occasions as if coming down to glorify her from heaven. Another sign was the fragrance of incense. The smoke of the incense poured out of the domes in large quantities. Substance resembling clouds, thick fog or smoke would roll in toward the church and completely cover the church. Also the illuminated cloud that appeared over the domes of the church in large volume and often proceeded the transfiguration of the Virgin or at times the cloud slowly formed in the shape of the virgin. Sometimes the apparition of the Virgin would appear from the clouds. This transfiguration and all the spiritual signs were a forerunner and announcement for serious or important events to come in the near and far future. Or it might be a spiritual gesture from heaven to indicate the Lord’s caring for His church and His people and our country.
Credit and Attributions
This article was taken from a Servants’ Manual, compiled by Joseph Ibrahim. This article was taken in part from books by His Holiness and Fr. Tadros Malaty.