St. Mary’s mother, Hannah, was childless and the other women who were in the temple kept themselves away from her and she was exdceedingly sad and so was her husband Joachim, a blessed old man. She prayed to God, saying “The Fruit which You shall give me I will devote to Your Holy Temple.” God answered her prayers, and she gave birth to the pure St. Mary. She reared her for three years, after which she took her to live with the virgins in the Temple. When she had completed twelve years in the sanctuary, the priests took counsel together concerning her, so that they might give her in marriage to someone who would protect her, for she was consecrated to God and they were not allowed to keep her in the temple after this age. They decided that she be engaged to a man who could take care of her and and who would look after her. They gathered twelve righteous men from the house of David, of the Tribe of Judah so they might place her with one of them. The priests took the staffs of the twelve inside the Sanctuary, and a dove flew and stood on the staff belonging to Joseph the carpenter who was a righteous man. They knew that this was the will of God. Joseph took the Holy Virgin St. Mary, and she dwelt with him.
When the appointed time by God for the Salvation of the world had come, God sent the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin St. Mary to announce the Divine conception of the Lord Jesus Christ. As the Holy Scriptures testifies:
“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a Virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed you among women!’ But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom there will be no end.’
Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. For with God nothing will be called impossible.’
Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:26-36).”
St. Mary humbly accepted God’s will to save all creation from the sin of our father Adam, who dared to disobey God in Paradise.
When, Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a general census in the Roman Empire, Joseph took the Virgin St. Mary to Bethlehem, to be counted in the census in the hometown of his ancestor, King David of the Tribe of Judah. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the Virgin gave birth to her first child, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and put Him in a manger, for they did not have a place for them in the inn. On this day the Prophecies about the birth of the Lord from a chaste virgin had been fulfilled. Isaiah the Prophet said “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14). Also, Ezekiel the prophet said about this wonderful mystery “And the Lord said to me, ‘This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it, therefore it shall be shut.’” (Ezekiel 44:2).
Jesus was invited to a wedding with His Virgin Mother, St. Mary and some of His disciples. When they ran out of wine, the Virgin St. Mary said to Him “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her “Woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” There were set six water pots of stone. Jesus said to them, “fill the pots with water.” The servants filled them to the brim. He said to them. “Draw some out now and take it to the master of the feast.” When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, he said to the bridegroom “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine and when the guests have well drunk, then that which is inferior; but you have kept the good wine until now.” For this reason, we ask and pray for the intercesions of St. Mary, before her Son, Jesus Christ. As this story shows, Jesus Christ listened to His mother.
When St. Mary was praying in the holy sepulchure, the Holy Spirit informed her that she was about to depart from the world. When the time of her departure arrived, the virgins of the Mount of Olives came to her, together with the apostles who were still alive, and they surrounded her bed. The Lord Jesus Christ with thousands of angels came to her and comforted her and told her about the eternal joy that was prepared for her. She stretched her hand and blessed them all, and gave up the pure spirit in the hand of her Son and God, who took her to the heavenly mansions.
The apostles prepared the body and carried it to Gethsemane. On their way, someone tried to disturb the procession. One of them seized the coffin with his hands, but his hands were separated instantly from his body and they remained attached to the coffin. He regretted his evil deed and wept bitterly. Through the prayers of the apostles, his hands rejoined his body and he believed in the Lord Jesus. When they buried the body, the Lord concealed it and hid it from the apostles. St. Thomas was not present at the time of St. Mary’s departure. He wanted to go to Jerusalem and a cloud carried him there. On his way, he saw her pure body ascending to heaven, carried by angels.
St. Mary has many symbols in the Old Testament of the Bible. For example, she was the burning bush that Moses saw: “the bush was burning with fire and the bush was not consumed.” (Exodus 3:2). The burning bush symbolizes St. Mary and the fire is our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ. She gave birth to God, but did not loose her virginity.
St. Mary has appeared to many people, even after her death. One of her most famous and emotional appearances was in the church of the Holy Virgin St. Mary in Zeitun, a suburb of Cairo.
On Tuesday April 2, 1968, during the papacy of Pope Kyrellos VI, The Holy Virgin St. Mary started to transfigure in luminous spiritual forms in and around the domes of the church. This transfiguration continued for many nights, with her appearing for hours at a time, in front of tens thousands of people from every race and religion, interceding to her with songs, hymns, tears, and prayers. The first to notice this transfiguration was the workmen at the garage of Public Transit System, which was across the street from the church. The watchman saw a luminous body over the dome of the church. He called his coworkers and they all came and saw the bright light over the large dome of the church. When they looked closely, they saw a young lady in white, kneeling by the cross at the top of the dome. At first, they thought she was a girl in despair trying to commit suicide and they cried and warned her not to jump, while some called the police and pedestrians started to gather around. The view of the lady was getting clearer and she appeared as a beautiful girl in a bright gown of light and she had branches of olive trees in her hand. Around her flew white doves. Then they realized that they were witnessing a heavenly spiritual vision.
They directed flood lights at the luminous scene to eliminate any doubt from their minds, but instead it became more clear and bright. They cut of the electricity from the whole area, yet the lady remained in her heavenly illumination, and her bright gown of light became clearer. She started moving around in a circle of light, radiating from her body in all directions. All the people then realized that this was the Virgin St. Mary. They started to shout and cry saying, “She is the Virgin… She is the Mother of Light…” They prayed with songs, hymns, and hails all night until the next morning. Since that night the pure Virgin had transfigured in different spiritual views in front of tens of thousands of people, Egyptians and foreigners, Christian and non-Christians, men, women, and children. Oftentimes the head of St. Mary appeared under the veil and looked down. At times she would bow before the Cross. The Cross itself would shine and illuminate, although it was made of concrete. Sometimes an angel would appear, standing behind her spreading his wings. Many times, St. Mary would appear as the Queen, in a beautiful spiritual portrait with a royal crown and a small luminous cross on top. Other times she appeared carrying Jesus Christ, in the form of a child, with a crown on His head. She would raise her hands, blessing the world.
For more pictures and information about the appearance of St. Mary in Zeitun, please visit Zeitun-eg.org
The Coptic Orthodox Church does not worship St. Mary, but instead we ask for her intercessions, or prayers, on our behalf before her Son, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
Taken from the Coptic Synixarium, the Coptic Book of Martyrs and Church History. The Synixar was written by the early Church fathers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in order to record significant events and people who witnessed Jesus Christ throughout Coptic History. The edition used in this website was printed by St. Mark and St. Bishoy Coptic Church of Hinsdale, Illinois, and was edited by Fr. Shenouda Anba Bishoy in 1987.