ST. MARY & THE CHURCH
The “Theotokia of Thursday” states:
“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 St. 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 St. Augustine, the holy womb of St. 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 St. 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, St. 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.
St. 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.
St. Mary, A Type of the Church:
The principal hymn recited daily at the Marian Month (of Keyahk) before the Feast of Christmas, consists of a lot of selected verses from the Book of Psalms, praising the Church as being the holy dwelling place of the Incarnate God. It is not without meaning that the Church is praised all the Marian month, for what St. Mary received it was on behalf of the whole Church.
St. Ephram the Syrian attributes to the Church what is St. Mary’s own, saying:
“Blessed are you, O Church.
For of you Isaiah in his prophetic song of joy says:
Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son.
O hidden mystery of the Church”!
The Alexandrian Pope, St. Cyril links St. Mary with the Church as he says:
“Let us praise with songs of joy Mary the ever-virgin,
who herself is clearly the holy Church,
together with the Son and most chaste Spouse !
To God be praised forever!”
St. Ambrose asserts that she is “a type of the Church”, and St. Augustine states that “Mary is a part of the Church, a holy member, an excellent member, the most eminent member, whilst still a member of the whole body”.
In fact, the whole dimension of St. Mary’s life can be seen as a beautiful icon of the Universal Church. Here are some examples:
- At the Annunciation, St. Mary’s joy and hymn singing were – according to St. Irenaeus – prophet actions which she practised in the name of the Church. St. Jacob of Sarug (446) offers the same idea in other words: “The wise Virgin was the mouth of the Church, and she heard the explanation for the creation of the whole world”.
- Mary’s visitation to her kinswoman Elizabeth is a symbol of the Church missionaries throughout the whole world. For the Church, like St. Mary, the Daughter of Zion, a poor Virgin, a handmaid of the Lord, full of grace and spiritually bearing the Word of God, must be consumed with the desire to communicate to her relatives, the human race, proclaiming God’s salvation. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace…. who says to Zion: Your God reigns”.
St. Ambrose refers to this missionary visitation, saying, that she sings the Magnificat, hastening through the hill-country of Judea, and is thus a symbol of the Church striding through the hills of centuries.
- ST. Mary’s identification with the Church – according to St. Ambrose – is completed under the Cross:
“You will be a son of thunder, if you are a son of the Church.
May Christ also say to you from the wood of the Cross: Behold your mother!
May He also say to the Church:
Behold Your Son; for then you will begin to be a son of the church, when you see Christ victorious on the Cross”.
The Analogy between St. Mary & The Church:
1. ST. Mary and the Church are both mother and virgin at the same time, each one conceived by the Holy Spirit without human seed, giving birth to the unblemished Son. St. Mary is the mother of the Divine Word, whom she generated according to His humanity, and the Church is the mother of her members, whom she generates through baptism to participate in Christ’s life.
In this effect, St. Augustine says: “As Mary gave birth to Him who is your Head, so the Church gives birth to you. For the Church also is both mother and virgin: mother in the womb of our love, virgin in her inviolate faith. She is mother of many nations who yet are one body, just as Virgin Mary is the mother of Many, but also of the One”.
St. Mary is literally and spiritually a virgin, while the Church can he called a virgin in that it has never adulterated the faith, but has always remained true to Christ’s teaching.
2. The Church has the same title as St. Mary, i.e. “New Eve”. For Mary gave birth to the “Incarnate Son” who bestows life on the believers, while the Church is the mother of those believers who receive “Life” through unity with their Head, the Incarnate God.
3. Similar to St. Mary, the Church is “the handmaid of the Lord”. For she should be as a humble handmaid, denying all the efforts, which result from man’s power, and thus becoming a sign of the pure grace of God, who seeks us out in the humility of our human condition in order to lead us to the glory of His Kingdom.
4. Both St. Mary and the Church are called “holy one”.
St. Hippolytus interprets the blessing offered by Moses:- “Through God’s blessing his land shall remain his own and be blessed with the dew of heaven” ( ) – as a prophecy of St. Mary’s holiness; for she is the blessed land who received the Word of God coming down like heavenly dew. He also states that this prophecy refers to the Church’s holiness, saying: “It can also said of the Church, for she is blessed by the Lord as a holy land and as a paradise of bliss. The dew is the Lord, the Saviour Himself.
5. The mediation of St. Mary is a typical church function. For – the triumphant and militant members of the Church – have to imitate St. Mary, praying unceasingly, for the renewal of the whole world in Jesus Christ.
Fr. TADROUS Y. MALATY
 Sermon 4, addressed at the Council of Ephesus. PG 77:996
 In Lucan 2:7 PL 15:1555
 Sermon 25 De Verbis Evangelli Mat. PL 46:938
 Ad. Haer 3:10:2, 3 PG 873f
 De Instit. Virginis 14:87
 Sermon 25 : 8
 Max Thurian P.59
 Blessings of Moses 15.