The Holy Virgin Mary in the Syrian Orthodox Church - Part V
His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
The Virgin Mary Visits her Cousin Elizabeth
The Virgin Mary heard the angel saying to her:
"Behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren."(Luke 1:36), and Mary is filled with joy for the Great News and feels so happy for her cousin- a sentiment which reveals great love. Mary leaves Nazareth and heads towards the hill country of Judah to visit Elizabeth, the wife of Zecharia. Elizabeth saluted her by a prophetic hymn in which she said:
"Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy
blessed is she that believed: For there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord", to which Mary replied by a more magnificent hymn with eternal prophetic words the church repeats every morning in her prayers in which she says:
"My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and Holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation (Luke 1: 42-50).
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months, and some say she stayed until Elizabeth gave birth to John. Some others argue that Mary left the house of Zecharia before Elizabeth's birth of her son, John, lest the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, might be thought to have served her cousin, the mother of John, who later said that he was not worthy to bear Lord Jesus `shoes.
How beautiful the terms used by the fathers in description of the meeting of the Virgin Mary with Elizabeth are!
The prayer said on Wednesday morning reads:
"Elizabeth, the mother of John, the Baptist and Mary, the mother of Jesus are two bastions that stand for barrenness and virginity, chosen by the king. The babe leaped in Elizabeth's womb. The new encountered the old who saluted his master saying, come in peace, for your peace shall prevail in the universe".
The prayer said on Friday evening reads:
"Mary and Elizabeth are two miraculous vessels heading towards the harbor. Elizabeth gave birth to the preacher and Mary gave birth to the savior of the world Hallelujah
their prayer invigorates us".
The prayer said on Saturday morning reads:
"Who has beheld two vines planted in the vineyard of the Lord and the whole universe enjoys the wine squeezed of their clusters? The two vines are symbols of Mary and Elizabeth and the two clusters are Jesus, the bridegroom, betrothed to the holy church and John is the best man
at the betrothal.
Joseph's Suspicions and Reassurance
When the Virgin Mary returned to Nazareth, her pregnancy was apparent, It was only Joseph, who was betrothed to her, who suspected her. Their betrothal was performed according to Jewish customs, which entitled the man, within the interval of one year of betrothal to a girl to be actually married even though she might still be living with her family, and before wedding festivities after which she takes residence in her husband's house. Accordingly, no one was suspicious of Mary except Joseph who wished to divorce her privily. Others, however, thought that Mary and Joseph consummated their union and Joseph was the father. So Mary was considered as betrothed to Joseph because marriage vows were taken but without marriage festivities; and she was also his wife having been espoused to him by a marriage contract. When the angel appeared to him confirming Mary's Chastity, the angel called her his wife saying:
"Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. (Matt. 1:20).
To be continued....