The Holy Virgin Mary in the Syrian Orthodox Church - Part II
His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
The Virgin Mary in the Prophecies of The Holy Scripture
Throughout our study of the biography of the Holy Virgin Mary and our elaboration on 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 these church fathers dozens of prophecies declared by the divine inspiration and stated in prophetic books in the Old Testament have been fulfilled in the Virgin Mary. Church fathers saw as well, in some characters of the Holy Book and in some events in it symbols and signs of the Virgin Mary. She is the woman referred to 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).
Church fathers tackled these prophecies, symbols and signs in their writings and some of these symbols and signs were included in prayer books. You find hereinafter part of what has been put down in the weekly (office) prayer book (Shhimo).
The prayer of the first office, said on Wednesday night, reads:
"Sadducees of old gave Mary, the daughter of David, the Holy virgin, beautiful and glorious names. Ezekiel, the son of exile, called her a shut gate and Solomon called her a locked paradise and a sealed spring. David called her a city in which Jesus grew to be the grass without sowing and to be the meat for all the people. On his birthday Jesus freed us from curse".
The prayer said on Tuesday morning reads:
"The bush that Moses beheld on Mount Sinai, symbolizes you, oh, Holy Virgin. It represents your holy body, its leaves, which did not burn stand for your virginity Hallelujah, Hallelujah; and the fire in the bush is a symbol of God who dwelled in you".
The prayer said on Wednesday evening reads:
"The chariot, the chosen Prophet Ezekiel beheld, is way behind your beauty, for the animals, tied to it, while the cherubs are blessing, and the images of the four figures, that is the lion, the ox, the eagle and man, are different from one another. Whereas your knees, oh blessed Mother, have become a chariot for him, and your arms a wheel and your mouth, in glorification, hymns".
The prayer said on Saturday evening reads:
"Moses' bush, your father David's Ark of the Covenant, Gideon's fleece, the ladder of Jacob, the Sadducee, by means of which the human race ascended to heaven were all symbols of you Mary".
A litany by Mar Jacob in the prayer said on Wednesday morning reads:
"May you be blessed oh, Mary; for the Ark of the Covenant, made by Moses as a pattern, is an implicit symbol of you, for it included the two tables written by God and you were the dwelling of the real bread of life".
The prayer said on Saturday morning reads:
"The rock out of which the rivers in the wilderness sprang is a symbol of you oh, Holy Virgin Mary. From you the Son of God, who is the rock of righteousness, according to St. Paul, shone forth. It's you, Oh Virgin, who are full of beauty that king David predicted saying: the daughter of the king stood (to the right of the king) in glory and holiness and the king was so enchanted by her beauty that he descended and dwelled in her womb".
Some fathers discerned other symbols that stood for the Virgin such as the thicket found on Mount Moria, under which, there was a ram which delivered Isaac from being slain and Aaron's rod that bloomed and yielded almonds.
The Genealogy of The Virgin Mary
The Holy Virgin Mary descended from the tribe of Judah. She is of the house of David and a relative of Elizabeth, the mother of John, the Baptist. In the Holy Gospel Elizabeth is called "the virgin's cousin (L.1: 36). It is reported that Elizabeth is her aunt. Salome, the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John is a relative of the Virgin Mary as well (Mathew 27:56, 19:25). It is in the Holy Gospel that we read about the genealogy of Jesus Christ on the side of Joseph, who was betrothed to Mary (Mat. 1:16, Luke 3:23, Act 2:20, Rom 1:3). The Virgin and Joseph belong to one tribe. The Virgin Mary is the descendant of priests, kings and prophets. She is the daughter of David. For this reason the angel said unto her upon Annunciation of the divine conception: "Thou shalt conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son
. He shall be great, and shall be called the son of the Highest
and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever". (Luke 1-31-32).
Joachim and Hanna, The Virgin Mary's Barren Parents
Ecclesiastic tradition, based on the teachings of the Apostles reports that the parents of the Virgin Mary are Joachim and Hanna, and that the father of Hanna is priest Mattan of the house of Levi and of the house of Aaron and the mother of Hanna is Mary of the house of Judah. Joachim and Hanna used to live in a village near Nazareth in Galilee and they were well to do. They used to donate their profits to the temple and to the poor and use the rest for their livelihood. They were barren and righteous before God, abiding by God's laws. The Jews, however, considered bareness, as a curse inflicted by God and a reproach before people. Each Jewish girl, therefore, was so eager to give birth to Jesus, the Messiah, and kept praying for achieving that. Accordingly Joachim and Hanna kept praying and beseeching God to remove this reproach from their house. They became so old without having their request answered. It is reported that Joachim once came to the Lord's temple to present an offering but the priest refused the offering because it came from a barren person.
So Joachim returned home grieved, disheartened and humiliated. He sobbed so bitterly with his wife Hanna before God that God answered their request and a daughter was born to them, they called her Mary.
Mary is a Syriac compound name consisting of two syllables (More) and (Yam) which means the sea of bitterness. Some say the meaning of "Mary" is the star of the sea and it also denotes light.
To be continued....