Queen of flowers
Flowers, especially the red and the white roses have long been associated with spirituality. A red rose signifies love, devotion and commitment. The white one is symbol of innocence, purity and virginity. These are flowers which blossom in the world of flowers just as Saint Mary, our Holy Mother have come to this world for the salvation of us. She is the mother of God and thus a queen of all the saints, righteous, martyrs and even is greater than the angels. So Lady virgin Mary is the Queen of spiritual flowers; and therefore, is called the Rose, for the rose is known to be beautiful amongst all flowers. Moreover, she is the Mystical or Hidden Rose.
Father Tadros Y.Malaty of Egypt, in his book “Saint Mary in the Orthodox Concept” explains about her uniqueness. He categorized it into eight notions which are:-
1. Saint Mary’s Virginity (Perpetual Virginity)
2. Theotokos or The Mother of God
3. Our New Eve
4. Full of Grace
5. Our Mediatrix
6. Saint Mary, the model of Virgins
7. Saint Mary and the Church
8. Saint Mary in the Coptic Rite
We will see the seven ones in relation to the doctrine of our Holy Orthodox Ethiopian Church.
Saint Mary’s Virginity (Perpetual Virginity)
The Virginal Birth which happened once, never to be repeated, is a proof of our faith in Jesus Christ, that He is not of this world, but from on high, the Son of God. This is what angel Gabriel proclaimed to Saint Mary herself when she asked him: “How can this come about, since I do not know man?!”, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you ” , the angel answered, “and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, and so the Child will be called Son of God” ( Luke 1: 34, 35). Subsequently, this Virginal Birth formed a principal element in all the creeds of the Early Church, not because it says something about Saint Mary, but rather because it reveals the Person and Nature of Jesus Christ.
God comes to us, born of a virgin and conceived not of human seed. He unites Himself with us (humanity), not because of our human efforts or merits, but rather as a divine grace bestowed on us. It is the free gift of love which only comes from God.
In other words, Saint Mary’s virginity is, therefore, a sign of man’s poverty and his inability to work out his own salvation; to bring into being One who can save him.
Saint Mary’s virginity does not mean that we have to be passive in our spiritual life. For God did not force Himself in Saint Mary’s womb, nor did she conceived Him unwillingly, but played an active role. God asked her to accept! The Divine Incarnation was realized by the free grace of God, but she herself humbly accepted obedience.
Jesus Christ was born of the “Virgin”, the archetype of the New Church, to declare the heavenly nature of the Kingdom which made its appearance with Christ, for virginity is the law of the heavens, while marriage occurs only in the present world.
In the Old Testament a virgin, without hope of marriage and motherhood, was in the same position as the childless woman, a sad state and a sign of God’s wrath.
In the New Testament, the Virgin, for the first and last time, gave birth to the Messiah, i.e., her virginity is no longer a matter of shame since it has become fruitful by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Virginity became a sign of the intimacy between God and man. For this reason, Saint Paul calls the Church “Christ’s Virgin”. In the book of Revelation, the unnumbered crowd of God’s elect are represented by 144,000 virgins who “follow the Lamb Whithersoever He goes” (14: 4, 5).
On this account, virginity is correlated with sanctity, but not in the way that every virgin is considered as a holy one, and every holy person must be a virgin, lest we devalue the Christian marriage which is holy. What we mean is that the literal virginity is merely a sign of the spiritual one. Virginity – in its essence – is the total consecration to God and permanent union with Him in Jesus Christ. It is a virginity of soul, heart, mind, senses and desires, which Christians can receive by the Holy Spirit who sanctifies our bodies, souls and spirits, preparing us for the eternal wedding feast.
Theotokos or The Mother of God
The Holy Scripture witnesses to Saint Mary’s motherhood of the Son of God, for it calls her Son “God” (John 20:28). At the annunciation, angel Gabriel speaks of the Child St. Mary is to conceive as “the Son of the Most High”, “the Holy One” and the “Son of God”.
When Saint Mary entered the house of her kinswoman Saint Elizabeth and greeted her, the babe maturing within her womb leaped for joy (Luke 1:41, 44) and she was filled with the Holy Spirit who led her to understand the mystery of the Divine Incarnation. The old woman, Saint Elizabeth, wife of a priest and pregnant with a great prophet, belittled herself before the poor young orphan girl, as she discovered Saint Mary her Lord’s mother. She said: “How did this happen to me, that my Lord’s mother should visit me?!” (Luke 1:43).
While the whole world knew nothing about the annunciation to Saint Mary, Saint Elizabeth declared Saint Mary’s motherhood of her Lord in the absence of any external sign of this divine event. The wonder is, that all these marvelous things happened just as Saint Elizabeth listened to Saint Mary’s greeting, for the Son of God who was dwelling in her holy womb, spoke through her mouth and acted through her life.
Our New Eve
The Church Calls Saint Mary, “the mother of all the living”, “mother of the New Life” and “the Second Eve.” Eve lost the meaning due to her name: – “mother of every living” (Genesis 3:20), – for by her disobedience to God she obtained only death for her children instead of life, and became the mother of the dead. Her daughter, Saint Mary, took her place; for by her faith, obedience and humility she became, through the Holy Spirit, the mother of “Life”. She offered to Adam’s children the “Tree of life” to eat, and thereby live forever. Through the mystery of the divine Incarnation Saint Mary became “the mother of the Head of the mystical body and also the Mother of its members.
We received Saint Mary as our New Eve, to say with Adam to our God: “New Eve, the woman whom you gave me to be my helpmate, gave me to eat from the Tree of Life, i.e., the Cross of her Son!”
Full of Grace
On the Annunciation the angel Gabriel greeted Saint Mary with the words: “Hail full of grace, the Lord is within you, blessed are you among women”. It was not an ordinary greeting, i.e., “Good Day”, nor did it mean “peace” or “shalom”, but had the full meaning of “rejoice.”
In the Old Testament, some prophets addressed the same greeting to the “Daughter of Zion”, asking her to rejoice greatly and shout aloud, proclaiming the Messianic deliverance. “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion!….. Rejoice, exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!….. The Lord your God is in your midst.” (Zephaniah 3:14.17)
Now, the angel invites the true daughter of Zion, St. Mary, to inner., heartfelt joy, because of the dwelling of the Messiah, Savior Lord Jesus.
We give importance to the principle of intercession in general, then how much more effective would be the prayers of the Mother of God for the salvation of Her children and brethren!!
We have seen Her receive the motherhood of the Incarnate Son of God and become Mother of His flesh, i.e. His Church. This motherhood is not merely an honourable title but a responsibility for unceasing work. That is what Simean The Elder has prophesized about the Virgin saying “and a sword will pierce your own soul too”. (Luke 2:35)
The motherhood of Virgin Mary, which was started initially upon the free grace of God, who chose Her among all mankind, was verified by Her faith in the word and promises of God…. That has made Her a superior member of the body of Christ who responds to the need of the other members, seeking the salvation of everybody.
Saint Mary, the model of Virgins
It was natural that Saint Mary should be presented to those girls as the great example after which to form themselves. She was depicted by the virgins as the “Virgin of virgins” and their patroness.
In the second century, the Great Origen says, “It would be unseemly to have to attribute to someone other than the virgin the first-fruits of Christian virginity”. (Origen: In Mat. Com. 10:17 PG 13:878)
Saint Alexander of Alexandria, in an address reproduced by his successor Saint Athanasius, tells the virgins: “You have, as an example, the conduct of Mary, who is the type and image of the life that is proper to heaven (i.e. virginity)”.
Saint Athanasius in his “letter to virgins” preserved in Coptic, represents Saint Mary as the model of virgins, describing her life not as it appears in the Holy Bible, but as the model of a virgin’s life.
Saint Mary and the Church
“She offered God the Creator, the Word of the Father, the paste of the human race. He was incarnated of her, without alteration. She brought Him forth as a Child, and He was called Emmanuel”.
At the moment of the Annunciation Saint Mary used her own free will to submit, and through her, God realized His divine plan of unity with us, giving Himself to be one with us. According to the words of Saint Augustine, the holy womb of Saint Mary became the bridal chamber of an exalted marriage between the Word and the Flesh. There He united the Church, His body, to Himself, and thus the Church realized her mystical existence to the full.
Now we can understand the words spoken by Saint Ephram the Syrian: “Mary was the mother earth that brought forth the Church.” Moreover, as a result of this hypostatic union between the Word’s divinity and humanity, Saint Mary received another kind of spiritual unity between God and herself; a union of the redeemed person with the Redeemer, which all the Church is summoned to receive.
Saint Mary received this grace of unity with God, as a representative, in a way, of the Universal Church; and as the first member of the church, she is its ideal and superior member. For this reason, she received the highest grace.
May her intercession be with us, Amen!