The Holy Virgin Mary in the Syrian Orthodox Church - Part III
- The Holy Virgin Mary in the Syrian Orthodox Church - Part III
His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
Conception and Birth of Mary
It is noteworthy to mention that the conception of Mary took place according to the natural law for she was of a man (Joachim) and a woman (Hanna).
Mary is the daughter of two barren persons just like Isaac, Samuel and John, the Baptist. She inherited, just like them, and like other people, the original sin of Adam and Eve, which is the sin of all humanity starting with Adam who represented his race when he committed sin so his descendents were charged with sin, which could not be obliterated from falling humanity except by the incarnation of the second hypothesis of the Holy Trinity. That's why the Apostle Paul says:
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom.5: 12), and David said:
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5.). Of all those who put on flesh, it was only Jesus Christ who was excepted from the legacy of this sin. "Who took everything we have except sin" and who became the propitiator for the sins of the whole world.
"Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God". (R.3: 23,24). "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world", so by one man it was obliterated (Rom.5: 12:15). Just like all other people, the Virgin Mary, who was, most probably, born in Nazareth, was not without sin.
The Virgin in the Temple
When the Virgin Mary was three years old her parents fulfilled their vows and presented her to the temple. During her stay in the temple her parents died knowing nothing of the future of their daughter. Church fathers have a different version stated in church liturgy. The payer read from the book of daily offices (Shehimo) on Friday morning reads:
" Mary became an orphan, for her parents passed away. She was left for the priests to take care of her. They took her to Jerusalem according to the command of Moses to be brought up there. The Lord of Prophets descended from high. He blessed and sanctified her. Hallelujah. May the prayer to her be a fence and protection to us".
According to both versions we notice that the Virgin Mary was brought up in the temple from childhood and was consecrated to God. She worshiped God, Almighty serving in His temple with other elderly women worshipers such as Hanna the prophetess, daughter of Phenol, who served God night and day (L. 2:37). The Virgin Mary studied the books of Divine inspiration and kept the law.
It has to be understood that the Virgin Mary did not take a vow of lifetime virginity because it was not the custom of the Jews to take such vows and because every Jewish girl was eager that she might give birth to Messiah. Every Jewish girl looked forward to her wedding day. This is manifested when the daughter of Jephtah knew about the vow taken by her father that "Whoever comes forth of the door of his house to meet him when he returns in victory he will offer it up for a burnt offering". She was the first to come forth and receive him, and her father had to keep his vow in her. Although taking vows was considered against the law (Deut.12: 31), "she said unto her father, let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows" (Judg. 11:37).
Monasticism was known among pagans. It was introduced to Judaism as well, and was practiced by the Essens. This was, however, a violation of Jewish religious traditions and of the teachings of the Pentateuch which considers marriage a necessity in fulfillment of the Command of God, Almighty.
"Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). Some prophets kept celibacy such as Elijah, John, the Baptist and others. This was, however, in fulfillment of a divine end. These celibates were considered as weird and never can weirdness be the norm.
The Virgin Mary's Betrothal to Joseph, the Righteous
Being an orphan, who lost both parents, Mary was taken care of, at the age of fourteen, by the priests who acted as her parents. According to customs prevailing at the time, her closest kinsmen were summoned and the decision was taken by lot that Joseph, the Righteous, was to be considered the Virgin Mary's spouse. Some suggest that Joseph was a widower and had children of his dead wife who were later called the Lord's brethren. Some others suggest that he was a celibate. Joseph was no doubt a simple carpenter in Nazareth, stricken by abject poverty.
To be continued....