Patristic Homily on Mother Of God

Homily by St. Severus of Antioch– (Patriarch of Antioch from 512 – 518)

mothermarysyriacPreached in memory of the holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary.

It is fitting and just that we should offer praise composed of words to all the saints: and let us honour them with laudatory sermons and with festivals as those who have truly served their Lord and have contributed faithfully towards the dispensation of our redemption. And let us on the one hand praise the prophets as those who by their own excellence appeared sufficient to preach in advance the great mystery of piety (1 Tim 3:16); and on the other hand, let us praise the apostles as those who proclaimed this (mystery); then the martyrs as those who affirmed the prophecies of the former and the proclamation of the latter with their own blood—hence they also have received this title because of their affirmation, for it is the custom to call witnesses ‘martyrs’, those who by their voice give credibility to things which are not demonstrable or which otherwise are in some way or other not credible.

Now the voice of Christ’s martyrs is the shedding of their blood which followed the first and divine outpouring of blood which the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29) shed for us, he who has borne witness of himself before these others. For in truth he was not at all in need of anything—he who witnessed a noble confession before Pontius Pilate (1 Tim 6:13) (as the Apostle Paul said)—and very justly so: for of what other witness who might be more faithful than He should have need, who is Himself the truth ( Jn 14:16)? But since He accepts the devotion of the will of His own servants, He makes them partakers in this title which is His, and makes them to be called martyrs.

Now how shall any one not honour the Mother of God and the truly holy and ever-virgin Mary as prophetess, and as apostle, and as martyr?

As prophetess—in accordance with Isaiah’s prophecy, which says about her: ‘And I came to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son, And the Lord said to me: “Call his name ‘Swiftly-plunder-and-suddenly-pillage”, because before the child knows how to call “father!” and “mother!”, he will take the might of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria before the king of the Assyrians’ (Is 8:3).

But who is the prophetess spoken of in the holy Scriptures, who has given birth to a son who is called ‘Swiftly-plunder-and-suddenly-pillage’, who immediately on being born, and before he knows how to call ‘father!’ or ‘mother!’ plunders the warriors and pillages them, if it is not the Mother of God, the virgin who has given birth to Emmanuel who, from the beginning of his birth in the flesh, overthrew the Slanderer by taking the might of Damascus and carrying off the spoils of Samaria?

Now these words represent figuratively by a kind of antonomasia (the use of a proper name to express a general idea), the worship of idols: for, on the one hand, Damascus is to be interpreted as ‘bloody’, while, on the other, Samaria is the one who forged the calves of gold and removed from among them the true service and the worship of the one who alone is God (1 Kgs 12:26–28). Now it is known to all men that in these two things especially the worship of idols is to be recognized: by the fact that we name and worship as gods things made by hands, and by the fact that we offer sacrifices with blood and holocausts (slaughter on a mass scale). Therefore Emmanuel took the plunder from this as soon as He was born in flesh, first when He was leading the Magi to worship in swaddling-clothes the age of His infancy, and next when He was going to Egypt on account of the slaughter of the children by Herod and shook His idols (Is 19:1), just as Isaiah prophesies. And he was doing this and was taking this plunder before the king of the Assyrians—for the prophecy calls the Slanderer the king of Assyria in many places, and that he is so named one can discover in general, so to speak, everywhere among the prophets (Is 10:12).

Such is the child that Mary the prophetess has borne for us: he who from his infancy and straightaway from his birth has torn down the fortress of the Slanderer’s tyranny: and, says Isaiah the prophet: ‘Do not marvel’ (Is 8:4), for this child was himself ‘the mighty God, the angel of mighty counsel’, as one who in himself makes known and signifies as it were the living Word, the Father who is the Mind that is over all things. He was himself the marvellous counsellor (Is 9:6) as the one who, together with the Father, made the intelligible world and this visible world, and who heard (as being his counsellor and his equal in glory): ‘Let us make man in our image and in our likeness’ (Gen 1:26). He was himself the prince (Is 9- 6) as the one who is the power of the invisible Father, for Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24); and again he was the one who rightly heard: ‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of integrity is the sceptre of your kingdom (Ps 44:7). He was himself the prince of peace (Is 9:6) as the one who has joined together the earthly things with the heavenly, and has pacified everything by the blood of his cross, as Paul says (Eph 1:10; Col. 1:20). He was himself the ‘father of the world to come’ as the beginning and as the one who was broadcasting the seed of the life which is to be and of eternal endless hopes, that is to say, the kingdom of heaven which He was preaching.

Because of this, the virgin and mother, as one who gave birth to a child such as this (who is at the same time both Lord of the prophets and Lord in his own right) was prophesying after Elizabeth’s salutation when she says: ‘For behold, from henceforth all generations shall ascribe blessedness to me, because the one who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy, to every generation, is for those who fear him’ (Lk 1:48–50).

But one may truly call her apostle and, one might rightly say, higher than all the apostles: for from the first she herself was even counted together with the apostles, as the Book of Acts also records when it says: ‘These were assembled together and continuing in prayer with Mary the mother of Jesus’ (Acts 1:14). Besides, if what they heard from our Lord as ‘Go, teach all nations’ (Matt 28:19) is what constituted them apostles, what nation is there that this woman has not taught and brought to the knowledge of God, and that, moreover, when she was silent, through her giving birth in such a renowned, exceptional and sensational manner, and through her celebrated conception which made her the mother and origin of the Gospel proclamation?

Furthermore (one should not be reluctant to say it) she is in many respects a martyr: as when she bravely bore Joseph’s opinion of her when he was under the impression that her conception had taken place as a result of adultery, before he knew the mystery of the birth as a result of the angel’s revelation (Matt 1:19); and also when (because of Herod’s senseless rage) she fled to Egypt (Matt 2:13); and again when (through fear of Archelaus) she returned from Egypt and departed to Nazareth (Matt 2:21–23); and when she was passing every day with Jewish murderers, and was living a life which was close to death.

How, then, shall we not deservedly honour this woman, whom the spirits of the righteous honour at this time? On the one hand, the patriarchs honour her as the one who fulfilled for them the hope expectation which was awaited from time long past, and who brought the blessing of Abraham’s seed who is Christ, which has passed over to all the peoples and all the uttermost parts (of the earth). On the other hand, the prophets honour her as the one who enlightened their prophecies, and who has given birth to the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2) who has revealed hidden things, both secrets and things not known. Again, the apostles honour her as the one whom they recognized as the beginning of their proclamation. The martyrs honour her as the one who was the first to bring to them the exemplar of their own struggles and victories. Then the Doctors of the church and the shepherds of Christ’s rational flock honour her as the one who has stopped up the mouth of heresy and who has poured forth for us, in the likeness of a drinkable and pure spring, the rushing tides of orthodoxy and—foremost and absolutely the best of all things—has expelled the darkness of the various heresies that sprang up.

For God the Word did not obtain the beginning of his divinity from Mary, since He was without beginning and the maker of every age and time. But when He chose to become incarnate and to be made man, that is, to unite to himself hypostatically the flesh which is consubstantial with ours inspirited by a rational and intelligible soul, the virgin supplied at the same time those things arising from her own created nature, all those things which are the property of a woman, so that at one and the same time there entered into him what was of her nature. And the Holy Spirit—since there had not been intercourse with a man—acted effectually and brought the birth to completion. Thus God the Word himself, when he had been conceived and born in the flesh, showed Mary the Mother of God to be the one who had given birth to the Word endued with a body; and it was in accord with what is better and wonderful that she was named, since the mystery itself consisted in this—namely, the kingship of what is better, and the lifting up of our race from this place, and its transformation into something better.

Therefore the one who was born was also named Emmanuel, since he is one indivisible and without confusion, out of two natures, both divinity and humanity. This one who, since he possesses all the unique and indivisible qualities, namely, his incorporeal generation from the Father and the very same divinity (for he alone was begotten of the only one, even God from God) and his birth from the virgin (for he alone was born in the flesh of a woman not joined in marriage and the only one of her kind), did not violate his mother’s virginity. Because of this, he has also called us, who were separated from God, to one-ness and to peace, since he is the mediator of God and men (1 Tim 2:5).

This is why we honour also the holy Mother of God and evervirgin Mary with honours which are surpassing great, inasmuch as she is the one who is able, more than all the other saints, to offer up supplications on our behalf, and since we too make our boast of her as having acquired her as the adornment of our race—the rational earth from whom the second Adam, who is neither fashioned nor made, fashioned himself in flesh (cf. 1 Cor 15:44, 45)—the plant of virginity from which Christ the heavenly ladder was prepared in flesh by the Spirit, so that we ourselves might be able to ascend to heaven when we fix our footsteps firmly upon it (Is 9:36); the intelligible Mount Sinai which is not covered in smoke, but which shines with the Sun of Righteousness and which bestows not only the Law of the Ten Commandments, but the lawgiver himself when he was seen on earth and held converse with human beings, and gave instruction in the Gospel and with persuasion captured not one people Israel, but every people and race.

What honour, therefore, shall we render to the Mother of God, or rather to God who was incarnate of her for the redemption of our souls? For it is there that he finds honour and sacrifice and whole burnt offering. For how is it not a good thing that through his advent in the body the earth should become heaven, such that even the angels might dwell on it, as he himself also said in the Gospel: ‘Amen, I say to you, that from now on you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending’ (Jn 1:51)?

But we ourselves—we who are obliged to demonstrate a way of life which is worthy of heaven—do we not even do those things which are fitting for earth, but are suitable for Sheol and the pit of destruction? And since it was right for us to occupy ourselves with virginity and to observe it because of God who was born of a virgin, do we not even in chaste marriage bridle the lusts which the cross of Christ has blunted and made easy to overthrow, because the cross has blunted the sin which is the sting of death (1 Cor 15:56)? Rather, we dishonour the temple of God by fornication, and become ‘stallions lusting after mares’, as the prophet says (Jer 5:8).

But I beseech and earnestly entreat you: do not let us make this brief pleasure, which as soon as it is fulfilled passes away and brings distress, into a flame which cannot be quenched and a torment without end. But ‘let each one of us possess his vessel in holiness and honour’, as says Paul (1 Thess 4:4) who is wise in all things, so that we may be esteemed worthy of those good things of eternity through the grace and philanthropy of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom is due praise with the Father and the holy Spirit to the ages of ages. Amen.

The end of Homily XIV.

Intercessory Prayer to the Theotokos

prayerO undefiled, untainted, uncorrupted, most pure, chaste Virgin, Thou Bride of God and Sovereign Lady, who didst unite the Word of God to mankind through thy most glorious birth giving, and hast linked the apostate nature of our race with the heavenly; who art the only hope of the hopeless, and the helper of the struggling, the ever-ready protection of them that hasten unto thee, and the refuge of all Christians: Do not shrink with loathing from me a sinner, defiled, who with polluted thoughts, words, and deeds have made myself utterly unprofitable, and through slothfulness of mind have become a slave to the pleasures of life. But as the Mother of God Who loveth mankind, show thy love for mankind and mercifully have compassion upon me a sinner and prodigal, and accept my supplication, which is offered to thee out of my defiled mouth; and making use of thy motherly boldness, entreat thy Son and our Master and Lord that He may be pleased to open for me the bowels of His lovingkindness and graciousness to mankind, and, disregarding my numberless offenses, will turn me back to repentance, and show me to be a tried worker of His precepts. And be thou ever present unto me as merciful, compassionate and well disposed; in the present life be thou a fervent intercessor and helper, repelling the assaults of adversaries and guiding me to salvation, and at the time of my departure taking care of my miserable soul, and driving far away from it the dark countenances of the evil demons; lastly, at the dreadful day of judgment delivering me from torment eternal and showing me to be an heir of the ineffable glory of thy Son and our God; all of which may I attain, O my Sovereign Lady, most holy Theotokos, in virtue of thine intercession and protection, through the grace and love to mankind of thine only begotten Son, our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, to Whom is due all glory, honor and worship, together with His unoriginate Father, and His Most Holy and good and life creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen

Dormition : The Story (Children’s sermon)

Three starsA conversation between a church father and some children, Anna, Lucy.. … that will help you all understand the dormition story of blessed Mother Mary better….

Church father :In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. As we celebrate the dormition of the Theotokos, so let’s understand what it is?…What does dormition mean?…Anna….

Anna : It means about the Theotokos…

Church father :Well, What does the word dormition in general mean? It does not mean about the Theotokos specifically…

Child 1 : When someone dies and the soul goes off to heaven…

Church father :When any person dies, its a dormition. Dormition means falling asleep. Now we call the dormition of the Theotokos and we kind of shorten it like the dormition right? Its like you guys have a long name ? For e.g Anna George Park, but people just call you Anna, and everybody knows who you are..So when we say dormition, we say the dormition of the Theotokos. But the word dormition means to sleep. Now why would we say that when someone dies, they fall asleep ?…

Anna :Because they are not really dead, they are going to the next world…

Church father : That’s right…

Child 2 :For God, its just falling asleep…

Church father : That’s right, For God, its just falling asleep. To God everyone’s alive…isn’t it?? True… So we say that Christians sleep, because what’s gonna happen at the end of the world???

Yes go ahead..Lucy..

Lucy :Its going to be the last judgement, when God is going to decide who is going to hell or heaven…

Church father :Yes, that’s true, now we say that a Christian sleeps because when Jesus comes from the east, over the mount of olives, He is going to start the judgement and it is going to be real fast and then we will be with Him, and we will not be asleep, we will be alive, with our bodies and with our souls. Now let’s tell the story about the dormition of the Theotokos. Let’s start backwards, from the time, She was at cross of Christ.

Now…. what did Jesus say to somebody, so that she would go and live in his home?? Anna….

Anna :He said to John ” Behold, thy mother, go and take her to your home “.

Church father :That’s right… So He told John ” Behold, your mother ” and so John took care of her, he took care of the Theotokos and she lived in his home for a long time and she knew many of the apostles, all of them and she was a mother to them. She taught them many many things that her son had taught her, and so she lived, maybe 30 or 40 years after the resurrection and then she was living in Jerusalem or some area near to it, because she was buried in Gethsemane. Now she wanted the apostles to come and visit her before she died. She knew she was going to die.

Tell me the story, what happened??….anybody else wanna say…

Ok Anna go ahead….

Anna :All the apostles visited her, except for one apostle, I don’t remember his name….

Church father :Oh!!! its easy to remember his name..😃

Child 2 :Thomas

Church father :Thomas…Was Thomas ever late before..??

Children :Yes

Church father :Where was he late before?

Anna :At the resurrection..

Church father :Ya, remember that story, on the day of the resurrection, Thomas wasn’t there, and when all the apostles said that He appeared to them, he didn’t believe, until eight days later, when the Lord came again….

Child 3 :And Thomas said that he would only believe if he could put his finger on the wound where it was pierced…

Church father :Yeah, that’s right…so Thomas was late again..so they buried the Theotokos, first of all they kissed her and were ready for her to die and she died, then she was put in a tomb, the apostles sang many hymns, and then what happened to Thomas??..

I will tell you what happened. Thomas came

Child 1:Three days later…

Church father :Yes Thomas came but three days later, but what did Thomas want?

Child 2:He wanted to see the Theotokos…

Church father :He wanted to see the Theotokos because he loved her very much. So the apostles went into the tomb and opened up the tomb and Thomas went into the tomb and did he find the Theotokos?

Children :No…

Church father :No, so what happened to the Theotokos?

Child 3 :She went to heaven.

Church father :How?…her son right?…

Jesus came and resurrected her and she came to heaven. There are only two people that have ever died and resurrected and gone to heaven. Do you know those two people?

Children :Yes, Jesus and the Theotokos.

Church father :Yes,Jesus and the Theotokos. Now there are two other people who have not died and went into heaven. Do you know who those two people are?

Anna :Elijah

Church father :Elijah and..??

Child 1 :Lazarus

Church father :Lazarus died, because he was risen from the dead in the tomb and he was wrapped like a mummy and everything. Do you remember that story?…..

It’s Enoch, from a long time ago, in Genesis.

(Children respond we do not know much about Enoch…..)

Church father :You do not know much about Enoch, but you know Elijah right? How did he get to heaven.?

Children :In a fiery chariot…

Church father :Fiery chariot with fiery horses and everything. So, but the Theotokos was raised from the dead. She was the first person that Jesus Christ raised from the dead and brought to heaven. He was resurrected, He resurrected of his own power and went upto heaven and then when the Theotokos died 30 or 40 years later, He resurrected her and she went to heaven. Let us look at the following hymn….

In giving birth, thou didst preserve thy virginity

In thy dormition, thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos

Thou was translated unto life, since thou art the mother of life

And by thine intersessions, dost thou redeem our souls from dead.

What does this hymn mean.?

In giving birth, thou didst preserve thy virginity

Does a virgin have babies?

Children :No

Church father :What does it take to have babies?

Children :A husband

Church father :Yes, a husband. You got to have a husband. It was a miracle. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The Theotokos was a virgin and the church teaches this, you will understand this later as you grow a little older that the Theotokos is always a virgin, before and during and after the childbirth. If you ever see an icon of her, and there are three stars on her, that means she is a virgin before, during and after childbirth and you will understand more about that when you grow older. So, In giving birth, thou didst preserve thy virginity, so she was always a virgin. Did the Theotokos have any other babies besides Jesus?…

No, not at all, right?

Children :Yes

Church father :In thy dormition, thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos

So we said what dormition means?

Dormition means she died right…but we do not say died, we say she fell asleep, because we know that all of us are going to wake up..aren’t we?

Child 2 :On the last judgement

Church father :Yes,

Now, Thou was translated unto life, since thou art the mother of life. Do we understand what that means ?, we already know…

Translated means brought up or moved.

What happened to the Theotokos after she died?

She went to heaven, she was translated to heaven…its a fancy word but you should learn these words because it is used within the church.

she went upto heaven and the hymn tells us why ?….since thou art the mother of life

Who is she the mother of?

Child 3:God

Church father :Jesus and He gave us life.

Now let’s talk a little bit about the gospel and we will go on…

Gospel from mathew…When the Theotokos found out that she was pregnant with Jesus, the angel also told her that somebody whom she knew and loved, also was pregnant.

Who is that?

Child 2:Elizebeth with John

Church father :John the baptist

Child 3 :John the baptist knew that Jesus was in Mother Mary ‘s womb.

Church father :Well, how do we know that?

So Mary comes with a womb, and Jesus was very tiny. A baby gets bigger and bigger in a mommy ‘s tummy.

She just found out that she was pregnant and John who was in his mother’s tummy, in Elizabeth’s womb leaped in her womb with joy . How can it happen?

Its a miracle. God can enlighten us.

And so what did Theotokos say about herself and what are reasons why we so often honour her?

She said ” All generations will call me blessed” and so we love the Theotokos because she is the mother of our Lord and she was the most OBEDIENT person other than Jesus who have ever lived.

Do you have any questions about the dormition?

Child 3:Why in the icon is Jesus holding the baby?

Church father :That’s a very good question

Lucy : That’s the Theotokos’ soul.

Church father :That’s right. That’s the Theotokos’ soul and her body because He took the Theotokos up

Let’s take a look at the icon

Orthodox Icon of the Dormition

Obviously this is the bier and a bier is just a bed to put the person on.

And she’s laying there dead on the bed.

Who are all these people with her?

Children :The apostles

Church father :Yes, the apostles.

Child 1 :What’s that four winged thing?

Church father : Just the cherubim angels, because angels are with us all the time.

Anna :This man here tried to cut of the Theotokos’ hand, but by then the angel came and cut off his hand.

Church father :He didn’t try to cut of her hand, he just tried to stop the bier or knock at her..Was he healed?

Anna : Yes

Church father :He repented and he was healed.

Now this is Christ and just look at the Theotokos, does she look like a baby there or does she look different?…

Children : She looks different

Church father :Right, she looks like a little adult. Because Theotokos was not a baby when she died, was she?

Children : No

Church father :So sometime within the three days after she died, we don’t know when, because nobody saw Jesus taking the Theotokos to heaven.

The icon shows two things happening once. The apostles were praying when the Theotokos died, they were having a funeral for her and then sometime later, when the apostles were not there and the Theotokos was in the grave, Jesus took the Theotokos’ body and soul to heaven.

So these were few things about the dormition of the Theotokos. You should pray to the Theotokos everyday. We pray to the Theotokos because we know that God hears the prayers of his righteous ones and his saints. Is there any person more righteous than the Theotokos?…

Children : Yes God.

Church father :Yes Jesus is more righteous than the Theotokos because He is God. But what about a human being more righteous than the Theotokos?…

The Theotokos is the most righteous…we pray to her because we believe from James that “The effective and fervent prayers of the righteous man availeth much”. So always remember to pray to her and ask her to help you in all things.