What Do the Holy Scriptures Say about Our Lady?
1. She is the Bearer of God
“I will not go into the tabernacle of my house; I will not go up to the couch of my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, nor slumber to mine eyelids, nor rest to my temples, until I find a place for the Lord, a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.” (Psalm 132:3-5). David did not forget “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” when he spoke this for he was a man after God’s own heart. (Isaiah 66:1). However, who was referred to as a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob is our Lady since the Son of God has lived in Her womb for nine months and five days. This is the reason the Prophet Isaiah said, “… and they shall call you The City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 60:14). “This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have chosen it.” (Psalm 132:14).
“… and such a man was born in her …” (Psalm 87:5). The God who made Her womb a place to live in became Man. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6). The Child that was born is a mighty God hence His Mother is referred to as the Mother of God. “… therefore, also, that Holy One to be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35). “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43). Saint Ephraim the Syrian said to Her, “You are more honorable than the Cherubim” because She conceived the One whose throne the Cherubim carry in reverence, carried Him on Her back, and breastfed Him.
2. She Is an Ever Virgin
Our Lady, Holy Virgin Mary is a virgin both in thoughts and deeds. “Then he brought me back by the way of the outer gate of the sanctuary that looks eastward; and it was shut. And the Lord said to me, This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no one shall pass through it; for the Lord God of Israel has entered by it, and it shall be shut.” (Ezekiel 44:1-2). The one referred to as eastward is our Lady and the door pertains to Her virginity. The Lord God of Israel who entered through the shut door (a virgin) is the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ. “My sister, my spouse is a garden enclosed; a spring enclosed, a fountain sealed.” (Song of Songs 4:12). He [King Solomon] calls Her a garden enclosed to indicate that saints and the righteous would enter the open garden and live in it but only God can enter the enclosed garden (be conceived by a virgin). He calls her an enclosed spring to emphasize that although shut/enclosed (a virgin) She gave birth to the Water of Life, our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. She Deserves Prostration
“Also the sons of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet” (Isaiah 60:14). “And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41). The baby that was in the womb of our Lady’s aunt made a prostration of great respect to our Lady while he made a prostration of worship to our Lord who was in Her womb. “Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers; they shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth, and lick up the dust of your feet.” (Isaiah 43:29).
4. She Is Our Intercessor
“… the rich of the people of the land shall supplicate thy favor.” (Psalm 45:12). By “supplicate,” it is meant that they implore, “because You have found grace before Him, please beg our God and Your God for mercy.” “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30). We understand that standing before Him and interceding is one of the graces that God gave to our Lady. The Angel Gabriel who was sent from God spoke this.
“They have no wine.” (John 2:3). To argue that She does not intercede using the verse a bit below this, “What have I to do with thee?” as a basis is not appropriate. If our Lord said that to mean “You do not intercede,” He would not have fulfilled what she asked Him to do. They understood each other well as it is the language of a Mother and a Child. His statement means, “what conflict do I have with You to stop me from doing what You have asked me to do?” He uses an expression used by the Israelites for He is born into their kin.
For instance, it was an evil spirit that spoke the words, “What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the Most High God?” yet he is not trying to insult by saying “What have I to do with You.” Satan never insults God like that. The meaning of what he said is, “I will go wherever You want me to go but please do not torment me.” (Mark 5:7). “And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God?” (1 Kings 17:18). She was not insulting him by saying this but rather meaning to say “what conflict do I have with you?” She would not insult him while wanting him to bring her son back to life. Therefore, what we realize from these statements is that the expression is an affirmative speech the Israelites used; and, our Lord did not say anything different than this to our Lady.
5. Our Lady’s Veneration
She is under the Creator but above all creations. “For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish” (Isaiah 60:12). “… thou shalt make them princes over all the earth.” (Psalm 45:16). What we comprehend from these verses is that one who does not venerate/honor our Lady, does not believe in Her intercession, and does not prostrate for her out of respect will lose the privilege of being part of God’s kingdom.
6. About Those Who Upbraid Her
“… I will contend with him that contendeth with thee …” (Isaiah 49:25). Those who do not honor our Lady do not contend with Her but with the Mighty of all mighty, God, instead.
7. She Is Worthy of Praise
“And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” (Luke 1:28). “... and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!’” (Luke 1:41-42). Only one who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit like Elizabeth can praise our Lady. “… henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:48).
8. She Is Our Mother
“A man shall say, Sion [Zion] is my mother” (Psalm 87:5). Anyone who believes that She is his Mother professes mankind’s pleasure in having found a Mother it can call “our Mother” after the grave mistake that Eve—used to be known as mother of all the living—made. The reference to Her as a Mother is different from that of other mothers for She was the means through whom Jesus Christ—bread to those hungry and water to those thirsty of righteousness—was given to us.
As a mother would go up and down to provide food for her child, our Lady was not separated from the foot of the Cross until Adam’s hope was fulfilled; and She will remained faithful forever; and we should also confirm that She is our Mother until our last breath.
Instead of being thought of as reasons for mistake because of our mother Eve, mothers are now thought of as reasons for salvation because of our Lady. The first Eve brought us death whereas the second Eve, our Lady, bore and gave us Life. We were expelled from paradise because of Eve, but we returned to paradise because of Virgin Mary. Angels forced us out of paradise and closed its gates since mankind transgressed due to Eve’s mistake; however, when our Lady gave birth to our Lord, they came to us and sang with us.
It is for these reasons that we do not see our Lady separately from our Lord’s work of salvation, as she was with Him from Bethlehem to Calvary.
Our Lady is our Mother by grace. Grace is not something that people earn by going up and down or as one would make profit from his trade; it is a blessing that God knows that we need and gives us for free. Being children of the Trinity is grace. We did not earn it but it was given to us. Heaven is grace; we did not open it but He opens and gives it to us. Being created as humans is grace; we did not work hard for it but was given to us. His flesh and blood is grace; we did not die for it. He gave it to us knowing that we need it and that we would have no life without it. Likewise, our Lady is our Mother given to us by grace. He gave Her to us through John by saying, “Behold your mother!” (John 19:26).
Our Holy Church calls out the name of our Lady, observes Her feasts, and venerates Her based on this understanding. May the intercession of our Lady, Holy Virgin Mary, be with us always.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Sunday Schools Department
Mahibere Kidusan USA Center
Education and Apostolate Service Section
2004 (Ethiopian Calendar)