Dear and Respected Brethren,
Let us meditate on St. Mary Mother of God and the blessed and meaningful 15 days fasting (Lent)For each and every faithful, the presence of St. Mary, other of God, amongst us is a great blessing and an excellent source of intercession. St.Mary is the virgin lady who humbled herself for the cent percent disposal of God Almighty in her very young age itself and hence she could become a part and parcel of the great salvation scheme of God. That is why we do venerate St. Mary as first among all the saints. The fact that she gave birth to Lord Jesus is less important than her co-operation with God�s master plan of salvation of the entire mankind as well as the entire universe. The Holy Scripture give us a clear account of so many noble ladies from the time of Eve till the incarnation of our Lord, who had expected that God would incarnate from the womb of any one of those ladies of Israel. St. Mary was selected by God Almighty to execute His master plan. So St. Mary has a very highly exalted position in the presence of God Almighty. When we would look into the biography of St. Mary, we could say that there wouldn�t be anybody else in this world who has suffered tortures so much physically and mentally like St. Mary. When she was a young girl itself she bore our Lord in her womb and gave birth. When it was revealed that she was carrying, how much persecutions and tortures of different modes had pained the blessed mother. She did not get a house to give birth to her son and finally she had to take refuge in a manger. How many times she had to meet people who faced her with bad names and accusations. Just try to imagine the innocent mind of a teenaged girl. But she suffered everything patiently with great will power granted by God Almighty. So the Church Fathers honour her with the salutation �Oh mother of God who had been attacked by the swords of tortures and sufferings�. Only at the occasion of the marriage at Kana, we find recognition for the mother of our Lord Jesus. She was also invited with Lord Jesus and his Apostles. This is the first occasion where St. Mary�s intercession to her son is noticed. We know what had happened there later. St. Mary told the servants of the house to do what her son would ask them to do. From this incident we have to learn a big lesson that we have to invite St. Mary, other saints, and the entire heavenly group with God Almighty, to our midst always. St. Mary noticed the shortage in the house of the marriage at Kana and brought the matter before her son, who could solve the problems of any kind. Likewise she does the intercession for our shortcomings always if we provide proper place for her in our lives.
The official teaching of the Holy Church about St. Mary is as follows.
1)The word of God by the annunciation of Angel Gabriel took the body in the womb of St. Mary. (St. Luke 1:35)
2)The two natures, Godly and human were united together firm, as one and it could not be separated. (Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 2:9, Titus 2:13, Titus 3:16)
3)As she gave birth to Emmanuel, who is full man and full God, she is to be called �mother of God� (Isaiah 7:14)
4)The blessed virgin offered her womb as the throne of Son of God, and she remained forever as virgin. ( St. John 19:26-27., Ezekiel 44: 1-3)
5)As per the word of the Angel, we must venerate the holy mother and must seek her intercession. (St. Luke 1:28, 1: 48)
In our morning prayers we pray �Holy virgin, mother of God, please beseech for us to have peace among us and mercy upon us. Let the wars come to an end, and let our Rulers stay in peace, and let our Church be glorified. And allow the members of our Holy Church to celebrate feasts by having unseen great powers, by your earnest appeals to God Almighty.� We find Lord Jesus entrusting His own mother to the H. Church when he was on the cross facing the death. He entrusted St. Mary with St. John, the youngest Apostle whom he loved more, and said �behold thy mother� (St. John 19:27) St. John accepted the mother of God as per his master�s instruction and the tradition says that St. Mary spent rest of her time on earth under the care and protection of St. John. The Church Fathers are of the opinion that St. John had acted for and on behalf of the Holy Church. When St. Mary was about to join her heavenly abode, Lord Jesus appeared there with the angels, Archangels, saints as well as the heavenly group and they all together took St. Mary to heaven. At the time of Ascension of St. Mary all the Apostles who were scattered all over the world were brought together to her. St. Thomas who was much far away had traveled in the air and in the mid air he met the divine procession of the Ascension of St. Mary. It is believed that St. Thomas was presented with a small portion of the towel of the mother, as a visible symbol of his meeting with the divine royal procession.
In our H. Church due reverence and honour is granted to St. Mary in our worships and prayers. In the Sacrament of Holy Qurbana, the crown of all sacraments, we remember and honour the presence of St Mary all along the divine service. In addition to the prayers and intercessions, we use certain utensils as the symbolic presence of St. Mary. One among them is the Table of Gospel .(Evengelion Table) As St. Mary bore the word of God in her womb and gave birth to Lord Jesus, the table of Gospel carries the word of God. So the table of Gospel stands for St. Mary and the place for the table is very close to the altar. (In some churches at least, it is kept else where without proper care and attention. This is a wrong procedure. It is to be rectified. And nothing other than the book of Gospel and the candle stands should be kept on it) The second one is the Sosafa, which covers the holy mysteries, which in due course is transformed as the flesh and blood of our Lord. Until the elevation and celebration of the Sosafa, it covers the platen and chalice from the final act of the Thooyobo. When the Sosafa is celebrated, it is kept near the chalice and platen. Before the hymn �Anpudayone nin vaathil� or the Hearken the Deacon who takes the censor takes the permission from all the present in the sanctury in the order of their ranks/seniority and then takes the permission from the congregation by holding his open hands towards them, in the meaning of requesting their prayer. At this time he is representing St. John the Apostle who accepted Lord�s mother as per Lord�s command from the cross. �Behold thy mother�. Lord entrusted his mother to the Church as Church�s mother. Then the Deacon washes his hands and goes back to the altar and folds the sosafa. Then he keeps it close to the platen and chalice, to show our mother�s eternal presence with God and among the heavenly group.
The Holy Church teaches that St. Mary was also born as an ordinary human being and when the H. Spirit anointed her, she became holy. So the date of birth of St. Mary is not at all significant and important than the date of Ascension. 8 days lent was introduced in the H. Church in the late 15th century due to the arrival of Catholicism into India. Whereas 15 days lent is a step to attain purity and holiness to worship God in the real sense and to seek the unending intercession of St. Mary by attending her Ascension. St. Paul strictly taught to look for the end of the saints. (Refer I Corinthians) That is why the H. Church does not canonize 8 days lent. 15 days lent is a canonized lent along with the other 4 Lents, 3 days, 13 days, 25 days and 50 days. There is nothing wrong in honoring St. Mary at any time by observing Lents/fasting, but it should not be under any cause ignoring and disregarding the canonized lent of l5 days to venerate St. Mary..
May the intercession of St. Mary be fort of protection for one and all.
Jose Kurian Puliyeril
St. George Orthodox Church