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10 great passages which give us beautiful unknown glimpses into St Mary’s life

1) Her childhood

On this third day of the Fast of the Virgin we read in the Proto-Evangelium of St James, a very early Christian writing… And when the child was three years old, and Joachim said: Invite the daughters of the Hebrews that are undefiled, and let them take each a lamp, and let them stand with the lamps burning, that the child may not turn back, and her heart be captivated by the temple of the Lord. And they did so until they went up into the temple of the Lord. And the priest received her, and kissed her, and blessed her, saying: The Lord has magnified your name in all generations. In you, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel. And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her.

 

St Mary (18).jpg

 

2) Some of her virtues and physical attributes by Nicephorus Callistus

According to Tradition, that from the compiler of Church history Nicephorus Callistus (fourteenth century), the Mother of God “was of average stature, or as others suggest, slightly more than average; Her hair golden in appearance; Her eyes bright with pupils like shiny olives; Her eyebrows strong in character and moderately dark, Her nose pronounced and Her mouth vibrant bespeaking sweet speech; Her face was neither round nor angular, but somewhat oblong; the palm of Her hands and fingers were longish…

In conversation with others She preserved decorum, neither becoming silly nor agitated, and indeed especially never angry; without artifice, and direct, She was not overly concerned about Herself, and far from pampering Herself, She was distinctly full of humility. Regarding the clothing which She wore, She was satisfied to have natural colors, which even now is evidenced by Her holy head-covering. Suffice it to say, a special grace attended all Her actions.”

 

3) Some of her virtues by St Ambrose of Milan

“She was a Virgin not only in body, but also in soul, humble of heart, circumspect in word, wise in mind, not overly given to speaking, a lover of reading and of work, and prudent in speech. Her rule of life was to offend no one, to intend good for everyone, to respect the aged, not envy others, avoid bragging, be healthy of mind, and to love virtue.”

When did she ever hurl the least insult in the face of Her parents? When was she at discord with Her kin? When did she ever puff up with pride before a modest person, or laugh at the weak, or shun the destitute? With Her there was nothing of glaring eyes, nothing of unseemly words, nor of improper conduct. She was modest in the movement of Her body, Her step was quiet, and Her voice straightforward; so that Her face was an expression of soul. She was the personification of purity.

 

4) Some of her virtues by St Ambrose of Milan

All Her days she was concerned with fasting, day and night she spent her time in prayer.  She slept only when necessary, and even then, when Her body was at rest, she was still alert in spirit, repeating in Her dreams what she had read, or the implementation of proposed intentions, or those planned yet anew. She was out of Her house only for church, and then only in the company of relatives. Otherwise, she seldom appeared outside Her house in the company of others, and She was Her own best overseer. Others could protect Her only in body, but she Herself guarded Her character.

 

5) Some of her virtues by St Athanasius the Great

Mary was a pure virgin, with a harmonious disposition. She loved good works…She did not want to be seen by men; but she asked God to examine her…  She remained continually at home, living a retired life and imitating a honey-bee…  She generously distributed to the poor what was left over from the work of her hands….  She prayed solitarily to God, for two things: not to let a bad thought take root in her heart, and to grow neither bold nor hard of heart…..  Her speech was calm and her voice was low…She wanted to make progress everyday; and she did so.  When she rose in the morning, she endeavoured to make her works more new than those she had already done….  She was not afraid of death, but rather was sad, and sighted everyday that she had not yet crossed the threshold of heaven.

 

6) Her apparition to a saint in the first century

I witness by God, that besides the very God Himself, there is nothing else filled with such divine power and grace. No one can fully comprehend what I saw. I confess before God: when I was with John, who shone among the Apostles like the sun in the sky, when I was brought before the countenance of the Most Holy Virgin, I experienced an inexpressible sensation. Before me gleamed a sort of divine radiance which transfixed my spirit. I perceived the fragrance of indescribable aromas and was filled with such delight that my very body became faint, and my spirit could hardly endure these signs and marks of eternal majesty and heavenly power. The grace from her overwhelmed my heart and shook my very spirit. If I did not have in mind your instruction, I should have mistaken Her for the very God. It is impossible to stand before greater blessedness than this which I beheld.

 

7) What St John of Kronstadt said about her on the feast of the Dormition

Let us be happy, beloved brothers and sisters that we belong to the Holy Orthodox Church, worthily and rightly glorifying the Most Holy Sovereign Theotokos on this eminent day out of all the days of the year with special solemnity. There exists on earth many societies and entire governments that do not consider the need nor the obligation to call upon and glorify the Queen of heaven and earth, the Mother of Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ, and other saints and angels; to submissively serve Her lovingly, as the true Mother of God. Sadly in Russia nowadays we have heretics (among us) who actively dishonor the Mother of God, the saints, their icons, their relics and their festivals. O, if only they also unanimously with us glorified the worthy Queen of heaven and earth!

 

8) What Elder Thaddeus said about her on the feast of her Dormition

The Most Holy Mother of God prays for us ceaselessly. She is always visiting us. Whenever we turn to her in our heart, she is there. After the Lord, she is the greatest protection for mankind. How many churches there are in the world that are dedicated to the Most Holy Mother of God! How many healing springs where people are cured of their ailments have sprung up in places where the Most Holy Theotokos appeared and blessed those springs to heal both the sick and the healthy! She is constantly, by our side, and all too often we forget her.”

 

9) What St Gregory Palamas said

For it is an everlasting ordinance in the heavens that the inferior partake of what lies beyond being, by the mediation of the superior, and the Virgin Mother is incomparably superior to all. It is through her that as many as partake of God do partake, and as many as know God understand her to be the enclosure of the Uncontainable One, and as many as hymn God praise her together with Him. She is the cause of what came before her, the champion of what came after her and the agent of things eternal. She is the substance of the prophets, the principle of the apostles, the firm foundation of the martyrs and the premise of the teachers of the Church . She is the glory of those upon earth, the joy of celestial beings, the adornment of all creation. She is the beginning and the source and root of unutterable good things; she is the summit and consummation of everything holy.

 

10) What St John of Kronstadt said

Know and remember, that the matter of your salvation is always near to the heart of Our Lady, the Mother of God, for it was for this that the Son of God, by the favor of the Father, and the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, chose Her out of all generations and was incarnate of Her in order to save the human race from sin, the curse and the eternal death, or everlasting torments. As the matter of our salvation is near to the Savior, so likewise it is near to Her. Turn to Her with full faith, trust, and love.

 

References

  1. Protoevangelium of St James the Apostle. Ref: The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers Down to A. D. 325.
  2. 3rd party ref: https://oca.org/saints/lives/2014/08/15/102302-the-dormition-of-our-most-holy-lady-the-mother-of-god-and-ever-v
  3. “On virgins” by St Ambrose of Milan. 3rd party Ref: https://oca.org/saints/lives/2014/08/15/102302-the-dormition-of-our-most-holy-lady-the-mother-of-god-and-ever-v 
  4. Same as 3.
  5. “Letter to virgins” p 89 – 91 by St Athanasius the Great. 3rd party ref: http://saint-mary.net/coptic_faith/SaintMaryintheOrthodoxConcept.pdf
  6. Letter to Apostle Paul by Dionysius the Areopagite. Ref: https://oca.org/saints/lives/2013/10/03/102843-hieromartyr-dionysius-the-areopagite-the-bishop-of-athens
  7. Sermon on the Dormition of the Theotokos by St John of Kronstadt. Ref: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/55710.htm
  8. Homily on the Dormition of the Theotokos by Elder Thaddeus. Ref: Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: the Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

  9. A homily on the dormition of our supremely pure lady theotokos and ever-virgin mary by St Gregory Palamas. Ref: https://orthochristian.com/38894.html
  10. My life in Christ by St John of Kronstadt. Ref: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/kronstadt/christlife.ii.html

 

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