Edited and Compiled by Ajesh T Philip
O sinner, be not discouraged, but have recourse to Mary in all you necessities. Call her to your assistance, for such is the divine Will that she should help in every kind of necessity – Saint Basil the Great
“If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, he is severed from the Godhead” – Gregory of Nazianzus,To Cledonius,101(A.D. 382)~
“Let, then, the life of Mary be as it were virginity itself, set forth in a likeness, from which, as from a mirror, the appearance of chastity and the form of virtue is reflected. From this you may take your pattern of life, showing, as an example, the clear rules of virtue: what you have to correct, to effect, and to hold fast. The first thing which kindles ardour in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater than the Mother of God?” – Saint Ambrose
The Virgin Mary’s Feasts
The Orthodox Church has incessantly extolled Virgin Mary’s virtues and canonized her as a patron saint of the church, repeating her name in church prayers day and night. Our church has set commemorative days for the Virgin Mary to be celebrated all the year round.
It was a common practice in the church to celebrate commemorations of saints and martyrs after heavenly abodes following the termination of their spiritual struggle on earth. The Holy Virgin Mary and St. John, however, were exempted.
Apart from the celebration of the Feast of the Virgin Mary’s presentation in the temple, the Feast of the Virgin Mary for the blessing of the crops, the Feast of the Virgin Mary of the sowing and the Feast of the Virgin Mary for blessing of the vineyards is also celebrated.
Syrian Orthodox poets called the Potters attribute setting these feasts of the Virgin Mary to John, the Evangelist. Those poets’ quotes: “With dew and drizzle the land of Ephesus was prinkled when St. John brought the message that Virgin Mary commanding her Feasts to be celebrated three times a year. The Feast of the Virgin Mary of the sowing is in January (14-15). In May it is the Feast of the Virgin Mary for blessing the crops (14-15) and in August is her Feast of the blessing of the vineyards (14-15), which are the symbols of mysteries of life”.
These three Feasts are on the fifteenth day of the above mentioned months. Assumption of the Virgin Mary replaced the Feast of the Virgin Mary for blessing the Vineyards, which falls on August 15th. Due to the sacredness of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the church instructed that, the faithful should go on a fast in preparation for the celebration of this feast. It is called the Virgin Mary’s Fast. In the past this fast used to last for fourteen days starting on August the first, during which the faithful used to have one Meal a day. This meal was free of meat, eggs or dairy product. It consisted mainly of vegetables and beans usually taken in the evening. The faithful also refrained from consuming any drinks.
Legendary Story Behind this feast:
At the time of their flight to Egypt…. The force of Herodesh followed them…. They asked to people who were harvesting the wheat in field… about the Joseph, Mary & Jesus, they answered “while we were sowing seed, 3 of them passed this way on a donkey…” It is believed that on their way, Mary and her son Jesus blessed the sowed seeds and hence it matured and sprouted within no time….and Jesus was escaped from the Herodesh and hencewe celebrate this feast.
How greatly appealing the discourse about the Mother of God, the Holy Virgin Mary is! Our Holy Church fathers had had extensive scrutinizing studies of her biography; inspired ecclesiastical poets wrote beautiful poems in glorification of her; celebrated artists sculpted the most beautiful statues of her and skillful painters filled the world with her splendid portraits. The Virgin Mary is the Patron Saint of the most magnificent Cathedrals the faithful have erected for her worldwide.
Church fathers praised the Virgin in poetry and prose while celebrating her feasts and set rites included in huge volumes called (Fanaquith). The book of daily offices repeated weekly and called (Shehimo) includes hymns in poetry and prose sung daily in the morning and evening. The themes of these songs are the declaration of the Orthodox doctrinal concept of the Virgin Mary and the confession of faith in her.
Some excerpts are quoted from the book of daily offices and stated hereinafter: in relation to the feasts of the Virgin Mary and the aim of celebrating these feasts the prayer of the first office on Monday night reads: “Oh, Virgin Mary, Mother of God, may your name be a source of blessing. May you answer the prayers of those, close and others far away? May you heal the sick and beseech (your son) to give courage to the oppressed. May you expel the evil within those tormented? May the power of your intercessory prayers have mercy on us, hallelujah, and may your prayer support us”.
The prayer said on Monday evening reads: “May the commemoration of the blessed Virgin, the Mother of God, be eternal, because in her virginity she gave birth to Jesus, the king, the savior of the whole universe, hallelujah. May her prayer be with us”.
A hymn sung on Thursday evening reads
“Oh, blessed Virgin, who became the Mother of God in chastity and holiness and without the seed of a man, may you, on this commemoration day of yours, have mercy on us so that the dead will have rest and the living may have hope…Though you are so far away from us in the flesh, yet your prayers are always with us. So may you implore the hidden power (the Son), who descended from His throne and dwelled in you, to forgive us”. The prayer said on Friday evening includes a Litany by Mar Jacob of Serugh (+521) that reads:
“How beautiful and pleasant the commemorative day of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who became the Mother of the Son of God, is! May you, Oh God, through the intercessory prayer of hers, keep wrath away from all those who, in faith, seek refuge in her”.
In the prayer of the first office, said on Saturday night St. Jacob says: ” Let us venerate the day of the blessed (Mary), glorify it with extreme love, with faith, “watchfulness” and long vigil, and by going on giving alms and praying, for (the virgin) doubles the reward of those who venerate her”.
May you, Oh Holy Saint, distribute, on your day, your gifts among our gathering who are thirsty for your prayers and litanies.
May the Lord be the fence that protects all those who venerate you, and may the Lord keep all blows and wrath away from them…. The power that strengthens you is that which empowers us so that we become able to praise you. This power calls on us, through your prayers, to join the abodes of light May the Lord count all those, dead and alive, who venerate your commemorative days and seek you as a refuge, among the Choir of Angels. The congregation rises to you, Oh Lord, on the day of your mother, genuine praise sung to sweet melodies. May you draw the sign of the Cross on their highly elevated gates and keep them away from distress. Glory be to you, your father and to the Holy Spirit.
The Virgin Mary in the Holy Scripture
Our study of the life of the Holy Virgin and for our elaboration of her Holy life, we have had to depend on the books of divine inspiration and on the extensive exegesis and hermeneutics of the Holy Book that our church fathers have left for us. According to the teachings of church fathers, dozens of prophecies declared by the divine inspiration are stated in the Old Testament which has been fulfilled in the Virgin Mary. She is the woman referred in God’s promise of salvation by saying: “Her seed shall bruise thy head” (Gen. 3:15). Her seed is Jesus Christ who was conceived of the Holy Spirit and not of the seed of a man. She is the new Eve and her son Jesus is the new Adam. In the same way God took a rib from Adam and created Eve, the first woman, the incarnated God, the second Adam, was in the renewal of creation, born of the virgin, who is the second Eve. She is the Virgin, Prophet Isaiah (8th century BC) referred to in his famous prophecy: “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name (Immanuel). (Is 7-14), ” which being interpreted is, (God with us) (Mat 1:23).